Homestead: Banner Racing race report

Collins and Edwards bring Banner Pontiac GXP.R home first at Homestead Reese and Magnussen go from last to first but finish 3rd Homestead Florida (March 29, 2008): Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards drove their ...

Collins and Edwards bring Banner Pontiac GXP.R home first at Homestead
Reese and Magnussen go from last to first but finish 3rd

Homestead Florida (March 29, 2008): Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards drove their #07 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R to a convincing Roles Grand-Am GT win in the GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami here at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Leighton Reese started last in the #06 Banner Pontiac GXP.R as he and Jan Magnussen finished a strong 3rd after leading the race at the halfway mark.

"This was a great day and a great finish for Banner Engineering, Pontiac and the Banner Racing team," said Leighton Reese of the double podium finish. "This is some sweet redemption from the disaster at Daytona!"

"Retribution," asked team manager Joe Kantarik? "I don't know about that just yet. I'll let you know because it is a long season and we are in it for the championship and there is still a long way to go! But it sure feels great right now!"

Kelly Collins simplified it all by saying,"I kept the Banner Pontiac at the front most of the time and I handed it over to Paul and he did a great job and brought it home in first place! I think we are all still a little bit in shock that we were as strong as we were at this track."

"I was hesitant to get too confident," said Edwards. "I know Kelly was able to control his stint but I know that at Daytona we were really hurting and not a lot has changed since then and this hasn't been a strong track for us in the past."

What did change was the setup of the team's two Pontiac GXP.R race cars and radically as early indicators weren't all that promising.

"We made some pretty daring changes which isn't what you normally would do in between practice and qualifying," said Edwards. "But we went for it and it really freed the car up and it improved the handling tremendously.

"Good thing we made those changes because if we had the car we had on Thursday we wouldn't have won this race today!"

"We tried a few different setups and did a lot of adjusting," added Kantarik. "We tried a lot of different combinations and actually it was Paul and Kelly that found the setup we wound up using. We had Paul and Leighton run it in qualifying and had Jan fine tune it in the final practice!"

Collins broke the Banner Pontiac GXP.R away from the pole position and fended off a strong early challenge from the #87 Porsche of Dominik Farnbacher. As the opening laps settled in Kelly kept distance between the chasing Porsche and opened up a modest gap before the first caution of the day flew early.

"We needed to get through the first 2 laps and I ran pretty hard to try to break free because if the Mazda and Porsches were on us coming out of turn 8 we were dead," said Collins of his start.

Collins first fell out of the lead as he pitted under caution for fuel but soon worked his way back to the front but after first fending off the #87 Porsche he had a close encounter with the #50 Mustang of David Empringham in turn 1.

"We went flying into turn one and he wasn't door to door so I turned in knowing full well we could both go flying off," said Collins. "He probably backed off a little bit and in turned in and he hit me and he spun and I kept going."

After another full course caution period Collins got shuffled back to third after the subsequent restart.

"Everything was good until about the 5th yellow," said Collins. "On the restart I started too closely to the prototype in front of me. I didn't think I would catch him but I caught them and I couldn't get by. It allowed the 70 car and the 87 car to close up on me and I was pretty much a potted plant off turn 8."

Both the 87 Porsche and the 70 Mazda drafted past Collins dropping him to 3rd.

While the #07 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R turned out to be the strongest car for much of the race Collins and Edwards did have moments when the win was much in doubt and a good portion of that doubt was supplied by their sister car as the #06 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R of Leighton Reese and Jan Magnussen came from the back of the grid to lead the race handily at the halfway mark.

Leighton Reese and the #06 Banner Pontiac had to forfeit their 12th place starting position after a precautionary engine change relegated Reese to shotgun on the field.

Reese moved steadily through the field during the early laps turning comparable laps in traffic as the leaders were doing in open air. By lap 20 when the second caution flew Reese was up to 6th and finally feeling good about racing at Homestead.

"I had a great time out there today and I don't feel like I am letting the team down now," Reese said of his climb through the field. "I was struggling early in the week and Jan jumps in the car and is instantly 2 seconds faster than me. It was quite humbling.

"But he taught me a lot this week. Jan is just amazing and it is an honor to team up with him!"

At the close of the first hour Reese pitted under caution while in 4th place and turned over the Banner Pontiac to Danish ace Jan Magnussen.

The bad news that the out of sequence pit stop dropped Magnussen back to 17th as none of the leading cars pitted but the good news would play out later as Jan masterfully moved the Banner Pontiac up through the field well into the top ten as he out dueled Robin Liddell in the #57 Stevenson Pontiac GXP.R for several laps.

During the next caution period the pit strategy played out as all the lead cars, including the #07 Banner Pontiac of Kelly Collins, pitted for fuel and tires pitted while Magnussen didn't need to and he had the Banner Pontiac into the lead after Reese had started the race last.

When the race went green Magnussen and the #06 Banner Pontiac finally had clear track and he opened up a 15 second gap on Edwards who had worked his way back to second as it looked like there was a chance of a Banner Pontiac 1-2 finish..

When the caution flags flew again on lap 63 the Banner crew was preparing to bring both Pontiacs in for their final stop but a cruel irony played out for Magnussen as for some reason he was waved past the pace car which looked to put him a lap up on the GT field.

To correct that the officials waved all the GT cars past the pace cars but a great deal of real estate behind Magnussen and when the pace car led the field past the pits it was closed for the leader Magnussen but opened for Edwards who led the rest of the field into the pits. Magnussen was forced to pit on the following lap which dropped him back to 12th position.

"Jan was so far ahead they picked up the second place car, which was also our car, as the leader," said a shocked Leighton Reese. "It really hurt our potential for a possible 1-2 finish would have been the dream finish."

"They kept the pits closed when I went by the pit entrance and when the rest of the field got there they opened it," said a disappointed Magnussen. "The late stop put me back behind everybody again. The 06 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R came from the back three times today and we almost won it. That speaks a lot for what the Banner Racing guys have done here!"

As caution period after caution slowed the finish of the race Edwards kept the #07 Banner Engineering Pontiac in front of the #67 Porsche of Pumpelly as Magnussen rallied yet again to move into 3rd during the closing laps as the Banner Pontiacs led 65 of the 99 laps in the race with Collins leading 30, Edwards 21 and Jan Magnussen 14.

-credit: br

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Paul Edwards , Jan Magnussen , Robin Liddell , Kelly Collins , Leighton Reese