Bernhard Finishes 12th at Homestead-Miami Speedway
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (October 10, 2009) -- Timo Bernhard was relegated to a 12th place finish in the Penske Racing No. 12 Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley closing out the 2009 Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Series Presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 season at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday.
Bernhard, who climbed into the Porsche powered Riley at the half-way mark of the two-and-a-half hour timed event, was assessed a drive-through penalty for allegedly jumping the restart with 20 minutes remaining in the Miami Grand-Prix. Bernhard completed the drive-through 18 minutes remaining after the team contested the penalty which was upheld.
"On the restarts, the other drivers were brake checking so I moved out of line to avoid a collision," said Bernhard. "I pulled up on the car but I backed off so that I did not gain the position. The rules state we are not allowed to pull out of line before the restart -- but they also state there will be no brake-checking. Well, that does it. A fitting end to a season hopefully we will quickly forget."
Bernhard and Penske Racing co-driver Romain Dumas were disappointed with the final result after Dumas qualified the Verizon Wireless car in the third position on Friday and led laps during the season finale at the south Florida 2.3-mile, 11-turn road-course.
Dumas drove the car at the start of the race and patiently worked his way up to claim the point by the 24-minute mark. He dropped from first-place after a miscue in the pits less than a half-hour later. Team strategist, Tim Cindric, called Dumas to the pits for four tires and fuel only while the field ran under yellow flag conditions. When Dumas stopped in the pits, he was prepared to exit the car and had to be belted back in the seat.
He returned to the track in the third position and was posted in the fifth position 25-minutes later when Bernhard took over driving duties.
Penske Racing's Verizon Wireless Grand-Am team was poised for a strong finish having saved a set of "sticker" tires which had been proven advantageous throughout practice in the south Florida heat. Unfortunately, the advantage was lost when the untimely penalty ended the team's chances of winning an event in the 2009 season.
"It is tough for us to close our year out this way," said Bernhard. "We know we are better than our results have shown. We know we are a strong team but winning eluded us this season. It's hard for all of us; for Romain, for me, for Porsche and for all of the Penske Racing crew. This isn't the season we hoped to put in the records."
The Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Series Presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 will kick off its 2010 season January 30-31 with the Rolex 24 At Daytona.