Braun, Bergmeister outlast competition to win second Daytona stop It was only a matter of time before Krohn Racing's No. 76 Ford Riley earned a victory with their usual driving duo. Colin Braun and Jorg Bergmeister won on fuel strategy and ...
Braun, Bergmeister outlast competition to win second Daytona stop
It was only a matter of time before Krohn Racing's No. 76 Ford Riley earned a victory with their usual driving duo. Colin Braun and Jorg Bergmeister won on fuel strategy and cruised from their one and only stop to score a victory. Bergmeister extended his points lead to 31 over the Chip Ganassi pairing of Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz, while Braun set several new records in scoring his first victory. The Krohn car won at Watkins Glen despite Braun not participating.
The grid was set by owner points for the second time in three races. There were communication issues between race control and track safety officials on what was a busy Thursday at Daytona. In addition to the Rolex Series event, both the NASCAR Nextel Cup and Busch Series had practice sessions and immediately following the race, the IROC cars raced on the road course for the first time in many years.
The race's only full course caution flew on lap four following contact between Matthew Alhadeff and Milka Duno. While there were upwards of 60 cars in February for the Rolex 24, just 47 took part in this 70-lap sprint race. Less cars meant less traffic for the leaders to negotiate or perhaps come in contact with.
Diaz led a majority of the first half of the race and peeled off on lap 34, turning driving duties over to Pruett. Braun was able to stay out a lap longer before handing his car off to Bergmeister. The Ford powerplant got better mileage over both the Lexus of Ganassi Racing, and the Porsche of Alex Job Racing/Emory Motorsports. Both Patrick Long, in the Job car, and Pruett had to stop with four laps remaining for a splash of gas. Bergmeister cut it so close that he was barely able to coast to the finish. "It was really difficult," he said. "I was lifting to save a lot of fuel. On the last lap, I ran out of fuel, so it was just perfect."
Braun's chronicles this rookie season have been well-documented. He's been held out of two races due to age and tobacco restrictions, and otherwise would be tied for the points lead in this competitive series. Nonetheless, at 17 years, nine months and seven days, he is both the youngest winner in Rolex Series history and likely the youngest winner of a North American major league auto race.
Behind them Long and Mike Rockenfeller came home 2nd. It was their first podium since a spectacular victory on the last lap at VIR in April. Despite opening the year with four straight top-threes, a 15th was the best result since then. "I don't know what's more snake bit, running out of mileage or not finishing the race," Long commented.
Pruett and Diaz wound up 3rd using the car that carried Casey Mears, Scott Dixon, and Dan Wheldon to the win in February's Rolex 24. Their primary car was totaled last week at Mid-Ohio en route to a 21st-place finish in DP.
SunTrust's duo of Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli finished 4th with the GAINSCO/Blackhawk car of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty completing the top five. The former scored their fourth straight top-four, the latter racking up their eighth successive top-eight, proof that all kinds of statistics are out there for observing.
In GT, The Racer's Group returned the Pontiac GTO.R back to the top on the track where it first debuted last season. Andy Lally and Marc Bunting rebounded from consecutive defeats at the hands of the Tafel Racing Porsche to score their third win of the season. Just as in DP, fuel strategy was everything and Wolf Henzler lost the lead to make a late race pit stop. Henzler and Robin Liddell finished 2nd, with their team car of Ian James and 18-year-old Eric Lux in 3rd.
There were several off-track pieces of news as well. Riley Motorsports had a busy day, first announcing their satellite team, SunTrust Racing, would provide Jeff Gordon's sports car debut in next year's Rolex 24. Gordon will team presumably with Angelelli and Taylor, if Taylor returns following sporadic appearances this year. Riley also announced plans to field a car for veteran team Jim Matthews Racing, with team owner Jim Matthews and Belgian Marc Goossens driving. There was a new Riley entry at Daytona in the hands of AIM Autosport, which will run several more events this season.
Finally, the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas will play host to the season awards ceremony and champion's banquet. The event will happen two days following the inaugural 9-hour event at Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City, UT.
Following consecutive race weekends and three total in the month of June, the Rolex Series has a month of down time before their next event at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, AL. Only four events remain in the championship chase.