Long Beach: Fusion Racing/MSR qualifying report

(Long Beach, CA) 7 April 06-- Graydon Elliott Fusion Racing with MSR will start from seventeenth on the grid for the Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach on Saturday after Cort Wagner posted a best lap time of 1:22.800-seconds on the...

(Long Beach, CA) 7 April 06-- Graydon Elliott Fusion Racing with MSR will start from seventeenth on the grid for the Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach on Saturday after Cort Wagner posted a best lap time of 1:22.800-seconds on the 1.98-mile temporary street circuit. Wagner will partner with Mike Borkowski in the Lexus-powered Graydon Elliott Riley for the ninety-minute race on Saturday afternoon.

Wagner, who last raced with the team in their Rolex Series debut with a run to fourth in the 2004 Rolex 24 At Daytona, qualified the Graydon Elliott machine and had to overcome a number of challenges. Despite being a California native and Los Angeles resident, the 2002 and 2003 Rolex GT Champion had never turned a lap at the famed Long Beach facility before qualifying began.

Even though the session was Wagner's first time in the Graydon Elliott machine, and it was his first time on the track, he quickly showed his championship-winning pace as he sliced seconds at a time off of his early laps in the twenty-five minute qualifying session. Unfortunately, his run to the front ended early as an exhaust header came loose and Wagner was forced to park the car early, although his efforts still netted seventeenth on the grid for Saturday's race.

"The car had a good balance, and I was finding a couple of seconds each lap as I learned the track and got more comfortable with the car," said Wagner. "But we had the problem with the header, and I didn't want to do anything to hurt the motor, so I had to come in. But this team does a great job, so it was no surprise that the car felt so go so quickly, and it's too bad I wasn't able to put us closer to the front, but we know that tomorrow is going to be a tough race, so hopefully we can get a good start and stay out of trouble."

The Fusion Racing effort was further thwarted earlier in the day, as an issue with the motor prevented the team from getting much running time in the morning session, keeping the team and the drivers from getting fully familiar with the tight concrete-lined track.

"Cort did a really good job to just jump in and set the times that he did," said Mike Shank. "So seventeenth isn't what we were looking for of course, but given the circumstances, he did a good job, and hopefully we can move up once the race gets going."

The race will be broadcast on Speed Channel beginning at 9:00 PM EST, April 8.

-gefr/msr-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Mike Borkowski , Cort Wagner