With a handful of laps remaining in Sunday's Rolex Sports Car Series U.S. Sports Car Invitational at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, it was unclear whether the leader, Alex Job Racing's Jorg Bergmeister, had enough fuel to make it to the finish, as the...
With a handful of laps remaining in Sunday's Rolex Sports Car Series U.S. Sports Car Invitational at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, it was unclear whether the leader, Alex Job Racing's Jorg Bergmeister, had enough fuel to make it to the finish, as the lanky German had last pitted on Lap 33. But just when it looked like Bergmeister, driving a Porsche Crawford, was going to run out of gas, two late-race caution flags - one on Lap 83 and another on Lap 89 - allowed him to conserve just enough fuel to coast to his first win of the season in a 91-lap race that featured seven caution periods for a total of 30 laps, including the last one. Bergmeister and his teammate, Patrick Long, were the fifth different winners in as many races this year. Their previous best finish was a fifth in Mexico City.
"We were rolling the dice," said Bergmeister of his team's gamble with fuel strategy. "I don't really know how much fuel we had left. I got a low fuel warning on the last safety car lap - the white flag lap - and I was pretty sure that we were going to make it there. At the beginning, when they told me there were six minutes, I said this is going to be very close. But it worked out. It was great strategy today. We really needed the win. We have had such a hard start to the season. It's good to be back."
"It feels great - personally and for the team," added Long, who was running third when he handed the car over to Bergmeister on Lap 33. "It's been on the most humbling 12 months of our own careers. But that makes it that much sweeter. We needed a little luck from the racing gods today on the fuel strategy but that was our goal when we brought the car in early and put Jorg in the car a little earlier than the rest of the teams. And it ended up working out. But I don't know if I can stomach many more finishes like that. I am still a little tranquilized from that one."
To make their win more improbable, it looked like Long might not make the green flag as the Alex Job crew was swarming over the back of the car on the starting grid in the minutes leading up to the green flag in an attempt to diagnose and fix something in the car's engine bay. With less than a minute to the command to start engines, the team was able to fix whatever ailed the Porsche Crawford and Long was able to roll off the grid in third, behind the Pontiac Riley's of pole sitter Jon Fogarty and second-place starter Max Angelelli. Fogarty and fourth-place starter Christian Fittipaldi traded the lead in the early going, with Fogarty leading 38 of the race's first 58 laps despite a slipping clutch. Then the race's fifth caution handed the lead to Bergmeister, who maintained the lead until the checkered flag.
The Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas came home second, giving Pruett the lead over Max Angelelli in the drivers' championship. "We heard about what was going on with their fuel, but that was more their concern," explained Pruett after his third podium of the year. "(Angelelli's) car went off and that was bad for them but good for us (in terms of the championship). Most of all we were looking to gain points on them. I wasn't going to do anything risky and this is a very difficult track to pass on. We always work on making our car good on tires that are very old. And it helped us out today.
"The car's been very, very fast. And that's what we have been the most excited about. Typically this is our worst track. Every time we come here it just seems like a struggle. But this weekend we unloaded here at it was good. A lot of it was probably due to the resurfacing of the track and some of the stuff we did to the car. So it was actually a fun race for us today."
Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri recorded their best of the season, finishing third in the Michael Shank Racing Lexus Riley. "It feels good to back up here," said Patterson. "Obviously it's great to be with these guys. To have a little pro-am team bump up against these big boys feels pretty cool. This was a great race that started very, very fast and could have been a big mess but everybody was pretty tidy."
The No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche and the No. 11 Samax Motorsports Pontiac Riley rounded out the top-five. Fogarty and Alex Gurney finished sixth.