Auberlen's late-race pass gives Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team podium finish at New Jersey Motorsports Park MILLVILLE, N.J. - Driver Bill Auberlen made a thrilling late-race pass on the final lap to help the Ruby Tuesday Championship...
Auberlen's late-race pass gives Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team podium finish at New Jersey Motorsports Park
MILLVILLE, N.J. - Driver Bill Auberlen made a thrilling late-race pass on the final lap to help the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team finish third in today's inaugural Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Supercar Life 250 at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Auberlen was behind the wheel of the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche-powered Riley Daytona Prototype when the race went green for the final time with only two laps remaining. On the restart, he was fourth and needed to pass at least one car for a shot at a podium finish. The team knew this would not be an easy task for a couple of reasons.
First, the competition directly in front of him (Max Angelelli and Joao Barbosa) and immediately behind him (Alex Gurney) had been strong most of the day. This is to say that passing the two in front would be just as difficult to do as it would be to fend off a charge from the car behind him. Second, the No. 23 Porsche Riley had struggled on the each of the previous four restarts with having too much pickup on the tires. What this meant was that Auberlen would have difficulty getting the traction necessary to remain in the hunt. But, the team had faith that Auberlen could get it done. And, he did not disappoint.
The green flag dropped with two to go and Auberlen held his position on the first lap. On the final lap, he came down the front straight, took the white flag and he was within striking distance of third. He waited for Angelelli to make a move on Barbosa, who was second at the time. Just as Angelelli pushed Barbosa wide, Auberlen seized the opportunity to also slide underneath Barbosa for third. Auberlen's opportunistic move netted the team its second podium finish of the season.
"I knew that it was going to take more than two laps for the tires to come in," Auberlen said regarding what he was thinking when the race went green with only two laps remaining. "But, I was definitely going to push as hard as I could. I was not going to let anyone pass me and then hope that I could capitalize on anything that would happen in front of me. And, sure enough, Angelelli made a move on Barbosa and pushed him wide. So, I also got right up underneath him [and passed Barbosa].
"This Ruby Tuesday team did a great job today. I can't wait to get my Triple Prime Burger with Joey and celebrate with all of these guys. I owe everything in this race to our team. My hat's off to all of them."
Auberlen's teammate, Joey Hand, set the tone early for what proved to be a consistently strong run by the Ruby Tuesday team all day. Hand started third and took the race lead on lap 16 before the race's first caution came out. On lap 17, Hand made his first pit stop and took fuel only. Following the stop, he dropped to fourth (only because there were a couple of DPs that did not pit) when the race went green.
Once again, over the next 34 laps, Hand continued to show just how quick the No. 23 machine had been all weekend. By this time, he was in second and was just behind the race leader when the third caution came out on lap 55. One lap later, Hand made his final pit stop, which included four new Pirelli tires, fuel and a driver change.
"I felt like I had a pretty good stint," Hand said. "It was a tough one. This track is all about keeping your momentum up. And, with our Porsche-powered flat 6, it was tough to really keep our momentum up. Because I haven't started in the car in awhile, my strategy was to get through turn one [at the start] and then eventually turn it over to Bill in the top three and let him go racing.
"Our car was not good on the short runs. When we got the yellows, we were kind of sitting ducks. But, on the long runs, the car kept getting better and better. We had a good race car all weekend. Bill and I drove as hard as we could to give these guys something to continue to work for. We are still looking for that first win. And, now we're going to go to Salt Lake City and we're going to get it done."
"Bill just put his head down and did what he does so well," Team Owner Alex Job said of the team's finish. "That's why he is the veteran professional that he is. He and Joey both did a great job to get us to the podium. After the race, I sent the whole team to the victory circle because everyone on the team deserved this one. It's been a long time. It was a hard-fought finish. Ruby Tuesday deserved a podium today and thank goodness we were able to give it to them.
"This almost feels like a victory because it's been a difficult year for us. But, it's clear, in just five races with this new car, that we can put it on the podium and contest for wins. It shows the strength of this team."