Pontiac Grand-Am Teams to Make First Tracks in New Jersey Edwards and Collins lead GT points GAINSCO Pontiac second in DP Detroit, Mich., August 27, 2008 -- Pontiac Grand-Am Daytona Prototype (DP) and GT teams will be making the first...
Pontiac Grand-Am Teams to Make First Tracks in New Jersey
Edwards and Collins lead GT points
GAINSCO Pontiac second in DP
Detroit, Mich., August 27, 2008 -- Pontiac Grand-Am Daytona Prototype (DP) and GT teams will be making the first professional racing tracks at the all new New Jersey Motorsports Park located in Millville, New Jersey on August 31. The race will be held on the Thunderbolt circuit and will represent the penultimate round for the Rolex Series competitors.
New Jersey Motorsports Park is located approximately 45-miles from Philadelphia and equally to Atlantic City. The all new facility is home to two race circuits named Thunderbolt and Lightening. The Rolex Series will run on the 2.25-mile Thunderbolt circuit which features 14-turns, three of which are left handers.
The No. 07 Pontiac GXP.R of Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards is currently leading the GT series points chase. Collins and Edwards have posted wins at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Laguna Seca and at Lime Rock Park. The duo will need to finish ahead of the pursuing No. 70 car as well as the Stevenson Motorsport No. 57 GXP.R to keep their championship hopes alive. Collins and Edwards are looking forward to racing at Thunderbolt and are poised to come away with as many points as possible.
"The plan is to win," Edwards said. "We seem to come to grips with the handling faster than anyone, so I hope an all new circuit will be an advantage for us. The Pratt & Miller guys know how to figure a baseline setup so I am looking forward to getting up to speed quickly. Leighton has been working on the AC, Kelly and I haven't had it the last couple of races, so that will help. I am anxious to see what RJ [Valentine, fellow GT competitor and one of the track owners] has put together over there. It would be nice to get a cushion in the points lead going into the last race. We are going to try and win both of the last races. Salt Lake was good for us last year. We cannot afford any disasters. We need to go to Miller with the points lead."
Stevenson Motorsports has been the most consistent Pontiac GT runners of the season. Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis have put together an impressive string of wins and finishes in their first year with the team and the GXP.R. The team has posted wins at Mexico City, Virginia International Raceway and most recently at Montreal. The team has also been on the podium at Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio, Daytona and Barber Motorsports Park. The team had poor finishes at the Rolex 24 and at Homestead, but the momentum of winning the GT race in Canada will propel them for the last two rounds of the series. The team is still very much in the championship hunt only 16 points behind the leaders.
"I haven't had a chance to drive the new Thunderbolt circuit at New Jersey Motorsports Park, but it is very exciting to have another great facility built here in North America," Davis said. "I have been studying some video, and it looks like a great layout! There seems to be a good combination of high speed corners and technical sections along with some decent straights. The Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R has performed well all season long, and we are looking forward to seeing how the car will respond to the new circuit. I expect the track to be very good for the Pratt & Miller built Pontiac GXP.R, but it will be important for us to find the optimal set-up as quickly as possible. Since most teams have not had a chance to test at the new track, the earlier we can nail the set-up the bigger the advantage we will have over our competitors. The points race is getting very interesting, and the Stevenson Motorsports crew has been working extremely hard back at the shop to ensure that we are able to give our best efforts for the two remaining races."
The No. 06 Banner Racing Pontiac will have Marc Bunting and team owner Leighton Reese back behind the wheel. Reese and Bunting will are ready to navigate the new Thunderbolt circuit in their GXP.R.
"It looks like a bigger version of Lime Rock" Reese said. "It looks fast and narrow. It will be new for everyone. I am hoping we have a good run and the 07 also has a good run. I think we will have a good off the trailer setup, we have four days to screw that up though. We have to see what happens. I am really looking forward to the event. The 07 has had the speed and has been reliable. Paul and Kelly have been fast. We have let them down a little on the strategy and we have had some bad luck as well. The car has been fast enough, we should be a little ahead of where we are now. The championship is what we are going for. We need some good results this weekend -- we have to beat that Mazda."
Autohaus Motorsports and their No. 72 Pontiac GXP.R is still searching for that first podium of the season. Tim Lewis Jr. is the only Pontiac driver to have circulated the new Thunderbolt Raceway.
"The GXP.R should perform well at the New Jersey track," Lewis said. "The first half of the track is going to be very quick with little opportunity for overtaking. The back half of the track has some very long turns that should favor the balance of our car if we can keep our tires under us for a full stint. Having already been to the track, I am hoping to get right to work in our Autohaus Motorsports GXP.R to optimize our setup for the race. The NJMP facility is going to be great when it is completed. The pit and garage facilities are first class and well thought out. The track has an interesting mix of turns which gives the track good flow. It's in a great location for spectators being so close to Philadelphia and New York City. The only downfall I can see is two class racing. There are many areas where overtaking is very difficult. All the runoff around the track is a mix of dirt with rocks in them. Any cars that go off takes a chance of radiator damage due to the rough terrain."
PR1 Motorsports returns to competition from a nine-week layoff with driver Mike Forest and Patrick Barrett. The team from California is running the last two events with their No. 32 Pontiac GXP.R.
"The only exposure I have with Thunderbolt Raceway is a video on youtube.com," Forest said. "Judging by the look of the layout it should provide us with unique challenges. The first main challenge, which all of the drivers will face is getting up to speed at a track where almost no one has driven. The second challenge will have to do with the engineering side of the event where the track surface is new and that makes for a huge question mark in the grip level and how it responds to four days of 50-plus cars on track. The final challenge will be in understanding how the track permits 'racing', things such as passing zones, run off, width of pit lane, etc. All in all is should be a great event, we love the challenge of racing and this event could be one of the toughest all year. As far as an approach to a new circuit goes, you try to do as much homework as you can prior to the event. With the very limited amount of time this circuit has been open there are very few resources for learning this track. You want to be open minded about the track so that if it is not what you expect there are no mental blocks about it. Looking at the schedule there is plenty of track time prior to the race so getting started on the right foot and progressing with each session is key."
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings racing drivers Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney are still in the DP championship chase. The duo are back in the points by 42 with just two races left. The team realizes that they are in a must win situation as well as have some bad luck befall the leading No. 01 car.
"Sonoma was a very good result and we're keeping the championship dream alive," Gurney said. It was very special having all of those GAINSCO agents celebrate with us up there on the podium. We've come through a little adversity lately and managed to put up some nice podium finishes the last few races. Everybody on the team has stayed very focused even though we haven't rolled off the trailer super quick. The championship is still up in the air with two races to go and that's important. We'll need some luck but really just one hiccup at the start of the race for the No. 01 and we are right back in it. I'm very excited about going to New Jersey. I've read a little bit about the Thunderbolt circuit and seen a few videos. It looks like an amazing facility and a very fast layout. Being a huge road racing fan, I am personally very excited every time a brand new purpose-built road course facility is built. That is a very good thing for road racing in general. I think we'll see a lot of fans this weekend and I know we will put on a fantastic show."
The SunTrust Pontiac team and their new Dallara posted their first victory in convincing fashion last weekend at Infineon Raceway. Max Angelelli and Michael Valiante led 80 of the 102 laps and won by nearly four seconds over second. The team will be looking to add another win this weekend.
"I've seen a video of the track on youtube.com, and that's about it. It's a new track, so it will be a learning experience for everybody," Valiante. "It looks like a really nice facility. It'll be new to everyone, so I think that'll be good in a way for us since it's a track no one else has driven on the track, either. It's hard to see even from the in-car camera just what to expect. It just looks really quick and our car's been strong on fast tracks. So, I think it should be a good race track for us. And the facility looks quite nice. I'm looking forward to going. A lot of people have described the track as being a lot like VIR (Virginia International Raceway). But I can't say, either way. I'll just have to wait to decide what I think of it until I get there."
The Riley-Matthews team of Marc Goossens and Jim Matthews has had a string of bad luck in the last two events. A first lap, first turn crash at Watkins Glen ended their day early and an engine misfire had them miss a lot of laps at Infineon last weekend. Early in the season the team posted a win at Mexico City along with two podium finishes. Goossens and Matthews would like to return to their early season form.
"Obviously it takes memorizing the track first and then getting up to speed slowly," Goossens said. "But that's the same for everyone I guess. Now the good thing is that after all these years of experience, I can say that I rather easily adapt to new tracks, so I don't really see there a problem for the weekend. Everything is obviously depending on how fast we, drivers, get up to speed. After that we start working on balancing the car. There is no real plan in place, as it is depending on what we feel and what changes are needed to improve the handling. Hopefully we have a pretty strong car from the start of the weekend, just like last weekend in Sonoma."
Ricardo Zonta and Nic Jonsson have an equal chance of giving team owner Krohn and the new Lola their first win this weekend. The Lola has a high downforce design which may very well suit the all new Thunderbolt race track. Zonta and Jonsson have led 76 laps in their new Lola so far this season which has resulted in two podium positions.
"Obviously New Jersey is a brand new race track," Jonsson said. "It's a very nice development up there. I also know for a fact because I went there with Kinetics testing that the track is very hard on tires, which will probably work in our favor because it seems the Proto-Auto Lola is very good on tire wear. Hopefully that will work in our favor. It's the second to the last race of the year and I think we've been making progress all year long. Hopefully the last couple of races we can at least have a good finish of the year and have a good championship finish, at least in the top five, if not better. I'm very excited to go there and see a new race track and see what we can do because nobody has been there before. I do believe that Ricardo and I have it down pretty good when it comes to learning a new track. He's been learning new tracks all year and is very fast in about 10 laps or so. I think there will be other people that will struggle more than us to learn the race track and get up to speed. Hopefully that will play in our favor as well. We have to go to New Jersey and see if we can get the Lola to work up there. I think the downforce level should also be pretty high from what I've seen on data and stuff like that. We'll go up there and hopefully have a good finish again."
Tracy and Krohn and Eric van de Poele are looking forward to putting their Proto-Auto Lola Pontiac through its paces at the new Thunderbolt circuit.
"It's a new track at New Jersey," Krohn said. "No one has really seen it yet. Probably Eric will get out on the track for the first couple of sessions and I'll drive the next day. I've seen video of the track. It looks like it's got a lot of dirt around it kind of like Laguna Seca. It looks like it's going to be sandy and dirty and maybe a little bit slippery, particularly since there won't be a whole lot of rubber down. It's always fun to go to a new place. We've got two races left in the year. We've had some top five finishes and a couple of podium finishes this year, but not really where we wanted to be. Again, some of it has been 'Lady Luck' and some of it has been the fact that we've had to do some development on the car. The car is still being developed. I think that you'll see a real positive finish for the end of the year. Probably, I would hope a podium finish over the next two races. It certainly has that capability. Other teams have come on strong as well. We've all gotten better during the year. As far as going into next year, we've got some work to do to get it exactly where we want it. But I think that the next two races and the break in between seasons you'll see a much better, stronger car."
Cheever Racing introduced some new suspension components on their No. 16 Coyote Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Pontiac at Infineon, but didn't have the necessary pieces to maximize the upgrade. Christian Fittipaldi and Antonio Garcia will be looking to have a competitive weekend at the new venue.
"New track for all the competitors, we'll have plenty of practice so I don't anticipate any problems," Fittipaldi said. "Approach is to try and optimize the tracks needs to car as quick as possible so we can gain time. Looking forward to going to a new venue. Car set-up is going to be more like Barber and Infineon. According to simulation New Jersey is also on the low speed side."
-credit: gm racing