NEW CENTURY FOURTH FOLLOWING BRISTOL-LIKE ROLEX SERIES SCRAP IN PHOENIX
AVONDALE, Ariz. (September 11, 2005) -- New Century Mortgage Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates driver Cort Wagner summed up the evening's festivities at Phoenix International Raceway best.
"This place is like Bristol for sports cars," said Wagner of his team's incident-filled night on the ill-tempered 1.51-mile infield road course. "It's exactly what I predicted would happen-- lots of on-track tempers and not enough room to vent. I think we all know what happens when Bristol hosts the NASCAR races. This might as well be our version of Bristol."
Wagner managed to keep his nose clean early and often as cars careened off one another around the tight, tricky layout nestled just south of downtown Phoenix. The California native picked his spots, and etched his way into the top-five from his eighth-place starting position by Lap 41. But sooner or later it seemed Wagner would get bit, as nearly every one of the 21 Daytona Prototypes entered were involved in major incidents.
Lap 45 proved to be Wagner's downfall as he was "helped" around by the no.54 machine of Terry Borcheller, causing the no.02 New Century Mortgage Lexus-Riley to spiral down to eighth.
Co-driver Stefan Johansson strapped in on a Lap 61 pit stop, and was fighting a condition that was pushing him to the brink of the outside retaining wall on the banking section of PIR's cozy confines. After a splash of fuel on Lap 75, Johansson became the Chip Ganassi Racing torchbearer after the sister car (no.01 CompUSA Lexus-Riley) driven by Scott Pruett was taken out of contention for the race win on Lap 78 while in second.
The Swede nicknamed "little leaf" powered on and drove into the top three as the race entered its twilight stages. But with his car slowly giving into its pushing tendencies, Johansson kept the no.02 New Century Mortgage Lexus-Riley in one piece and brought home the team's fourth top-five finish of the season.
"There was a lot of action going on out there for sure," said Johansson. "But we just had so much push in the car toward the end I could hardly keep it on the track in the banking. The team performed well, and I'm pleased with the result tonight."
With the fourth-place finish, the New Century team moved into a tie for fifth in points at 261 with Finlay Motorsports.