Marks & Auberlen Take Third Straight Grand-Am Cup Win of 2005 in Luke Air Force Base 200 at Phoenix PHOENIX (September 10, 2005) -- While the ambient temperature at Phoenix International Raceway approached 100 degrees, No. 96 Turner ...
Marks & Auberlen Take Third Straight Grand-Am Cup Win of 2005 in Luke Air Force Base 200 at Phoenix
PHOENIX (September 10, 2005) -- While the ambient temperature at Phoenix International Raceway approached 100 degrees, No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 co-drivers Justin Marks and Bill Auberlen continued their own red-hot performance in Grand-Am Cup competition by taking their third consecutive victory in the Luke Air Force Base 200.
After starting from the inside of Row 2, Marks stalked polesitter Dave Lacey in the No. 17 Doncaster Brumos Porsche 996 through the opening laps before using an inside move in the Turn 9 entrance to the oval portion of PIR to claim the lead. Marks would not be challenged for the remainder of his stint and Auberlen was able to retain the lead when he took over the No. 96 machine in a pit stop under the day's only full-course caution on Lap 61. Auberlen pulled away from the pack on the restart and sped to an 8.437-second victory over Lacey and co-driver Darren Law in the No. 17 Porsche.
"It was quite good," Auberlen said. "The car was never so good all week and in the practices. Then all of the sudden, they put in a different set-up before the race and the car was great. Just prior to me getting in, the power steering failed. It wasn't bad, though. I ran pretty much flat out the whole time and just tried to outpace Darren."
In addition to it being the third consecutive Grand-Am Cup victory for Auberlen and Marks, it was also their series-leading fifth victory of the 2005 season. With the victory, Marks again closed the gap to Grand Sport (GS) points leader David Empringham and unofficially trails the Canadian by 15 points, 292-277, heading into the 2005 Grand-Am Cup season finale at Virginia International Raceway next month.
"We are really happy for Turner Motorsport," Marks said. "We are in the position right now where we can contend for the championship. We had a little bit of bad luck at the beginning of the year at Daytona, but these guys are totally on their game right now. The best thing we can do is win races. Our pit stops were awesome, and the guys worked so hard in the shop preparing the cars. I couldn't be happier. We are doing exactly what we need to do to win this championship, and we just need to get a little lucky now."
For Law, a Phoenix resident, the runner-up performance was his third second-place showing of the season and was also his fourth top-four result this year. It was Lacey's best Grand-Am Cup Series result of the season, eclipsing a previous best of third at Watkins Glen in June, and was his second straight top-five performance after a fifth-place run at Mid-Ohio two weeks ago.
"We were fast in the beginning, and Justin had some good laps in the beginning," Lacey explained. "We seemed to even out for awhile, and then he was a bit quicker through traffic and faster through the oval where it counts. The BMW had a good package today."
"It was a good car, but unfortunately they were better on the long runs," Law added. "After the yellow flag, there were three or four cars between Bill and I and that held us up for a couple laps. Once that gap got between us, I couldn't make anything up. It was unfortunate; we thought we had a winning car. I think I've been second three times this year, so this is getting tough."
Finishing third for their third podium result of the year were No. 5 Blackforest Motorsports Ford Mustang GT co-drivers Ian James and Tom Nastasi. The Blackforest teammates drove the highest-finishing Mustang, crossing the line one position and more than 20 seconds ahead of the No. 05 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT of Empringham and co-driver Scott Maxwell.
The fourth-place result capped an amazing run for Maxwell and Empringham, who started the race from pit lane after missing the 10-minute window to report to the grid prior to the race. Empringham began picking off positions immediately after joining the race and found his way into the top 10 within the first 10 laps after running as far down as 22nd at the start. Maxwell continued the charge after taking over on Lap 61, and the duo was rewarded for their efforts with a fourth-place showing.
Mike Keravich III and Owen Trinkler rounded out the top five in their No. 7 Power Racing Team BMW M3. It was their second top-five performance in their last three Grand-Am Cup Series starts, following a season-best third-place result at Trois-Rivieres last month.
Next up for the Grand-Am Cup Series is the season-ending VIR 200 at Virginia International Raceway on October 8. SPEED Channel will televise the Luke Air Force Base 200 from Phoenix at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, October 30, and the VIR 200 at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, November 13.