HOMESTEAD, Fla., March 3 - It wasn't hard to pick out the decisive moment for the Toledo, Ohio-based TRV Motorsport team in Saturday's Nextel 250 Rolex Series Grand-Am race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It was lap 28 and lap 29. Despite that ...
HOMESTEAD, Fla., March 3 - It wasn't hard to pick out the decisive moment for the Toledo, Ohio-based TRV Motorsport team in Saturday's Nextel 250 Rolex Series Grand-Am race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
It was lap 28 and lap 29.
Despite that memorable moment, drivers Jeret Schroeder of Vineland, N.J. and Tom Volk of Blissfield, Mich. finished sixth overall and sixth in the top class, SportsRacer Prototype, in Volk's Supreme Exhaust System Products/Racer Parts Wholesale/Purity Products Riley & Scott Chevy #95. (The team was also sponsored by Florida-based companies Graph to Graphics and Grout Perfect Saturday.)
It only their luck would have been better during those two laps, they most likely would have been on the podium shortly after the race concluded on lap 104.
After Schroeder posted the team's best qualifying effort ever to start fifth, he made a nifty pass by last year's winner here, the Didier Theys/Mauro Baldi Crawford Judd, for fourth.
On lap seven a yellow waved for Jon Leavy's Comer Racing Corvette, which had suffered an oil leak, spun in turn four, caught on fire and then started a grass fire. Everything was put out pretty quickly and Leavy wasn't hurt.
After drawing a bead on the next car in line, which was weaving all over the place, Schroeder nailed down third shortly after the green waved again on lap 11.
It was pretty much a given that the only way the Dyson Riley & Scott of James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger wouldn't win was if the car suffered mechanical difficulties or it got caught up in an accident. Neither happened and that team went on to win easily, but while Schroeder was in third hopes for a podium finish were very high under the red and white tents that shaded the TRV folks from the hot Florida sun.
Then came those decisive laps 28 and 28.
Schroeder pitted under green, and the pit stop and driver change itself went beautifully. But as Volk was exiting the pits, another competitor hit him twice in the left rear, damaging that wheel's rim. Instants later the pace car nearly crashed into him.
Somehow he made it onto the track, but then the Team Spencer Kudzu Madza of Dennis Spencer and Rich Grupp got into the gravel in turn one to bring out another full-course caution. Schroeder and Volk's main competition got to pit under yellow instead of green. That alone gave them an advantage over the TRV team that couldn't be overcome Saturday. "What an incredible out lap!" Volk said, laughing despite everything. "Our driver change and our pit stop went very well. I'm trying to get back on the track and the Jacobs car hit me twice and then the pace car almost hit me. The left rear rim was bent; I'm lucky that it held up. Then I heard the guy in the pace car say over the radio, 'I almost took out that yellow car,' and later they moved the pace car. I thought, 'Gee; what an exciting out lap; I got hit twice and I almost got taken out by the pace car, and I haven't even done anything yet; I'm still trying to get out on the race track!
"Then I did get out and the full-course yellow came out and everybody else was able to pit under yellow, which really cost us. But that's just luck; sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn't; there's nothing you can do about it.
"Todd's engine [Todd Hertel of Hertel Racing Engines prepares the team's Chevy powerplants] ran great, Jeret did an outstanding job as always, and if things had fallen a little differently we'd have been on the podium. It was a good day overall; we ran well."
Volk went out on used tires, so he had his hands full. He ran in sixth, seventh and eighth during his stint, and then Schroeder got back in the car on fresh tires for the finish and pushed them up to fifth.
At that point advancing any further was up to which of the front-runners would have to pit for fuel before the checkered. The TRV team didn't think they'd have to, and Schroeder sure wasn't giving up. He set his fastest lap of the race four laps from the end, which was the fifth-fastest lap of anyone all day.
However, on the next-to-last lap of the race the car started to run out of fuel and it sputtered on the frontstretch before Schroeder clicked the reserve switch. Unfortunately even that wasn't enough and he did roll to a stop somewhere on the backstretch as the checkered dropped. He had to be towed back in, and the team fell from fifth to sixth in the final rundown. Schroeder was more upset with the way the tow-truck crew treated the car when they brought it back to the garage area than anything else. As far as the race, he realized that if the cards had fallen a little differently, he and Volk would have repeated the podium visit they made here in 1998.
"The car, the crew and Todd Hertel's Chevy engine were all great today; there in the early going I was up as high as third," Schroeder said. "The TRV team did a great job; we just caught that pit stop wrong and there's nothing anybody can do about that. The good thing is that we ran strong. I really like Homestead and I'm looking forward to coming back here next month for the Indy Racing Northern Lights Series race. Maybe the cards will fall my way on April 8."
The next Rolex Series Grand-Am race is at Phoenix International Raceway on April 18-21.