Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team finishes eighth in Grand-Am season finale at Miller Motorsports Park
TOOELE, Utah - Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team drivers Joey Hand and Bill Auberlen finished the 2008 season with an eighth-place finish in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series SunRichGourmet.com 1000k at Miller Motorsports Park.
Today's seven-hour race was really a tale of two races for the Ruby Tuesday team. Early on, the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche-powered Daytona Prototype was very quick. In fact, Hand and Auberlen were fairly dominant in the first half of the race. They ran most of the first 85 (of 137) laps in the top three and even led the most laps today with 32.
But, it was the final 52 laps that were a struggle. The changing weather conditions, an unscheduled driver change, and a broken sway bar all played a role in the team's finish.
On lap 76, a brief torrential downpour hit North America's longest road course bringing out the race's fourth caution. At the time, Grand-Am officials felt the conditions were unsafe for all of the drivers who were still on dry tires - which included most, if not all, of the field.
Leading the race under caution, Hand brought the No. 23 machine to pit lane for four new Pirelli rain tires. Just minutes after Hand made the pit stop, the sun came out. The team knew it would not take long for the track to dry out and began planning the team's next stop.
Unfortunately, the team did not plan to change drivers during that stop. They had only planned to put the dry tires back on and send Hand back out. However, Hand was experiencing some cramping, which made driving difficult.
So, on lap 84, Hand returned to pit lane for dry tires and put Auberlen back in the car. Hand was second when he came in, but after all of the pit stops cycled through, Auberlen was ninth when he started his final stint. Auberlen fought his way up to sixth with 26 laps to go. But, a broken sway bar in the late going prevented Auberlen from making a serious run at the race leaders and he finished eighth.
"The car was really good in the beginning," Hand said. "It was good enough to race with everyone. But, just before I got back in the car for my second stint, I went and ate something. Unfortunately, I don't think I got myself hydrated enough and I started to cramp up during my second stint. So, I told the team that when we went to dry tires that they needed to put Bill back in.
"We fought an understeer all day and, as the track got more rubber on it, the car got worse for Bill. We tried to make some changes during the pit stops and it made it better, but not enough.
"It was an interesting year. We didn't win, but we had some good runs. We put on some good shows. It was a great effort by the entire team this year. It was an honor and a pleasure to drive for Ruby Tuesday and Alex Job. I can't thank them enough."
"When I got in the car for the final time, it was not the same car it was before," Auberlen said of his final stint. "It was a struggle. I tried to adjust everything and I still couldn't get it to go. The car had a floppy, weird feeling to it. Come to find out, the car had a broken rear sway bar and I couldn't make it turn, which is so important on this track.
"I thought today was our chance to win. The car was so good all weekend. The car was really good in the first couple of stints. We led and we were pulling away from the field. And, I thought to myself, 'why can't we pull away like we did early in the race.' It's because we had a broken sway bar.
"I want to thank Ruby Tuesday and the entire Alex Job Racing crew. When the going gets tough, this is a group that just keeps on going. Alex works so hard and he deserves wins. Unfortunately, we did not give him one. But, I want to thank Alex and all the guys for letting me be here with Joey."
"It was a disappointing day after spending most of the day running either first or second," Job said. "When the wind and the rain came, things did not go our way. It set us back a bit. But, we were able to come back from that. The last yellow really helped us. We were in position to make a run to the front and Bill started to do it, but the car just wouldn't do it anymore. When we got the car back to the garage, we found that we had a broken sway bar, which explained our handling issue.
"Both drivers gave it everything they had and the team did a great job. I want to thank Ruby Tuesday for their support over the past three years. We could not have done this without them. They are a great company with a great bunch of people. We just can't thank them enough."
The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team finished the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series with two podiums, three top-five and seven top-10 finishes.