Banner Pontiac Wins Race and Grand-Am GT Championship; Collins and Edwards GT Champions
Tooele, Utah, September 21, 2008 -- Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards, driving their No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R, won the Grand-Am Rolex Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Sunrichgourmet.com 1000k race today and the GT championship. SunTrust racing was the top finishing Daytona Prototype in second.
In ever changing weather conditions at Miller Motorsports Park the duo of Edwards and Collins were able to defend their race win from last year as well as close the 2008 Rolex Series season as the GT champions. The race had plenty of drama including a rain storm that saturated the racing surface. Collins was caught in the downpour and pitted on lap 77 for a driver change and rain tires under caution. The team then had Edwards return to pit lane before the race went green on lap 81 for slicks and this gave the team nearly a lap advantage on the rest of the GT field and was the deciding moment of the race.
"A dream come true," Edwards said. "A championship is something you dream about when you first start racing. It has been a tough couple of weeks since New Jersey thinking about the last race. We had a strong start to the season and accumulated a lot of points. We led the series since Mexico City and then Davis and Liddell started to put a lot of pressure on us. We had a great car today. The team made an excellent call to go to slicks before the green came out and that gave us a big gap especially when a yellow did not follow. Also one of our pit stops gave us a lead of about 17 seconds on the 70 and about 10 on the 57, so that made our job on the track a little easier."
"The car was unbelievably hard to drive in the wet," Collins said. "We could barley go 25 mph and the thing was aqua-planning off of the track and cars were spinning everywhere. It was touch and go there for a while. I think that was the toughest four laps of the season just putting around in first gear under yellow waiting for the pits to open. It was a fantastic weekend. We took a conservative approach after we got the points lead early in the season. Paul and I just had to get back to what we do best and that is be aggressive and go for the win."
"The 70 and the 57 guys gave us a great run the second half of the season," Leighton Reese, Banner team owner said. "We had an uphill battle with the weight adjustment and some other things during the middle of the schedule. We have the best drivers, mechanics, engineers and overall team. We have a lot of fun people on the team which has made this that much more special. It was a big test of our character the second half of the season. But we came here to Miller and took it back with a big win and the championship for Banner Engineering."
"A great win and championship," Steve Wesoloski, GM Racing, road racing manager said. "Paul and Kelly drove aggressive yet smart all day. The team did a super job on car preparation and with the pit stops. Stevenson kept the pressure on all day and did a great job to finish second. The Stevenson guys really helped us to secure the GT manufacturers championship with their three wins and consistency all year. In DP the 99 and the 10 had a great race today. Although we did not have a lot of wins in DP the depth of our teams made the manufacturer championship possible."
Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis gave it their all in their No. 57 Stevenson Pontiac GXP.R as they came home in second place. The duo was able to lead four laps on the day and run consistently upfront. At the end the 07 had the legs and an excellent call in the pits to get the gap. The Stevenson team finished the year second in the GT series standings.
"We had nine podiums and three wins on the season," Davis said. "Congratulations to the Stevenson team for a great year. Congrats also to Pontiac and Paul and Kelly for their championship. We had a great year for a team that started the season with a new car and as well as a new group of drivers and technical staff."
"It is tough when you come to the last race in competition for the championship and you don't win it," Liddell said. "It is disappointing when you don't deliver the goods. However we did have a great season, we brought the Stevenson team to the fore. Kyle (Milay, team engineer) and Mike (Johnson, team manager) do an excellent job on the strategy. We had nine podiums and three wins, but we also had a couple of bad races which you can't have when the championship is this close. But I am ultimately happy with the way the season turned out."
In the Daytona Prototype race the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Dallara driven by Michael Valiante and Max Angelelli finished second. The team had a strong race all day leading 12 laps. At the end Angelelli could not get a break to take the win.
"We started off the weekend not as good right away as we had been in the last couple of races," said Valiante. "But the team did a really great job and Max and I worked really hard to give us a great race set-up once again today. Max drove a great first stint and then I was able to get us into the lead. Unfortunately, my radio stopped working at just the wrong time and we had to give up the lead. But Max got back in and had a really strong finish."
Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty finished third in their No. 99 GAINSCO Pontiac. The duo, who were the 2007 DP champions, also had a very competitive race at the front of the DP field. The team will accept second place honors for the DP championship at the banquet on Monday.
"It's not a bad way to end the season and every time you are on the podium it is kind of a good feeling," Gurney said. "We certainly wanted to win the race. Jon had a great stint and it was looking quite promising, but we really didn't have the ultimate pace. Once the other guys really stretched their legs it was a hell of a battle. All of the guys battling for that last podium spot for the last hour, it was really tough stuff and it was nice to come out on top of that."
Nic Jonsson and Ricardo Zonta led laps early in their No. 76 Krohn Racing Lola from the pole position. Some mid race drama involving Zonta and a GT competitor had him driving through pit lane to serve a penalty for avoidable contact. The duo brought their green 76 home in fifth place.
"I'm pretty pleased with my stint," Jonsson said. "Unfortunately the rain started coming down in the middle of my stint and it was very dangerous. Grand-Am, in my opinion made a call that was very dangerous. They left everybody out there an extra lap on slicks which I think was dangerous because people slid off left and right and couldn't come into the pits. I was going 20 miles per hour and was hydroplaning on slicks. But we got going again and I think we moved up from third to first. Then we decided to stay out two laps too long on the rain tires and we lost positions there. We also had a clutch problem and we didn't have a clutch for two stops which also delayed us a little bit in pit lane. I think the car had the performance today to put us on the podium at least but it didn't work out that way. We have to get home and try to work hard for next year and hopefully come back and run for the championship next year."
The trio of Marc Goossens, Jim Matthews and Ryan Hunter-Reay battled back from being down a lap early. Goossens was making a run at the top five when he just ran out of car and had to settle for a seventh place finish.
"The car was used up at the end," Goossens said. "I had no tires left. We didn't have the speed of the top guys so I really had to push to keep up with them. Then with one hour to go I was really out of car and was just trying to hang on. The rain caught us out as well and it was hard to get a rhythm back and then I had a lot of pickup on my tires."
The No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac of Tracy Krohn and Eric van de Poele showed some early speed. Van de Poele managed to lead two laps and had the 75 in the top five for most of the first third of the race. The car then lost the belt that drives the alternator forcing them to pit for repairs and settled for 12th place.
"I was lucky to have the car in good condition at the start," van de Poele said. "Our strategy played very well for us because fortunately we had a yellow, as we expected. So we stopped on the same lap just before the GT cars. It was perfect. The car was pretty good all the way through my stints. Everything was perfect so I could catch a few cars. It is always nice when you see your position go higher and higher. Then Tracy got in the car next and I think we were in a very good position, in fifth place. Unfortunately the rain came very hard. I think everybody did their best and then we had a problem with the belt in the engine. Unfortunately we didn't get any luck today. It was fantastic the team fixed the car in quite a short time and we could get back on the track. Tracy could finish the race and we finished 12th. We prefer to give them a better finish but we'll look forward to next year."
-credit: gm racing