TRG Closes Out Rolex Series Season with Podium Result in Utah
Tim George Jr. Claims Rookie of the Year Honors
No. 67 Porsche TOOELE, Utah - In the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 season-ending SunRichGourmet.com 1000 at Miller Motorsports Park, TRG finished the season as it began in January, on the podium.
The No. 67 Cabana Cachaca/Tantra South Beach/johnnie-o clothing Porsche GT3 team of Tim George Jr., Andy Lally and Patrick Long finished third, scoring the team's eighth podium result of the season. The result allowed George to clinch the MESCO Building for the Future Rookie of the Year Award.
"I'm excited to lock up Rookie of the Year," George said. "It's a great way to increase my momentum going into my ARCA program with TRG Motorsports. It was really awesome to be running with Pat Long and Andy Lally here. The team did a great job. We had a couple of deals with the tires at the end, but it was a sweet run."
"That's really big for him," added TRG owner Kevin Buckler. "He's moving up to ARCA next year on our TRG Motorsports program. His Rookie of the Year this year is great. It just reinforces it. We've got a nice, young, rising star here with Tim George Jr. and he really showed his mettle this year. He drove really, really well all year barking with the big dogs. He's ready to move towards his NASCAR goals. It's good for him."
George started the six-hour and 45-minute race from ninth on the GT grid and drove the race's opening stint before turning the car over to Lally. Early in his first stint, Lally was hit by another car, bringing about an unscheduled pit stop. The three-time Rolex Series champion managed to persevere and the No. 67 machine was soon back in contention for the victory.
Lally turned the car over to Long and the Porsche factory driver encountered an adventure of his own as the skies opened shortly past the halfway point, sending several other cars spinning off course. Long not only avoided the pitfalls, he also managed to take over the lead in the race.
The way the rest of the race unfolded worked against the No. 67 team as the race-winning No. 07 Pontiac received an incredibly lucky race-deciding "wave-by" under yellow with only an hour remaining in the race. The final 26 laps of the race were run without a full-course caution, and despite a late charge by Lally, the team settled for a third-place result.
"We had an excellent car, and I had some bonehead run into me," said Lally. "In reality, it's my fault because I should have realized he was a bonehead. That kind of set us back for the race, and unfortunately, I'll take the blame for that. It was silly. But we had a really strong car, and TRG just gave us the solid stuff. We had the fast race lap, we had a great car and we were coming through at the end. We picked up something on the tire. The tire was going down or we blistered it, and we just couldn't make that last spot, but oh well."
"The elements of rain and dry and strategy certainly played a big part in today's race," contributed Long. "I think, all in all, it was a great result to be back up on the podium with TRG after being away for about four or five years. Running with Andy, Kevin and Tim, they're just a class act. I'm proud to be back. I think we had a car to win today, but the chips just didn't fall our way."
After running most of the race inside the top five, the No. 66 Mitchell Rubber/AXA Insurance Porsche GT3 team of Ted Ballou, Spencer Pumpelly and Bryan Sellers came home seventh. Pumpelly started the race from third on the grid but quickly pulled onto pit lane early in the race to turn the car over to Ballou for his driving stint. Ted proceeded to drive a fantastic second stint, keeping it on the lead lap and never putting a wheel wrong.
Pumpelly drove a monster middle stint that was made all the more difficult by the rain and the fact that the car's power steering system stopped working. Nevertheless, he handed the car off to Sellers inside the top five. Unfortunately, the power steering problems also plagued Sellers, and fuel issues toward the end of the race relegated the No. 66 machine to seventh at the checkered flag.
"It was a challenge out there, definitely," Ballou said. "We had some problems with our power steering, but the crew did a great job of getting it back up and running. Spencer was running well and Bryan did a great job. We just ran out of gas there at the end. We could have done better, for sure, but we worked hard at it and it was a good result. It's been great to run with Andy and Spencer this year. I learned a lot, and I'm ready to come back next year and learn even more with Spencer."
The TRG/Riegel Autosport trio of John Potter, Josemanuel Gutierrez and 2005 Rolex Series GT champion Craig Stanton were also in contention for a top-10 result in the No. 65 Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing/Total R Insulation Solutions Porsche GT3 before some misfortune. Gutierrez worked his way from a 21st-place starting spot to 11th by the end of his nearly two-hour stint before turning the car over to Salt Lake City's Potter.
Potter maintained the car's position and brought the car onto pit lane to turn the controls over to Stanton when the team discovered water leaking from the No. 65 Porsche. Stanton eventually drove his stint after lengthy repairs before turning the car back over to Potter, who brought the car home in 17th place.
"At the end, we didn't do very well because our car broke down," Gutierrez explained. "We had a little problem with a rock in the cooling system, but we were doing quite well. We were out of luck yesterday in qualifying and we started 21st, but I was lucky enough to get it to P11 and then I handed it to John Potter, who did a fantastic job. He handed it back to Craig, also in P12 or P11, and we were sure that Craig could get the car up to the top five, but that's when the failure developed. We were very happy with the car, the guys in the crew did a fantastic job. We were a little bit sad because of what happened, but we know that we had everything we needed to get a top five, or at least a top 10 quite easily."
"It's a lot of fun to race at home," added Potter. "I've got a big cheering section here, and that's kind of nice. We all worked hard, all the drivers and crew, but things do go wrong sometimes. Josemanuel started and did a great job. I got in after him and we got a bunch of alarms, and it was unfortunate. I came in, and at the same time we were doing a driver change, we realized we were leaking some water, but we got back out there. We had a couple other problems, but we still finished the race and that's great."
TRG closed out the season with four cars inside the top 15 in the GT team standings. Leading the way was the No. 67 team, which finished fourth in the team standings, followed by the No. 66 team in fifth. Despite running partial seasons, the No. 65 team wound up 14th, followed by the No. 68 team in 15th place. George also claimed the Bob Akin Award for the top sportsman driver in the GT class.
"We're a really good team," Buckler said. "We're a great group of guys and gals and we persevered through the good times and bad. At the end of the day, we had a solid win this year (at New Jersey) and I think we had seven or eight podiums. I'm looking forward to '09 and getting back up front again. It was really nice to have the 65 guys come on board and do such a stellar job all year, balancing everything in their new program with Riegel Tuning. Ted Ballou did such a great job this year, constantly improving and steady as a rock. We'll look forward to having him back with us again next year and running up front. We really delivered for Tim and helped him to win two fantastic titles. Everybody did a great job and it was a solid season. We are looking forward to even more in 2009."