Duno, Franchitti and team charge for 11th-place finish April 23, 2006, Los Angeles, CA...In the first race with their new ...
Duno, Franchitti and team charge for 11th-place finish
April 23, 2006, Los Angeles, CA...In the first race with their new #11 CITGO Pontiac Riley, Milka Duno, co-driver Marino Franchitti and the CITGO Racing team earned an 11th place finish in the VIR 400 at Virginia International Raceway this Sunday. Their hard-charging finish was only 0.483 seconds shy from what would have been their second top-ten finish of the young 2006 season.
At VIR this weekend, the Rolex Series tried a new qualifying format that is likely to be used at select events during the season. Instead of the usual 15-minute Qualifying Session where cars earn their place on the starting grid in order of their fastest lap times, the qualifying format for VIR was a 30-minute race on Saturday with the finishing order becoming the starting grid for the main race on Sunday. Marino was selected to drive in the Qualifying Race and under wet conditions scored a 19th-place finish.
The #11 CITGO Pontiac Riley, starting the race 19th and with Milka behind the wheel, was hit by another competitor even before the green flag dropped. During the reconnaissance laps for the start of the race the #09 DP made contact with the #11 CITGO Racing DP -- which forced Milka to the pits for repairs. As a result of this unfortunate incident Milka and the team found themselves starting the race from the end of pit road and in the 26th position.
Milka charged through the field in an effort to not only regain positions lost due to the disappointing starting position -- but to rally the team and take the car as far up the field as possible. Advancing as high as 11th overall, and scoring her fastest lap on lap 25, Milka pitted on the second caution of the race on lap 32 and delivered the car to teammate Marino in 14th-place -- after a gain of 12 positions.
Marino, now in the cockpit and on the track, was able to take the new CITGO Pontiac Riley up to 12th and, with only four laps remaining in the race, to 11th - less than second away from 10th. During the remaining laps Marino fought hard to capture 10th -- getting as close as 0.404 seconds from edging past the competitor in front.
"It was a great race with a lot of drama for us. We were 9th overall in the final practice before the race so we knew that all our hard work was paying off and the #11 CITGO Pontiac Riley was getting quicker. We were very excited for the race to start. Then I was hit by another car during the warm-up laps and we found ourselves back in the pits for repairs and slipping back to a 26th-place start. I just didn't want our hopeful debut effort with the new car to be wasted, or the hard work and positive energy of the team to be discouraged. I drove my heart out hoping that we could overcome this obstacle. Then Marino got in and he got so close to getting 10th it was unbelievable. The team worked so hard to get the new car worked in and I can't thank them enough. Thanks also to my teammate Marino for an incredibly exciting finish!"
"26th to 11th! My teammate Milka drove a fantastic first stint; the CITGO guys were flawless as usual in the pits. We had a very fast race car on its own, but when we caught the traffic, we had just a little bit too much downforce. We couldn't quite get enough on the straights to get them under braking. But I think our new engine and new car worked very well. The CITGO/SAMAX guys have got more confidence and the Riley-Pontiac worked well, so I'm looking forward to Laguna."
Milka, Marino and the CITGO Racing team will now head west for the next round of the 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series Championship -- the U.S. Sportscar Invitational at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, CA May 6-8, 2006.
For additional information on Milka and Marino please visit www.milkaduno.com or www.marinofranchitti.com, respectively. For more information on the Rolex Sports Car Series log on to www.grandamerican.com.