Action Express Racing Wins At VIR
Historic day sees both cars on podium for first time in team history
ALTON, VA: On a wet and soggy day in Virginia, the No. 01 TELMAX Chip Ganassi Racing DP went from the hunter to the hunted. Action Express Racing wasted no time picking up GRAND-AM’s $25,000 bonus to the first team to beat the No. 01 DP, beating the series’ top team in a head-to-head duel that lasted the race’s final 21 laps.
Driver Joao Barbosa piloted the No. 9 Porsche-powered Riley to the lead on lap 41 and didn’t look back, holding off defending champion Scott Pruett and picking up the team’s first win – alongside teammates Terry Borcheller and JC France – since the 2010 season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. The No. 9 DP was the first of two Action Express cars on the podium as Darren Law claimed the third position with two laps remaining and earned the No. 5 DP’s second podium of the season. It marked the first time Action Express had two cars on a Rolex Series podium.
“We were able to get the right track position at the right time and I tried to the best I could at the end,” said Barbosa. “Having (Pruett) behind you is never easy, but I pushed as hard as I could to open up a margin and it worked out.”
The race started under wet conditions and after one green flag lap, an accident on Lap 2 brought out a caution that lasted over 50 minutes for rain. France was credited with only one green flag lap, but had one of the toughest jobs of the day and was able to keep the car on track while a number of top DP’s fell victim to the torrid conditions. The win by France marks the first time a gentleman driver has won since John Pew won at Utah in 2008.
“My main goal was to keep the car on the lead lap and give the car to these guys,” France admitted. “It was a very exciting race to watch and be a part of and I’m proud of my teammates for bringing me here.”
The rainy conditions eventually subsided and the end of the race was finished under sunny skies. As the weather heated up, so did the competition on the track, but both Action Express cars were able to make charges in the race’s final stages.
“This is a testament to how far we’ve come and what we’ve been working on for the past year,” said David Donohue who started the race in the No. 5. “We’ve got a strong package of leadership at the shop and all the guys are working hard and loving every minute of it.”
Team manager Gary Nelson was excited to see all of the team’s hard work in the offseason pay off, and have the team finally breakthrough to victory lane after knocking on the door in each of the first three races.
We work really hard as a team and it’s nice to see it pay off.
“The win is amazing for the entire Action Express team, we are all very proud of that. What others may not see is the internal shift that has occurred within the entire Action Express organization,” he said. “The team has worked especially hard to create a true, ‘1 team 2 cars’ program. Our mission is to race for wins and championships for our owners and sponsors, we are doing that within a reasonable budget while at the same time improving all areas of the team while innovating new ideas.”
“Both cars went into the VIR event with solid strategies created by our engineering group,” Nelson added. “We felt like a 1-2 finish was developing, then the (No.) 5 car was bumped off the track while leading. To come back from that with a 1-3 finish shows how far we've come.”
The win marks a tremendous turnaround for the organization. After winning the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2010 – the team’s first race – Action Express failed to record another podium for the remainder of the season. In four races in 2011, Action Express’ two cars have a combined total of four podiums and six top 5 finishes.
Through four races Action Express sits second and third in the series standings, with the No. 9 DP looking up at the No. 01 DP, just 22 points back. The No. 5 DP is in third, 27 points out.
“We now have the results of all of the hard work,” said team owner Bob Johnson. “The team has worked very hard paying attention to all of the details that are necessary to win. Everyone was prepared and did their job to perfection. I could not be more proud of these guys.”
JOAO BARBOSA (No. 9): “It was a tough race under difficult conditions. (JC and Terry) were able to get me the car up front and in good position. Everyone’s been working really hard and it all clicked today. It was a great race, very competitive.”
JC FRANCE (No. 9): “For me, I only did one green flag, but it was treacherous conditions out there. Even circulating under caution my main goal was to bring the car in on the lead lap and get it over to these guys. Terry did a great job getting on the podium in both series (Rolex Series, Continental Series) today and Joao was unbelievable holding off the series champions.”
DAVID DONOHUE (No. 5): “For all of Action Express, from the No. 5 car at the beginning of the race to the No. 9 car taking the victory, it’s a testament to where we’ve come from. The second race at Watkins Glen last year is when all of this started. The results show for themselves.”
DARREN LAW (No. 5): “It was a great win for Action Express. We had a great run. We came all of the way from the back and when I saw the white flag and the No. 10 car make a slip I just went for it and drove it underneath him. We’re all really happy for this entire program. We’ve been very competitive in every race this year.”