Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team finishes 12th in Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Despite spending a third of today's race running in the top five and, in fact, leading the race at one point, the Ruby Tuesday ...
Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team finishes 12th in Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Despite spending a third of today's race running in the top five and, in fact, leading the race at one point, the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team finished a frustrating 12th in today's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant at Barber Motorsports Park.
Bill Auberlen started ninth in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche-powered Riley and quickly made a steady move towards the front. On lap 23, Auberlen moved up to second when the race leaders, including Auberlen, made their first round of green flag pit stops. That is also when Auberlen handed the No. 23 machine over to teammate Joey Hand.
When Hand returned to the track, he was in 10th place. Over the next seven laps, Hand ran lap times quicker than the race leaders and had the Alex Job Racing-prepared Porsche Riley in fifth by lap 30. The race's first caution came out two laps later. When the race went green, Hand was right behind the No. 10 Pontiac Dallara and passed him for third.
Despite the mid-90 degree heat, Hand was setting a blistering pace, which included a team-best lap time of 1:22.840 on lap 42. Hand finally took the race lead on lap 57 and led for seven laps before an untimely caution erased a more than 40-second lead. At this point, the team had Hand make a pit stop for tires and fuel. Unfortunately, the heat in the cockpit also took a toll on Hand and he felt he could not make it to the end of the race. So, Auberlen got back in the car during the stop.
After surrendering the lead to make a pit stop, Auberlen was eighth to start his final stint. The team was hopeful and confident that Auberlen could drive the car back to the front with just 39 laps to go. Unfortunately, it was not to be. About halfway through his final stint he was having trouble getting the car to turn and, then late in the race, he had to make three unscheduled pit stops to assess damage sustained when another Daytona Prototype made contact with the No. 23 machine. Although the team finished 12th, they are encouraged with the performance of their new Riley.
"The car was fast," Auberlen said. "We made a lot of changes heading into the race. The car passed its way to the front. It passed Ganassi's car. It passed the SunTrust car. It went to the front. We haven't had the package all year to do that. Now we have the package to do it.
"I did not run with a cool suit and it was way too hot [in the car]. I made it to the 45-minute mark and I got out and Joey got in. The idea was for him to go to the end. But, due to the heat, he did not make it. So, I got back in and when I did, the car was not the same as when I got out. Something had gone wrong with it. The car did not turn anymore and we were a sitting duck again. Once I was a sitting duck, [Ricardo] Zonta just t-boned me. That is just he way he drives his car. It wasn't very nice. It's very disappointing."
"I am definitely encouraged by what we have," Hand said after the race. "We were in contention again. We were back to our old form like we were at the beginning of the year. We led the race and we were legitimately in contention for a podium finish. We had a really good car today. Greg Fordahl made some really good setup changes going into the race. And, when I was in the car, it was really spot on.
"This thing was put together at the last minute and people kept saying that this was a gutsy move [to switch to a Riley] on Alex's part. And, it was a gutsy move, but it was the right move. Bill and I are behind whatever Alex does. We owe this team a good finish."
"Though I am disappointed with today's end result, I am very encouraged by today's race," Team Owner Alex Job said. "After seeing what Bill and Joey could do in the Riley, I know that I made the right decision to go with this package at this time, which means I think our performance is back. We ran up front for quite a while and even led the race in the car's debut. That being said, I know we are headed in the right direction."