Birmingham: GM Racing preview

GT teams are heading to Alabama's Barber Motorsport Park for round nine of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 to be run July 20. - Banner Racing's Collins and Edwards lead GT points - Collins and Edwards ...

GT teams are heading to Alabama's Barber Motorsport Park for round nine of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 to be run July 20.

- Banner Racing's Collins and Edwards lead GT points
- Collins and Edwards defending Barber GT race winners
- Stevenson Motorsports' Davis and Liddell closing in on top GT points positions
- Borcheller in Autohaus Pontiac for rest of schedule
- Pontiac leading GT manufacturer battle
- GAISNCO Pontiac drivers Gurney and Fogarty top Pontiac DP team in second
- Gurney and Fogarty defending Barber DP winners

The heat will be a factor in the race as the Pontiac competitors negotiate the country club setting of Barber Motorsport Park. Banner Racing teammates Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards continue to lead the Rolex Series GT points standings in their Pontiac GXP.R. The GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team with Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty are making a mid-season run at defending their 2007 DP series championship.

For the GT competitors the season is quickly winding down. Following Barber there will only be three races remaining for the GT group, Montreal, Thunderbolt Raceway and the finale at Miller Motorsports Park. Collins and Edwards lead the GT standings by 24 points on the strength of three wins at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Laguna Seca and Lime Rock Park. Stevenson Motorsports has also been a GT standout with their Pontiac. Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis have posted victories at Mexico City and Virginia International Raceway (VIR) and have moved to third in the points on the strength of a four race podium streak. Liddell and Davis are 30 points out of first and six out of second.

Collins and Edwards come into Barber as last year's GT race winners. In 2007 the track proved to be a favorite right alongside Lime Rock Park. This year will be different. Since the win at Lime Rock Pontiac GXP.R competitors have been saddled with a Grand-Am mandated 100lb.+ weight increase and no more than 49% weight balance on the rear of the car. Collins and Edwards know that the weight and balance will affect the GXP.R at Barber this weekend.

"Last year we had a healthy win at Barber," Edwards said. "It was our most competitive track besides Lime Rock. We had a good half-second race pace advantage over the competition after the Hoosier tires went away. With our 100lb. weight gain and the Pirellis we have been using up our rear tires. Barber is a tight track so we need to keep the rears under the car and at least be on pace with the leaders. Yeah it will be hot, but the AC unit will be a real advantage there, so I hope we can keep our cool and win again."

In the No. 06 Banner Racing Pontiac Leighton Reese and Marc Bunting will be teamed together. Last year the 06 came home fourth at Barber.

"We qualified both cars in the top four last year," Reese said. "We ended up first and fourth. Barber is a good little track. It will be super hot. The heat will take a lot of guys at the race. This year with the air conditioning in both cars I hope that will pay dividends at the end of the race. The tack is busy, no room to rest and get your breath. The tires will be an issue for everybody. Last year Paul was in his own class by saving the rubber. We are 100lbs. heavier and that will be a big part of the deal at the end of the race. It is hard to be too aggressive with the championship points lead. We need to be aggressive yet conservative."

In the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports GXP.R Liddell and Davis bring a four race streak of podium finishes at Lime Rock Park, Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio and Daytona to go along with their two wins at Mexico City and VIR. The pair is currently third in the GT point standings. For Andrew Davis this is a home track race, aside from his driving duties with Stevenson, he is also an instructor at Barber.

"I spend quite a bit of time at Barber Motorsports Park, so I know the circuit quite well," Davis said. "Having knowledge of the track and how it changes with varying conditions will help us to bring the Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R up to speed quickly. However, the caliber of teams and drivers competing in Rolex GT will not allow any home field advantage to last for very long. It is sure to be another hard fought race, so we are working diligently to keep the momentum rolling for Stevenson Motorsports, Pratt & Miller, and Pontiac. The Bryan Mark Financial Pontiac GXP.R has had a great run so far this year. Due to a few poor results earlier in the season, we are still trying to dig out of a substantial points deficit. So, we need to finish strong in all four of the remaining races to stay in the hunt for a championship. Now that we have the high speeds of Daytona behind us, the rest of the circuits on the Rolex Series schedule look good for the no. 57. The Stevenson Motorsports team is more focused than ever, and we are looking forward to taking the fight all the way to the end!"

In the No. 72 Autohaus Motorsports Pontiac Tim Lewis Jr. will be joined for the remainder of the season by Terry Borcheller. The pair is hungry to get the red and black car on the podium for the first time this season.

"I think this will be a track that will highlight the strengths of the GXP.R," Borcheller said. "Nathan [McBride, team engineer] myself and Tim and will really need to get the setup right for Barber. This team deserves to be on the podium and I think we can get there this weekend. It will be hot, but the guys have done a great job to ventilate the car. We also have a very good cool suit and I will need it fresh when I get in. You can drive the tires off if you try. One of my strengths is managing the tires and the car. Our success will be dependent on the setup. We have to get it right."

The GAINSCO/Bob Stallings team continues to their move to the top of the DP standings. A photo finish at Daytona two weeks ago proves the team's motivation to get back to the top of the points. Currently Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney are 40 points behind the DP number on spot. With six races remaining the team is applying a lot of pressure to the series leading Ganassi team.

"I think Pontiac has done an excellent job this year in spite of the engine rules which, in my opinion, are a bit skewed against them," Gurney said. "Barber Motorsports Park should suit our package much better than Daytona. Everyone at Bob Stallings Racing is very hungry to put the Daytona race behind us and get back to the top spot on the podium. We had a great win last year at Barber and we will certainly be doing everything we can to repeat."

The Riley-Matthews team of Marc Goossens and Jim Matthews will be looking to get back to their early season stride. The team won at Mexico City and has been on the podium at VIR and Laguna Seca. They were also fourth in the Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona and at Homestead. Their consistency since the first quarter of the schedule has suffered.

"We had a test day at Barber last year prior to the race but that was cut short because of weather conditions," Goossens said. "It was my first time at that track and therefore I had to still learn things about the circuit during race weekend. Also setup wise we didn't have the best car there and we retired from the race with a broken drive shaft. Setup this year should be better. Similar handling problems occurred at other tracks last year and this year we didn't have those problems so hopefully we will be good at Barber this year. We need to work hard and have a good strategy and the rest will hopefully fall into place. With regards to the GT cars, I don't think it will be different there than for instance at VIR or Mid-Ohio."

The SunTrust team exited the race early at Daytona and really needs a strong finish to carry the team through the second third of the season. For Michael Valiante and Max Angelelli 11th place in the DP standings is strange territory. A string of on track incidents as well as a transporter fire has tested the team this year and they are looking forward to a late season charge up the points standings.

"Barber is a race track that has been very good to us, so far," Angelelli said. "We learned at Daytona that the new Dallara is a very good race car. So that combination should mean we could get another very good result at Barber this weekend. Unfortunately, things have kept happening to us this year and we have not gotten the results our guys have worked so hard for. It has been very unusual for this team. So, realistically, I don't know what to expect at Barber, even if the track really suits us and we know we've always had really good races there. We just need to get some good breaks. Actually, what we really need is a race with no issues. If that happens, we will be up front at the end."

Krohn Racing has two third place finishes for drivers Ricardo Zonta and Nic Jonsson. The team is still sorting through their new Pontiac powered Lolas and the Barber circuit should be another strong venue for the new car.

"Yes, this will be my first at Barber," Zonta said. "I have not heard much about it but I watched the video from last year and the track looks good for our car. I think the most challenging part at Barber will be overtaking the GT cars and the traffic. The track looks to be very narrow so I believe overtaking will be difficult. We lost many podiums this year already. Now we are going to optimize everything better including the strategy and the speed of the car. This will help us with top results for the rest of the year."

Eric van de Poele will also be running Barber for the first time. The Belgian is teamed with Tracy Krohn and is looking to run a clean, penalty free race at Barber on Sunday.

"I have to say I never heard about this track," van de Poele said. "The only thing I know is it is not very quick and it is quite twisty. So, it could be quite nice for us. Also I'm looking forward to try to have a lot of race track experience. For the moment I think I am close to 100 different race tracks I have driven on. Every time I got to a new track I am glad. The experience of the last races, I think I will, and we will, focus very much on the penalty system. We get penalties. I am really, really over penalties. I don't want any more. Last race we had one that we did not deserve in my opinion. It's very frustrating and very hard. It was really not proper punishment compared to the mistake we made. I really wish to have no penalties at all. If we do that we can have a very nice race."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Nic Jönsson
Teams Krohn Racing , Stevenson Motorsports