Birmingham: Race report

Bergmeister and Braun Go Back-to-Back in Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant at Barber Motorsports Park BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (July 30, 2006) -- Jorg Bergmeister and the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley team tightened their grasp on the Grand...

Bergmeister and Braun Go Back-to-Back in Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant at Barber Motorsports Park

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (July 30, 2006) -- Jorg Bergmeister and the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley team tightened their grasp on the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve Daytona Prototype championship with a second-consecutive victory by Bergmeister and 17-year-old co-driver Colin Braun in Sunday's Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant at Barber Motorsports Park.

Braun, who started from the pole position for the first time in his Rolex Series career, led throughout his 35-lap opening stint before pitting to turn the car over to Bergmeister on Lap 36. With threatening clouds overhead and four full-course caution periods before the halfway point in the race, teams used a myriad of different pit strategies. That being the case, Bergmeister did not cycle back into the lead until Lap 78 of the 97-lap event when Alex Gurney finally pitted to turn the No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley over to co-driver Jon Fogarty.

As the day's fifth full-course caution came out on Lap 83, Bergmeister managed to get on and off of pit road for a splash of fuel without surrendering the lead. However, on the ensuing restart, defending Daytona Prototype co-champion Max Angelelli closed right up behind Bergmeister for a battle to the finish. Bergmeister continued to lead through a final full-course caution from Laps 89-92, and Angelelli again pressured the German for the first few laps after the restart before Bergmeister pulled away to win by 1.327 seconds.

It was Bergmeister's third victory of the season, following his triumph alongside Braun in the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona and the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen with co-driver Boris Said last month. It was also his fourth-consecutive top-two finish and his sixth podium in 11 races this season, allowing him to open up a 39-point lead, 393-354, over Angelelli in the Daytona Prototype driver standings with three races remaining on the schedule.

"The whole team has really picked it up lately," said Bergmeister. "I got a little lucky in traffic during my stint, using the GT cars to my advantage. We thought we could make it on just one stop, so I was conserving my tires early. It turned out for the best because even though I had to come back to the pits for a splash of fuel later in the race, I had enough rubber to hold of Max."

Braun, meanwhile, celebrated his second victory, third straight top-two finish and his fifth podium in nine starts this season. Despite sitting out the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen and the Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami in March, Braun moved into a tie with No. 19 Playboy/Uniden Racing Ford Crawford driver Michael McDowell for fifth in the Daytona Prototype driver championship.

"It was just a really good weekend for all the guys at Krohn Racing," said Braun. "Our engineer, Steve Newey, put a nice setup on the car, and the crew has been working so hard lately. The win was a testament to the Ford engine and Riley chassis. I just had to be patient in traffic during my stint. Hopefully, we'll keep this streak going."

Angelelli and co-driver Jan Magnussen came home second in the No. 10 machine for Angelelli's seventh-consecutive top-four result. It was their best performance together since their victory in May's Road & Track 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and the second-place performance coupled with a 10th-place outing by No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley co-drivers Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz catapulted Angelelli into second in the Daytona Prototype driver standings.

"As usual, Jan did a fantastic job and helped me a lot," Magnussen said. "Wayne did too, but it's difficult, because you need to perform and try to win, but at the same time you have to finish the race to pick up points. This championship has raised the game so much. It has been a pleasure to race here in this championship, and even to finish second, fourth or top five, it's already a good result."

"I'm very happy for the team and Max is now second in the championship and has a good shot at it with a few races left," Magnussen added. "It was a good start. I came out second and then third because I forgot to block into the hairpin. The car worked well. I got a little bit hot just before I came out, but without knowing it, I switched off the cool suit. I thought it quit working, so I called in and said I was getting hot."

Mike Rockenfeller and Patrick Long picked up their second-straight podium result with a third-place run in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford. It was their sixth podium in 10 starts in a streaky season for the Alex Job Racing teammates. The duo opened the year with four consecutive podiums before a four-race streak without a finish better than 15th.

Fogarty and Gurney--who led for 18 laps--came home fourth for their fourth-straight top-five result and their fifth top-five in the last six races. Adrian Fernandez and Mario Haberfeld completed the top five in the No. 12 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Pontiac Riley for their third top-five performance in their last five starts. Haberfeld led one lap.

BUNTING & LALLY EXTEND GT POINTS LEAD WITH FOURTH WIN OF SEASON

No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R co-drivers Marc Bunting and Andy Lally extended their lead in the GT class point standings with their fourth class victory of the season in the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant. The duo now holds an 11-point advantage with only two races remaining on the 2006 schedule.

Bunting started the No. 65 machine third on the grid, running consistently in the top five throughout his opening stint. He handed control to Lally on Lap 22--during the race's second full-course caution period--and Lally drove the event's final 75 laps to claim the duo's second-consecutive victory. In addition to winning in last month's Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway, the No. 65 team also scored wins in Round 4 at Virginia International Raceway and Round 5 at Lime Rock Park.

Now, with only two races remaining on the schedule, Bunting and Lally lead No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3 co-drivers Robin Liddell and Wolf Henzler--who finished second in the Porsche 250--by 11 points in the GT championship chase (442-431).

"We came into the race with only one goal," said Bunting. "We wanted to make sure that we finished ahead of the (No.) 72 car. They've been real tough all season, and with only two races to go, it's going to be a tight battle to the end, so we want to make sure we have as big of a cushion as we can heading into the last race. The whole team did a great job this weekend."

Lally passed Liddell for the lead shortly after a restart, as the two battled nose-to-tail for an extended portion of the race's midpoint. Later cautions shuffled the No. 72 machine further behind the No. 65 machine, allowing Lally and Bunting to score their 16th top-four GT finish in just 18 races in the Pontiac GTO.R that debuted a little more than a year ago.

"There was not a lot of room for error for us this weekend," said Lally. "I have to thank all the TRG guys and (team owner) Kevin (Buckler) for their excellent calls with strategy today. We stretched our fuel a little bit hoping a caution would come out, and fortunately, we were just at the edge when the yellow came. The (No.) 72 car was stronger in some parts than us, and we had the advantage in others. This is a good win towards the championship, but with two races left, anything can happen."

With the runner-up finish by Liddell and Henzler, the duo posted their fifth-straight podium finish. The No. 72 machine hasn't finished lower than sixth in any of the 11 races this season, and with just 11 points separating them from the leaders, the championship picture is still unclear.

"We lost a little bit of practice time and couldn't qualify," said Henzler, who was forced to start at the rear of the grid due to an engine change on Saturday. "We made some adjustments during the race, and the car really came to us, but it's hard to start from the rear and make up time getting through the traffic."

"It seemed as though luck really wasn't on our side today," said Liddell. "We had some fuel pressure problems for a few laps, and made a pit stop just two laps before a full-course caution period, causing us to lose some track position. Andy was better in a few corners than me, and we just needed to stay out of trouble to the end of the race. There's really nothing to complain about with a second place finish."

Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins finished third in the No. 64 TRG/iRise Pontiac GTO.R, the duo's eighth podium finish of the season. With the result, the duo now has 403 championship markers, staying in a tie for fifth in the standings. No. 74 Rembrandt Charms Porsche GT3 co-drivers Eric Lux and Ian James finished fourth, followed by brothers Burt and Brian Frisselle in the No. 98 Ironclad Pontiac GTO.R for Pacific Coast Motorsports.

NOTEBOOK

A total of 36,500 fans were in attendance during the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant weekend, the largest crowd in the four-year history of the event.

The No. 6 Playboy Racing Lexus Riley scored its third-straight top-10 finish with a seventh place run in the Porsche 250 by co-drivers Mike Borkowski and Tommy Constantine. The No. 6 machine's best finish of the season came in Mexico City, as Borkowski finished third with Champ Car World Series driver Paul Tracy.

In the final turn on the final lap, No. 75 Krohn Racing Ford Riley driver Nic Jonsson made contact with the rear of Scott Pruett's No. 01 CompUSA Lexus Riley, dropping the No. 01 machine from fifth to 10th place. Jonsson and the No. 75 team were subsequently docked one minute following the race for avoidable contact.

The win by Ford tightens the gap in the Daytona Prototype engine manufacturer championship chase, with Pontiac now holding a two-point advantage over Ford (420-418). Lexus, which came into the weekend with a four-point lead, fell to third after a best result of seventh. Porsche is fourth with 394 and BMW is fifth with 222. In GT, Pontiac leads Porsche 473-449.

Riley Technologies extended its lead in the Daytona Prototype chassis constructor point standings with the victory by the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley, now a 50-point advantage over Crawford Race Cars (472-422).

-garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Nic Jönsson
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing , Alex Job Racing