Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team leads Rolex 24 At Daytona after six hours DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 26, 2008) -- The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team leads the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Rolex 24 At Daytona after the first six...
Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team leads Rolex 24 At Daytona after six hours
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 26, 2008) -- The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team leads the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Rolex 24 At Daytona after the first six hours.
Under cloudy skies with a threat of rain, driver Joey Hand started the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche-powered Crawford Daytona Prototype on slick tires, while 11 other DP cars gambled on rain tires. Those who gambled came down on pit lane to changes tires on the second pace lap; this allowed Hand to move from 12th to fourth at the start.
Hand's event-filled first stint lasted 16 laps and was in sixth place before the first full course caution came out to remove debris from the front straight. When the yellow came out, Hand brought the No. 23 machine to pit lane for service and a driver change. At this point, former Rolex 24 GT winner Bill Auberlen got into the car for his first stint.
"The start of the race was hectic," Hand said of his stint. "A lot of the cars in front of us pitted. They were all on rains and pitted for dry tires. The Ruby Tuesday guys made the right decision and we started on dry tires. The car is pretty darn good right now. We've got a new Porsche motor in the car and it is running a lot better than the one we had in earlier in the weekend."
When the race went green on lap 19, Auberlen was in 14th place due to an air gun failure during the pit stop. Undaunted by the loss of track position, Auberlen put his head down and did what he does best -- apply pressure to those cars in front of him. Throughout his stint he continued to run consistently fast lap times in the mid 1:43's. This pace allowed him to put the No. 23 Porsche in the top five by lap 41 and was in fourth when he brought the car to pit lane for the next round of green flag stops.
"I wanted my first stint in the Ruby Tuesday/Alex Job car to be nice and clean," Auberlen said. "We had some work cut out for us because an impact gun went bad on us. But, when we got out, the car was quite good. We caught some people -- caught the main group. The car stayed good three quarters of the way through the stint. Then, we overbuilt the rear tires a little bit on pressure. But, they will make adjustments for the next stint. Now, it's just a distance race. We're going to keep it going, stay on the lead lap, don't get in trouble and be there at the end."
When the Ruby Tuesday machine re-entered the track, Patrick Long was in the car and in 12th place. Just as Long took to the track, the race's second full course caution came out. This worked to the team's benefit because all of the race leaders made pits stops behind the Ruby Tuesday team. This allowed Long to be in sixth by the time the race went green on lap 56. Long turned the team's fastest race lap of 1:43.472 on lap 86. By lap 87, Long was in third place just 16 seconds behind the race leader. Three laps later, Long made his first pit stop and was in second place.
"It was exciting to be running in the top three," Long said. "I think I was a little overanxious early on the second restart. I got some pick up on my tires and just pushed the car a little too hard and lost a couple of positions. But, by the end of the stint, when the fueled burned off and I calmed down a little bit, the lap times were really solid and consistent. I was pretty happy with my stint. We are going to keep soldiering through. There is a long way to go."
Former Rolex 24 winner Andy Wallace took control of the No. 23 Porsche Crawford on lap 90 and was in ninth place to start his first stint. Wallace, a seasoned Rolex 24 veteran, did exactly what he needed to do during his stint -- run fast and consistent. And, that's just what he did. Wallace maneuvered his way to fourth by the time Hand started his second stint on lap 124.
Running ninth, Hand had his work cut out for him as the No. 23 was nearly 45 seconds behind the race leader on lap 132. On lap 135, the third caution came out for the No. 7 Dinan BMW. This meant that Hand would pit on the next lap and take fuel only to gain track position. When the race went green on lap 140, Hand was in sixth place 10 seconds behind. Hand moved to fourth by lap 147, but was helped off the track on lap 151.
As a result of the off-track excursion, the No. 23 sustained front splitter damage. He made a pit stop on the next lap to look at the suspension and change four tires. This put the No. 23 one lap down. But, as luck would have it, on lap 156, the fourth race caution came out and this allowed Hand to be back on the lead lap.
Three laps later the skies opened up and rain began to fall on the World Center of Racing. Crew chief Mike Evans made the call to put on rain tires. This early gamble paid off because the Ruby Tuesday Team was the first team to put on rains. By lap 162, Hand was in the lead and held that position for the next 14 laps, while opening a 40 second lead over the rest of the field.
"It's been an event-filled race," Team Owner Alex Job said. "I think I saw a stat on the monitor that read there have been 14 lead changes. At the moment, we are leading -- which is really good. We've got about a 40 second lead. It was a great call by crew chief Mike Evans to come in for rain tires when we did. That was a crucial call.
"Before that, unfortunately Joey got run off [the track] and spun. So, we had to come in and make a stop. The power steering wasn't working and the front splitter was cracked. We dropped back to 11th. But, we are the quickest car right now in the wet and things are looking good. The forecast is for rain off and on all night. If that's right, it is going to play right into our hands. And, maybe we can start to get some sort of a lead before the sun comes up in the morning."
With 18 hours remaining, the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team looks to maintain a good pace through the overnight hours and into the morning.