Daytona Finale: The race to the championship, part I

The Race To The Championship... Borcheller Looking to Cap Comeback with Championship DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (October 27, 2003) -- All the odds were stacked against Terry Borcheller and the Bell Motorsports team when they entered the 2003 Grand ...

The Race To The Championship...
Borcheller Looking to Cap Comeback with Championship

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (October 27, 2003) -- All the odds were stacked against Terry Borcheller and the Bell Motorsports team when they entered the 2003 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series season. They came to the Rolex 24 At Daytona with a new Chevrolet-powered Doran JE4 Daytona Prototype that had never turned a lap around a racetrack.

While all five of the other Daytona Prototype teams entered in the Rolex 24 At Daytona had been testing and developing their new race cars, the Bell Motorsports team was clearly the underdog not only in the Rolex 24, but in the race for the North American Road Racing Championship.

"We came into this season with a car that needed development and a driver that needed development in Forest (Barber). Our goal at the beginning of the year was to get some podium finishes, and now we've won the most races," remarked Borcheller. "Our real goal was to win the Grand-Am Cup championship, which it doesn't look like we are going to do this year because we ran out of gas at VIR. That's really unfortunate for everyone."

While Borcheller and his co-driver Forest Barber will most likely not take home the championship in Grand American's production car series, the chances of their team picking up top honors in the Rolex Series are looking very promising heading into the Grand American Champions Weekend presented by Brumos Porsche at Daytona International Speedway, October 31 - November 2.

"Our goal with the Daytona Prototype was to just get Forest some more seat time and experience. We were thinking that we'd go after the championship next season, if he was ready for it," continued Borcheller.

But Barber's talent behind the wheel of the Daytona Prototype blossomed quickly during the 2003 season, despite the world championship powerboat racer's lack of extensive auto racing experience. "Forest's progress has been unbelievable. He's stepped up to a whole other level. It's like night and day," noted Borcheller. "Most guys need experience to get to the level he's at, and he has gotten there with very little experience comparatively."

Although the Bell Motorsports No. 54 Chevy was ill-prepared for the Rolex 24 and was the first Daytona Prototype to exit the race, the team quickly found its speed and qualified on the front row at the second round of the season in Miami. But gremlins continued to plague the team, resulting in more disappointing finishes and a deeper hole that the team was slipping into in the points race.

But, all of that changed when the Rolex Series traveled to Alabama to christen the new Barber Motorsports Park. As if to foreshadow what the season had in store, Borcheller overcame a tremendous deficit and emerged victorious. After being more than a minute down to leader J.C. France, Borcheller fought back to pass the Brumos Racing driver on the final lap of the race, securing the Bell Motorsports team its first Daytona Prototype victory.

"Barber was really the turning point of the season. That's the race where everything really came together," said Borcheller. "We had injuries to our crew during the Cup race and rebounded the next day with the same guys that were hurt for the Daytona Prototype win.

"That was a huge momentum shift for us. It showed us that we could overcome anything."

And since then, the Bell Motorsports team has kept the momentum going in their direction, scoring victories at the Mid-Ohio Road Racing Classic, Paul Revere 250, Bully Hill Vineyards 250 and VIR 400, which gave Borcheller and the Bell Motorsports team the final push needed to claim the points lead.

Notably not at the front of the driver point standings with Borcheller is his co-driver. A family emergency just before the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen took Barber back to Texas, resulting in him missing the race and not receiving any points for that event.

Barber's missed race made his decisions to allow Andy Pilgrim to take his place in the No. 54 Chevy a little easier at VIR 400.

"VIR was the right call to put Andy in the car, because we had to win that race. I don't think Forest would have been able to make that decision had he not missed Watkins Glen, and I wouldn't have expected him to. It was really hard for him not to drive, but for the team championship and my driver championship, it was the right decision," said Borcheller, who entered the VIR 400 eight points behind leaders David Donohue and Mike Borkowski.

"Forest is so much more than just a car owner who races. He functions in so many different capacities with our team. Because of his experience in powerboat racing, he is able to bring so much more, which has been a huge asset," he continued.

Borcheller and Barber will now head back to Daytona, which has brought them heartache at the Rolex 24 and triumph at the Paul Revere 250 already this year. Now the pair hopes the famous track will bring their team a championship.

"Mathematically, we have to finish directly behind the highest finishing Brumos car to take the championship," said Borcheller, who has a three-point lead over Brumos racers Donohue and Borkowski and a four-point advantage on Brumos' France and Hurley Haywood. "As far as team strategy, I think we are going to do what we have been doing all season long - run a smart race from the drivers to the preparation to the pit stops. Hopefully we will be able to race them at the end of the race."

There has been plenty of exciting racing at the end during most of the Daytona Prototype races this season, and with the championship on the line, the Grand American Champions Weekend presented by Brumos Porsche is sure to be a nail biter to the very end. Tickets are currently on sale for the event. The Advance Super Ticket is the best way to watch all of the sports car racing excitement during the weekend, providing access to the infield, paddock and garage, as well as free parking.

The Advance Super Ticket is available for $60 and must be purchased by 6 p.m. (ET) on Oct. 31 from the Daytona International Speedway ticket office by calling 386-253-RACE or online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com

The Grand American Champions Weekend presented by Brumos Porsche will be broadcast on SPEED Channel. The Rolex Series race will be live on SPEED, Saturday, November 1, 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.

For more information on the Rolex Sports Car Series, visit www.grandamerican.com.

-garra-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Andy Pilgrim , Terry Borcheller , Hurley Haywood , David Donohue , Mike Borkowski , Forest Barber , J.C. Fra