Early 5-car-pileup in Daytona Prototype race causes controversy The Lowe's Fernandez Racing team has had an up-and-down first year in the Rolex Series, failing to post a podium finish so far. However, they start tomorrow's Gainsco Grand Prix at...
Early 5-car-pileup in Daytona Prototype race causes controversy
The Lowe's Fernandez Racing team has had an up-and-down first year in the Rolex Series, failing to post a podium finish so far. However, they start tomorrow's Gainsco Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway form pole position following an impressive run by team co-owner and driver Adrian Fernandez. He and co-driver Mario Haberfeld ran well in the three practice sessions prior to the qualifier, and subsequently held off a hard-charging Scott Pruett throughout the half-hour race. "It'll be good to be in front," Fernandez said afterwards, when asked about the high level of traffic at the track. By virtue of finishing 3rd, Alex Gurney will start there along with teammate Jon Fogarty, driving the presenting sponsor's car to a podium finish. Max Angelelli and Mike Borkowski completed the top five.
Half of the 30-minute qualifying race was spent behind the pace car, due to a massive shunt on lap 10 that took out five solid cars. Notably involved were the Crown Royal Special Reserve Porsche Crawford of Christian Fittipaldi and the Red Bull Porsche Fabcar of Darren Law. Others, such as Marcel Tiemann, filling in for regular Alex Job Racing pilots Patrick Long and Mike Rockenfeller, as well as Andy Wallace and Chris Bingham were caught up in the chaos. It appeared that Oswaldo Negri touched the rear of Fittipaldi's car, which promptly left the Brazilian in the middle of the road when the rest of the field came. The subsequent accordion effect took out the others. "I was spun by Negri," Fittipaldi bluntly said en route to the Grand-Am trailer. "The 39 (Fittipaldi) was spun and blocked the track," Law commented. "I got around the corner and there it was. Our car has some cosmetic damage but the 39 got hit pretty hard." Negri, who was penalized one minute for avoidable contact, was unavailable for comment after the race.
The GT qualifier that ran earlier sorted out the fast from the not-so-fast with a surprise winner. Boris Said, making a one-off appearance, stole the show in his Pacific Coast Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R, walking off with an easy victory. He was stuck behind pole sitter Robin Liddell the first ten laps, but made a move that lap to pull away. His lead was as much as six seconds, which is a huge chunk on this 1.51 mile circuit. The Pontiac has more torque than Liddell's Porsche and he was unable to keep up, slipping to 4th by the end. The TRG Pontiac driven by Andy Lally finished 2nd with the SAMAX Porsche of Ryan Hunter-Reay in 3rd.
Whereas last year's race at Phoenix was a double header, this year's is like all others on the schedule, a race with both Daytona Prototypes and GTs on track at the same time. Traffic will be the key to the race, and whoever negotiates it best should come out happy. "It's really a matter of respect," said driver Burt Frisselle. "We have to have a lot more of it in these tight quarters." Either way, with nearly 40 cars, flaring tempers, and the possibility of a full moon, it should make for a humdinger of a Saturday night.