Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team finishes second in GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami HOMESTEAD, Fla. - Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team drivers Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand earned a well-fought second place finish in the Grand-Am Rolex...
Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team finishes second in GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami
HOMESTEAD, Fla. - Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team drivers Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand earned a well-fought second place finish in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Round Two race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as part of the GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami.
Starting from the inside of row four in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche-powered Crawford Daytona Prototype, Auberlen quickly took the strategy of letting the race come to him instead of being too aggressive early in the race. This race strategy came to fruition, as the defending race winner had to deal with five full course cautions during his 45-lap stint. During this time, he moved from seventh to fifth by lap 22.
"My stint was no problem because I knew there were going to be a lot of yellows, a lot of accidents," Auberlen said. "I thought I would take it easy and let the race come to us because that is kind of how it was last year. The car was really good - especially after restarts. [However], on the last restart, the car became very loose and really bad."AJR Homestead
Shortly after the race's fifth caution came out, Auberlen reported a loose condition on the No. 23 machine. The same issue the team fought all weekend. This condition helped drop Auberlen from fifth to eighth before his pit stop. Under the race's sixth full course caution on lap 45, Auberlen came in for the team's second pit stop and Hand got into the car.
When the race went green on lap 50, Hand was in 13th (the lowest position the team had been all day). Hand immediately put together an impressive driving display turning the team's fastest lap to that point of 1:14.987 - just two laps into his stint. He continued to pick up spots as his times got faster and race attrition set in.
With about an hour left to go in the race, the team realized that Hand may not have enough fuel to finish the race. This realization came soon after Hand took the race lead on lap 64, when the race leaders came in for a pit stop during race's seventh caution. Hand led the next 14 laps before eventual race winner Scott Pruett passed him at the start-finish line on lap 78.
At this point, the team desperately needed a few more cautions so Hand could conserve fuel. The team got what it needed when the No. 9 and No. 16 DP cars had late race troubles in separate incidents. Thanks to the much needed cautions, Hand no longer had to conserve fuel and continued to set fast race laps. In fact, Hand set the team's fastest race lap on lap 98 of the 99-lap event with a 1:14.551. This quick pace, coupled with running tight race lines, helped Hand give the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team its first podium finish in 11 races.
"Our car was good enough today," Hand said. "When we got here, we were in the dumps. We were not good. But, the Ruby Tuesday crew worked and worked to find some stuff. When it looked like we should have pack up, they persevered. And today, we had the best race car that we had all weekend. On the short runs, we were good.
"My only shot [at finishing well] was, listening to Bill tell me on the radio to make short three laps spurts out of it [the race] - like I was trying to qualify the car for three laps. This helped me break away so I did not have to dice it up with those guys back there because they were fast. It was a complete team effort by the Ruby Tuesday team."
"I am really excited about our close second place finish today," Job said. "In the end, we just didn't have enough for the [No.] 01 car. The cautions helped us. We were hanging onto the car because we had pretty old tires on the car. We also cut the fuel real close - kind of like Laguna last year. But, the strategy worked out great. The two drivers did a great job. Billy started and Joey finished. And, at the end, Joey did everything he could possibly do. Quite frankly, I don't know how he went as quick as he did with the car the way it was at that time. It just shows his talent.
"The whole team did a great job preparing the car. It took a complete team effort. We just fought a really loose car from the minute we got here. We still had a loose race car in the race, but we got it a little bit better and just close enough to finish second. This finish redeems us a little bit from our finish at Daytona. I think we're back. But, we need a little more. We need to figure out this loose condition. We need the new bodywork. But, it [this finish] shows that the team is here - all the team elements, the drivers, the crew, the strategy, and the sponsor Ruby Tuesday the best partner you could have."
The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team next travels to Mexico City for Round Three of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 April 17-19.