Homestead: Banner Racing qualifying report

Collins powers Banner Pontiac to Grand-Am GT pole at Homestead Reese qualifies 12th but will start 06 Banner Pontiac GXP last Homestead Florida (March 28, 2008): Kelly Collins powered the No. 07 Banner Engineering/Shock Doctor Pontiac GXP.R...

Collins powers Banner Pontiac to Grand-Am GT pole at Homestead
Reese qualifies 12th but will start 06 Banner Pontiac GXP last

Homestead Florida (March 28, 2008): Kelly Collins powered the No. 07 Banner Engineering/Shock Doctor Pontiac GXP.R onto the pole position for the GT class for this weekend's GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 to be run on Saturday, March 29.

Collins, who will share the 07 Banner Pontiac with co-driver Paul Edwards, drafted team mate Leighton Reese down the oval portion of the track in the middle of the 15 minute qualifying session and overcame a hot track over heated by the hot Florida sun to post a time of 1:19.717 beating 2nd qualifier Andrew Davis in the Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP by just over 1 tenth of a second.

"The track was exactly how I expected it to be at this time of day," Collins said of the heat. "It was hot and it was greasy but it was actually pretty darned clean. I knew that the times weren't going to be as fast. Some people were predicting high 18's but I knew that that wasn't going to happen so we are happy with that!

"The lap was really uneventful except that I passed my team mate Leighton Reese going into turn one and I didn't lift until I normally would have if I was on line but I was off line so I basically almost sent the thing into the kitty litter.

"I managed to hold on and slid it through there and I kind of had a smile on my face because it felt groovy. The rest of the lap I was pretty much right on my marks and challenge myself as much as I could without brake lock up and sliding it around. The Banner crew gave me a good car today!"

Initially the feeling in the pits was that drivers were going to have to set their fast laps early in the session as the Pirelli tires were sure to begin to overheat and lose grip as drivers pushed their cars for added speed but that didn't turn out to be the case for many of the Pontiacs at least.

"I am actually surprised that the Pirelli tires held up as long as they did," said Collins. "I am actually surprised that they didn't work as well as I thought they would on the first lap. They seemed to get better as the track conditions got hotter."

In fact Collins was able to revive his Pirelli tires later in the session after cooling his tires with two slow laps and record the second fastest time of the session of 1:19.791 on his seventh lap!

"That lap (Kelly's pole winning lap 3) wasn't really all that much different from the other three laps," said Collins. "After that lap my rear-end was very loose and my tires were hot. At that point they (the crew) said 'you've got quickest lap so come on in' but I opted to stay out and cool my tires and defend my position.

"What I did was experiment and get with it and I was able to run another lap that was about the same time. By cooling the tires it worked really good."

"It was another fine job by the Banner Racing crew and the engineers," said team manager Joe Kantarik. "He got a good tow down the straight by the 06 Pontiac GXP and that helped a lot. We were able to do it again after Kelly cooled down the tires just to try to cover out spot and to see if anybody else had anything for us. The track temperatures were up 30 degrees from where they were this morning so we thought that we had to get the times down early so there was no waiting around."

Leighton Reese of Minnetonka Minnesota initially qualified the #06 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R into the 12th position for Saturday's race but during routine maintenance for the race the crew found debris in the oil filters and opted to change engines as a precaution. Reese will share the 06 Pontiac with Jan Magnussen or Denmark.

"It didn't work quite as well as we wanted," said Leighton Reese after his qualifying run. "I kind of gave my best lap to Kelly giving him a tow and then I had to get out of his way so he could shoot down into turn 1. The GT field is tight. Another three-tenths and that would put me close to the top six. I think we are ok with the setup of the car.

"We have three world class drivers on the team so I am a little disappointed in my own performance but I am of course happy for the Banner Engineering team and Pontiac for the pole. I usually race better than I practice so I am looking forward to a good run tomorrow."

Due to the engine change Reese will start last and have to make up a lot of ground to compete.

"The Banner Pontiacs are at both ends of the spectrum right now," said Reese of the latest development. "In Iowa last year I spun to the back of the pack and moved back up to the front so I am hoping for a repeat of that before I turn the car over to Jan."

While the Banner Racing Team was elated with the pole position no one was ready to celebrate just yet as there is a race to win tomorrow and given the expected conditions and the extremely deep Rolex Grand-Am GT field that will be difficult. Particularly since it is nearly impossible to pass on the infield portion of the track where the Banner Pontiacs seem strongest.

"Yes I am surprised we are as competitive as we are compared to Daytona but we can't get by them on the infield even if they are slipping around," Collins said of the strong Porsches and Mazdas in the GT field. "I think it is going to be more of an attrition race. At least for us and that is our mind set going into this one. Of course we want the speed, we want to be out front, but we are focused on keeping clean and avoiding the damage that always seems to accompany the mayhem in these races."

"We have a long way to go before this is any retribution from Daytona and we haven't won anything yet," said Reese. "I think we had good cars at Daytona as well over the super long run. I think you are going to see some tire wear issues tomorrow especially if it is this hot.

"The track was pretty greasy this afternoon so we will have to see what the weather brings tomorrow. Homestead is not one of my favorite tracks, so I want to keep it up towards the front and turn it over to Jan and let him go like his head is on fire."

-credit: br

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Jan Magnussen , Kelly Collins , Leighton Reese , Andrew Davis
Teams Stevenson Motorsports