Homestead: GM racing race report

Banner Pontiac GXP.R Wins GT At Homestead Riley-Matthews Top Pontiac in DP Homestead, Fla., March 29, 2008 -- The Banner Engineering No. 07 Pontiac GXP.R with drivers Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards backed-up their pole position by winning the ...

Banner Pontiac GXP.R Wins GT At Homestead
Riley-Matthews Top Pontiac in DP

Homestead, Fla., March 29, 2008 -- The Banner Engineering No. 07 Pontiac GXP.R with drivers Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards backed-up their pole position by winning the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami GT race today. Riley-Matthews was the top finishing Pontiac Daytona Prototype (DP) coming home fourth.

Kelly Collins started the No. 07 Banner GXP.R from the pole and led right up to a few laps before handing the car over to Paul Edwards. The yellow hampered race, nine caution periods for 33 laps, kept the teams guessing on strategy. The Banner team performed faultless pit stops and the drivers were able to avoid the on track carnage to win.

"I was able to get really good restarts," Edwards said. "With the yellows we could cool the tires and then they would be good for a couple of laps before they went away a little. This allowed me to keep the gap to the guys behind. We haven't been very good at this track in the past, so the win is a great effort. On Thursday, Chuck [Houghton, team engineer] made some big changes to the suspension. The changes really freed up the car and that helped Kelly to get the pole. The move was pretty daring right before qualifying, but it worked out. The tires stayed under us the whole race and the car was really good throughout the stint. It is a nice win for the team after a tough Rolex 24."

"It was pretty clean running at the front," Collins said. "With the restarts I didn't have any problem with the DP cars, except at the end of my stint when I ran up on some slow cars and two GT guys got around me. The car is really good through the infield and in the braking zones. I am really surprised we were this strong here. The run was calm, cool and collected. The guys had the strategy right and performed great pit stops. Paul did a good job to keep it clean and bring home the win."

The team Banner Racing GXP.R driven by owner Leighton Reese and Jan Magnussen took the third step of the podium. Reese started the car from dead last on the grid after a late night motor change. Reese was able to negotiate the traffic with strong driving and good strategy to get the Pontiac back up to fourth by lap 27. Reese turned the car over to Magnussen who made a great late race run to put the team in third.

"The car was good when I got in," Magnussen said. "Leighton did a great job to be patient and get the car back up to the front. Joe and the guys did great pit stops and I had a lot of car left at the end. One more yellow and we could have stood next to Paul and Kelly in second. We had a good race and one that the team needed after a tough Daytona 24."

The No. 72 Autohaus team with drivers Lawson Aschenbach and Tim Lewis Jr. were able to finish sixth. The team from nearby Pompano Beach ran in the top four most of the race. Lewis had a great start and moved up the field from his seventh place qualifying position.

"It was a good run," Aschenbach said. "Tim had a good start and was able to get us up into fourth during his stint. I got in and had some early contact going which knocked the alignment out and the car was a handful after that. It was tough under braking and we lost some handling which affected my ability to really charge. The team did a great job today in only our second race with the car. Sixth is ok, but we need to start winning."

PR1 Motorsports in their first outing with the Pontiac GXP.R also encountered contact on the track causing unscheduled pit stops. Thomas Merrill and Mike Forest finished the race 16th in class.

"It was a rough start for us in the series," Merrill said. "The team did a great job in the pits, with strategy and preparing the car. I got clipped by two DP cars at different times and that caused two separate tire problems. We had to come and change tires and that cost us a lot of track position. Other than that, Mike did a great job and we are looking forward to coming back."

Stevenson Motorsport could not capitalize on their second place qualifying run. Andrew Davis who put the car on the front row lost a few positions at the start, but was running strong in the top four. Davis turned the car over to Liddell who was engaged in a battle with Banner's Magnussen. On lap 54 smoke filled the cock pit of the No. 57. The power steering rack had blown a seal sending fluid all over the motor.

"I was running in the top five," Liddell said. "I was coming off of NASCAR four doing about 135 mph when the car filled with smoke. You naturally think it is the motor, but it was still pulling. Then when I went into turn one I could barley steer it. It is something that you can muscle through in the infield, but not on the banking. It is just not safe. The car was good. We were in a position to be a factor at the end."

The Riley-Matthews Pontiac DP car driven by Jim Matthews and Marc Goosens finished fourth. Matthews started the car from his sixteenth place qualifying position and was able to steer through the early yellows to hand over to Goosens. Goosens put together a great drive through the field to finish fourth, just missing the podium.

"The race was good," Goosens said. "We may have put in a little too much downforce. We were very good in the infield and then gave up too much on the banking. We put the downforce in this morning, maybe we should have kept what we had in qualifying. I was trying to get on the podium and had a run on the 60 car on the last lap, but he came over to defend his position, like any good driver would and I couldn't get by him."

The No. 99 GAINSCO Pontiac Riley with defending series champions Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty aboard finished sixth. The team was able to lead a handful of laps just before the fifth caution period.

"Jon had a real good run and it was just a shame we couldn't capitalize on it," Gurney said. "I struggled with a gear box issue and it kept cutting out which in turn cost us a few positions. We kept it together, though, and still look good in the championship, so we will take it. This is a championship team and we still managed to finish sixth and not give up too much ground in the points. We are looking at the big picture and it will be real good to get back to Mexico where we took our first win last year."

Tracy Krohn driving the No. 75 Krohn Lola with Eric van de Poele came to the checker in twelfth. The team was debuting their new Lola in competition here at Homestead. Teammates Nic Jonsson and Ricardo Zonta ran as high second during the race.

"Actually the car was okay," Krohn said. "I was a little disappointed because we lost the radio before the race, so we had no communications. We got into a situation when I saw a car go off the track. I thought I was in underneath the yellow, before the yellow came out and they claimed I wasn't. I had to continue on through the pits and lost a lap there, which is very unfortunate because the car really was better than that. I had no radio so I waited it out and we didn't get in the pit in time. Unfortunately it was just communications error that occurred. The car was very good. The No. 76 car had some driver issues and communication issues and things. I was very pleased with the performance of the cars. They both finished and nothing came apart. Gearboxes were good. Motors were good."

The SunTrust team also debuted their new Dallara DP car. Michael Valiante started from the front row and had the pleasure of awarding Wayne Taylor's team their first laps led in the new car. Valiante was a fixture at the front of the race in the early going. On lap 44 the Canadian was hit from behind by another DP car going into turn one, sending the new Dallara back to the paddock for suspension repairs. Teammate Max Angelelli got in the car and finished the race in 14th.

"I'm disappointed, but everybody is a human being, and what can I say," Angelelli said. "Things like that in the race environment happen. I wanted to learn the car. I wanted to understand where we are not fast, what we need to do. I'm very confident. It definitely will take time, but we will get there. I'm relatively confident moving forward with this car."

Cheever Racing was also putting some miles on their new Coyote DP car. Matteo Bobbi and Antonio Garcia had the car up in the top six through most of the race. A cooling problem put them out on lap 89, but the team from Indy has made a lot of progress with their new car since Daytona.

"We suffered from low speeds on the straight aways," Cheever said. "But with the excellent efforts of our drivers, we were able to make up time in the road course section of the track. We made it up to second position and then the temperature of the engine slowly began to rise. Our fuel situation was satisfactory to finish, so we decided to hold back on the engine and sacrifice position in an attempt to finish the race. Unfortunately that was not the case, and now we find ourselves in the difficult position of starting the season down in the point standings."

Round three of the Grand-Am Rolex Series will be held at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City on April 19.

-credit: gm racing

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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Nic Jönsson