Laguna Seca: GM Racing race report

Edwards and Collins Banner Pontiac GXP.R Wins At Laguna Goossens and Matthews second in DP Monterey, CA, May 17, 2008 -- The Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R driven by Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins won the GT race today in round five of the Grand-Am...

Edwards and Collins Banner Pontiac GXP.R Wins At Laguna
Goossens and Matthews second in DP

Monterey, CA, May 17, 2008 -- The Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R driven by Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins won the GT race today in round five of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. In the Daytona Prototype (DP) category the No. 91 Riley Matthews with Jim Matthews and Marc Goossens finished second.

Kelly Collins started the No. 07 from the second row and was able to avoid the early carnage to hand the car over Edwards on lap 48. Edwards proceeded to drive according to strategy as well as miss the wayward cars throughout his stint. The race was marred with eight cautions periods for 32 laps. Edwards was going into the last lap running in second, when the leading Mazda got loose in the Corkscrew and went off the track. The off handed the lead and the win to the Banner team. The win is the second for the No. 07 car, the first coming in the second race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"It was a lucky day for us," Edwards said. "We backed off a little at the end because it was getting really crazy out there. The last yellow came out and I thought we may have backed off too much, but Grand-Am made a great call and let the three lead GT cars by the leading DP so we could race. The Mazda went up the hill and into the Corkscrew and he must have hit the dirt up there on the track and just got loose. I was able to just drive under him and take the win."

Chris Prey, Setup II reality racing show winner, started in the No. 06 Banner Pontiac from his ninth place qualifying position. Prey was able to move up a couple of positions and then was hit in the side by a competitor. The contact caused him to spin and stall the car. By the time he refired the LS2 motor he had lost valuable track position. At the races mid-point he turned it over to Leighton Reese who brought the car home in ninth.

"I had a good start," Prey said. "About six laps into the race the 32 car came inside me late going into turn five and hit me right in the door. The car stalled. I got it started and then had to wait until the traffic cleared and lost a few positions. The contact didn't hurt the car at all and I got back going and focused on running clean fast laps. Leighton did a good job to finish out the race in ninth place. It was a great opportunity and a really fun weekend. It was an education working with a professional team like Banner and the guys from Pratt & Miller. I will take this experience and use it in my future racing plans."

Stevenson Motorsports, the winners of the last two GT races, had their race go wrong on lap 33 when Andrew Davis was hit in the rear by the 32 car. The resulting damage had the team from North Carolina making repairs on pit road and sending them eight laps down. Robin Liddell took the car back out to finish the race in 17th position.

"I was excited to get in and drive," Liddell said. "The contact was unfortunate, but the guys did a great job to fix the car and I wanted to finish the race for myself and for the team. The handling of the car was compromised, but I was still able to put down some pretty fast times. It was important to bring the car to the checker today."

In the No. 72 Autohaus Motorsports Pontiac, Tim Lewis Jr. started the car from the third row. Lewis was running fourth in GT when he handed over to Lawson Aschenbach. Team strategy and strong pit work as well as fast lap times catapulted Aschenbach to second in class around lap 75. Battling for the lead with the 87 car, he found himself avoiding the 87 as it went off the track in the Corkscrew. Aschenbach took evasive action and then the car came back on the track in front of him resulting in heavy front contact.

"I was battling for the lead when he went four wheels off in front of me," Aschenbach said. "I went under him and followed a DP car and then he came back across the track in front of me. I couldn't react and it caused heavy damage to the front. The car was heating up and we had to come to the pits."

In the DP class the Riley-Mathews Pontiac with Goossens and Matthews once again showed their consistency by finishing second. Matthews started the car and handed it over to Goossens solidly in contention. Goossens used the many cautions to make up track position and put himself in a place to win the race. Goossens was able to get a run on the leader going into the Corkscrew, both cars went off track and when they recovered he was still in second place.

"I had a run on him in traffic and he came over to defend his position and I slid into him up in the Corkscrew," Goossens said. "I was able to get a run on him because he slid wide coming out of turn six. He made a clean pass on me before that and we had some more contact a few laps later. It was good hard racing and that is what this series is all about. We are doing a good job of finishing on the podium every race."

The Number 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team had Jon Fogarty starting from the front row. Fogarty was running in the top three when he turned the Pontiac Riley over to Alex Gurney. After shuffling through the pit stops, Gurney was able to bring the car home in fourth.

"We had an up and down run today," said Fogarty. "We found ourselves in a bit of a pickle, kind of not anticipating some of the yellows, you know, just strategy mix ups. But we made a good recovery from where we were. We finished one spot behind the No. 01 car, our main opposition, and I think we are coming forward a little bit in the points. Ryan is a good friend and an excellent driver and I know how it feels when you get your first win. I am happy for him."

In the team No. 98 GAINSCO Pontiac Cristiano da Matta and Jimmy Vasser looked like they were going to have a story book day. Vasser drove strong opening stint running in the top five. He turned the car over to da Matta, who made his return to competitive racing after suffering a head injury in a collision with a deer while testing a Champ Car in 2006 at Road America. Da Matta was able to lead 10 laps on the day before becoming ill in the car and pulling in.

"Man, it felt like I had a cat in my stomach," said da Matta. "It started feeling bad right when I got in the car on that very first yellow, but just a little bit, a very little bit. Under green, it was fine, but with all of the yellows, my stomach just started feeling worse. It was very strange. I am fine now, but I know we could have done much better, not just me getting sick, but some of the other things we did. It's just all part of racing, but for a comeback race, it went very well. It is important that I could see the performance is there now and for the future."

Michael Valiante and Max Angelelli continued to have their streak of tough weekends. The SunTrust teammates were running in the top five when a penalty relegated them back to eighth place. Angelelli was called into the pits for a stop-and-go as a result of pit road contact earlier in the race.

"A car that is coming is responsible because it can see what is happening in front of him," Angelelli said. "I can't. It's that simple. I followed exactly the rules they told us in the driver briefing. They explained it in the briefing several times that no car is allowed to occupy the middle lane on pit road. The 23 car was in the middle lane with a car next to it in the outside lane. It made contact with me with me from behind, but I am the one who got penalized. That is not consistent with the way the rule was explained to us. I don't understand why we got penalized. But, unfortunately, we have to suffer the consequences we do."

Nic Jonsson started the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac from the fourth row. Jonsson put together strong laps running consistently in the top six. Ricardo Zonta took over the car and drove through the late cautions to finish in ninth.

"The car was perfect today," Zonta said. "There were so many yellows today that we became out of sequence on strategy. We had too much fuel in the car at the end. When you lose track position with so many caution laps it is hard to make them backup. This track is also difficult to pass on."

In the companion Krohn No. 75 car, Eric van de Poele started from the 16th position. Van de Poele, not satisfied with his qualifying effort brought his A-game today. On lap 37 the Belgian found himself in DP lead. On the next restart he spun the car exiting turn 10. Tracy Krohn took over and brought the green Riley Pontiac home in 13th place.

"It was a tough call," Krohn said. "I got a penalty for spinning in the first turn. There is so much dirt on the track that I just got in too deep and spun. I am not sure why they insisted on penalizing me for that. There was so much dirt and pickup on the track that it takes three turns to get the tires clean. The car was good today and we were able to lead a few laps."

The No. 16 Cheever Racing Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Pontiac Coyote was started by Matteo Bobbi. Bobbi turned over to Antonio Garcia who returned to the fray. Garcia had to come back to the pits with a vibration in the left front. The team had to chisel off the wheel nut and remount the wheel. On the next lap the wheel came off. Garcia limped the car back in for repairs. The team finished the day 14th.

"We had a tough day with the wheel," Garcia said. "Besides that I think we showed we could match the times of the front running cars. I was in a tight group and it was very competitive. We were a few laps down and I did not want to take a chance on ruining someone else's race so I let them go. Without our problem I think we had a top five car."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Nic Jönsson
Teams Krohn Racing , Stevenson Motorsports