Mid-Ohio: Banner Racing race report

Collins & Edwards drive Drinkin' Mate Pontiac GXP.R to the EMCO Gears Classic Podium at Mid-Ohio Lexington Ohio (June 20, 2009): Paul Edwards survived a wild finish in Saturday's EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank at Mid-Ohio Sports Car ...

Collins & Edwards drive Drinkin' Mate Pontiac GXP.R to the EMCO Gears Classic Podium at Mid-Ohio

Lexington Ohio (June 20, 2009): Paul Edwards survived a wild finish in Saturday's EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to finish the #07 Drinkin' Mate Pontiac GXP.R in the 3rd position in Round 6 of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16.

"We'll take it," said Kelly Collins as he watched his co-driver Paul Edwards fend off a late charge from the pole sitting #30 Mazda. "Third place is garnering points which we need to defend our title. Paul did a great job and the Leighton Reese Performance Group team did a great job in the pits. Our new sponsor Drinkin Mate just came on board and it was great to be able to get them onto the podium in their first Grand-Am race.

"It was a good first run for the Drinkin' Mate Pontiac GXP.R despite missing the setup a bit," said team owner Leighton Reese. "Paul and Kelly did a great job keeping our Pontiac up front and for the most part out of trouble and our crew did a fantastic job picking up positions on every pit stop."

"A third place finish was good because I was just out there holding on," said Paul Edwards. "Once again the crew did a great job on the pit stops and our Drinkin Mate Pontiac was reliable so we picked up positions on the stops when we couldn't move to the front on the track and we finished strong. As usual Kelly handed off the Drinkin Mate Pontiac to me in great position and in good condition."

The 3rd place finish moved Collins and Edwards up to 3rd in the driver's championship with 170 points with the race winning duo of Dirk Werner and Leh Keen, who have won three straight GT races, tied for 1st with 186. Pontiac still trails Porsche for the Manufacturers' title by 13 points (198 to 185).

Kelly Collins, of Newport Beach California, started the Drinkin Mate Pontiac in 4th position as even the pace lap proved to be an adventure for the Grand-Am GT competitors as the pole sitting Porsche followed the pace car into the pits just prior to the start.

"I don't know what happened but the #86 just followed the pace car into the pits," said Kelly Collins. "I don't know if it was strategy, he had a problem or just got caught out. It was a very weird start because nobody knew where to line up. We all just took the start in a bunch. At the start we got a ton of tire pickup even on cold new tires getting warmed up for the start. There must been a bunch of stuff all over the track and everybody was sliding all over the place. It went yellow right away and that was a good thing. A lot of the cars pitted under that yellow so when we got the restart everybody was out of sequence."

When the course went green again Collins kept the Drinkin Mate Pontiac in 2nd place for his entire stint.

"The Drinkin' Mate Pontiac was working really well but I couldn't hold on to the 30 car but the car was fantastic," said Collins. "It started to get a little loose at the end of the stint so I tightened up on the rear [sway] bar two turns and fought for second place with Andrew Davis in the #57 Pontiac right up until we pitted."

Paul Edwards, of Nipomo California, and immediately struggled with the setup but was able to run well into the top 5 or 6 while keeping the leaders in sight.

"Early on I was just holding on, we just had to follow the pack," said Edwards. "We didn't have much time with the car for setup this weekend, nor did anyone else, but we tried some things this weekend relating to what we were feeling at Watkins Glen. For whatever reason we had the worst of both worlds, we had a ton of push and the evil thing about too much push is that you wind up with too much over steer coming out of the turn because you have too much lock turned into the car going in."

"It was a tough deal today," said Leighton Reese. "I am not sure if we got the air pressures just right for Paul [Edwards] because his car was under steering his whole stint. We pitted as early as we could so that we could still make the end of the race without another stop to make an adjustment."

After the final stop for the Drinkin' Mate Pontiac GXP.R Edwards was able to maintain a better pace but was still unable to challenge the leaders.

"I couldn't do anything to get the Drinkin' Mate Pontiac up to the front where it belongs but our finish was good for the championship," said Edwards. "Once again we got a nice consistent finish but I didn't have anything for them today. The Porsches were just gone and the Mazdas were just pulling us like crazy down the straight."

When a late full course caution occurred with about a half hour remaining in the race the twin Porsches of Werner and Farnbacher looked to have the race fully in hand. Edwards had the Drinkin Mate Pontiac in 5th following Robin Liddell in the #57 Pontiac and Jeff Segal in the #69 Mazda.

When the race went green again the GT race took a dramatic turn.

Werner seemed to regain control of first but Farnbacher led Liddell, Segal and Edwards in a tight scrap for the podium. Farnbacher would get hit by a prototype which flattened a tire dropping the #86 Porsche back several positions allowing Liddell to grab the second position while Edwards and Segal tangled resulting in Paul getting past for 3rd. Segal would finish 5th.

"I think that the battling that was going on slowed the 57 car which was handling a bit better than we were so I was able to keep up," said Edwards. "The 69 Mazda started making a lot of mistakes and he was going wide and starting to slide the car around and I was just trying to put pressure on him from behind.

"I wasn't trying to hit him but unfortunately he had gone wide there the lap before and I thought he was going to go wide again and I was taking my normal line and we were going to go side by side up to the next corner. But he found some grip and he came over and I had nowhere to go and I made contact with him. With the situation the team is in right now I didn't want to do any damage to the car and I certainly didn't want to hit him. It was an unfortunate deal."

"There were five cars nose to tail and it was just a dog fight," Leighton Reese said of the incident. "Paul was battling hard with the #70 Mazda and it entered a turn wide a few times wiggling the rear end all over and Paul tried to go past on the inside of him and suddenly the Mazda came across his bow and they came together. Unfortunately the Mazda got the worst of it.

"When you have five cars running that close at the front there is going to be some fisticuffs and we came out on the better end of that deal. I know those guys are upset but it wasn't Paul's intention to get into him."

The next race for the Number 07 Drinkin' Mate Pontiac GXP.R of Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards will be the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway on July 4th at 2:00 PM Eastern Time. The race will be televised live on SPEED at 2 PM.

-credit: br

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Paul Edwards , Robin Liddell , Kelly Collins , Leighton Reese , Andrew Davis , Jeff Segal , Lehman Keen , Dirk Werner