SECOND PODIUM OF SEASON ESCAPES NEW CENTURY AT MID-OHIO LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 27, 2005) -- Mired back in eighth place after Daytona Prototype qualifying was cut short for the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Cort Wagner...
SECOND PODIUM OF SEASON ESCAPES NEW CENTURY AT MID-OHIO
LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 27, 2005) -- Mired back in eighth place after Daytona Prototype qualifying was cut short for the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Cort Wagner took up the race for New Century Mortgage Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates from Row Four when green flag waved to signal the start of the 94-lap event around the undulating 2.258-mile permanent road course just north of Columbus, Ohio.
In one of the most unusual opening-lap sequences of the 2005 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series season, Wagner spent the majority of his stint behind the pace car-- which was living up to its "P1" door side moniker. Before the 2002-2003 Rolex Series GT champ could put a dent into the field in the no.02 New Century Mortgage Lexus-Riley, pit stops were upon him when the team stopped for fuel, fresh Hoosier tires and a driver change on Lap 36 from eighth position.
"It was just a shame because we couldn't get into any sort of rhythm in the first stint," said Wagner. "We had yellow flags left and right. A lot of people were going off track and slowing the pace way down. It was a very bizarre start, but we felt we had a car that could run up front."
Co-driver/closer Stefan Johansson assumed the helm under yellow, adhering to Wagner's advice to be gentle with what he considered to be a delicate gearbox to that point. When the green flag finally waved, Johansson set sail on the top seven, operating with the experienced racecraft that the prestigious international pilot has come to be recognized by.
After negotiating slower GT class traffic and prototypes that were making their bumpers appear wider than they really were, Johansson picked off the top-five cars by Lap 59, setting up what looked to be the team's second podium drive of 2005.
With a stronghold on third position and running nose-to-tail with Ganassi teammate Scott Pruett in the no.01 CompUSA Lexus-Riley on Lap 87, the harsh reality of a second pit stop for fuel set in when the team called the Swede down pit lane for a splash-and-go with three laps remaining. Johansson and the New Century team rejoined the race on the lead lap in 13th, where they would ultimately finish the Round 10 event.
"I'm obviously frustrated with the result, what more can I say?" said Johansson. "We had a car that was a contender for the win, but things just didn't play out for us."