Leitzinger & Forbes-Robinson Win Thrilling EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 27, 2005) -- In a pulse-pounding finish to the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (SPEED Channel, Sunday, 12:00 Noon ET), No. 4 The...
Leitzinger & Forbes-Robinson Win Thrilling EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio
LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 27, 2005) -- In a pulse-pounding finish to the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (SPEED Channel, Sunday, 12:00 Noon ET), No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford driver Butch Leitzinger held off Scott Pruett's No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley by just 0.465 seconds and crossed the stripe just 2.126 seconds ahead of the sixth place finisher to take the victory.
Leitzinger took advantage of a full-course caution with 10 laps remaining in the 94-lap race to move into striking distance of the race-leading Pruett and charged to the inside of Turn 1 on the restart with seven laps to go to take the lead. He then withstood several late challenges from Pruett--who was also being pressured from behind--to secure the second Rolex Series victory of the season for himself and his Howard-Boss Motorsports co-driver, Elliott Forbes-Robinson.
"It was a furious race," Leitzinger said. "Everyone was just flat out. It was one of the most furious races I've ever been in. The track didn't have much grip after it rained (earlier in the day). The car was just perfect on the turns that really mattered for passing, and that's what told the story."
Forbes-Robinson started the race from the sixth position and remained in contention through several full-course caution periods before handing the car over to Leitzinger on Lap 38 for the run to the checkers. It was the fifth top-two finish of the season for Leitzinger and Forbes-Robinson, and was the duo's first victory since the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway in June.
"Butch did such a great job at the end of the race," Forbes-Robinson said. "I went out first when it was all caution. It didn't handle quite as we liked. Butch made me really nervous, but he made some spectacular moves to get to the front. It was awesome."
After taking control of the No. 01 machine from co-driver Luis Diaz on Lap 38, Pruett quickly moved into second place and pressured race-leader Terry Borcheller in the No. 54 Kodak EasyShare Bell Motorsports Pontiac Doran for a number of laps before finally taking the lead in Turn 9 on Lap 76. He was challenged several times by Leitzinger prior to the full-course caution on Lap 84 before Leitzinger made his decisive pass on the restart. As a result, Pruett came home just short in his bid for a repeat victory at Mid-Ohio for the No. 01 team.
"Butch had just a little bit more than we did there at the end," Pruett said. "It's just the same situation we had in Laguna Seca, but the roles were reversed. On the restart I gave him enough room to challenge, but the racing was clean. It was a good door-to-door duel that I'm sure the fans appreciated. Our CompUSA pit stops were perfect all day, but we had to save a lot of fuel in the middle of the race which held us back."
Diaz started second, but lost the position to Michael McDowell in the No. 19 Make A Wish/Air Force Reserve/Commercial Defeasance BMW Riley on the first lap. Nevertheless, the Mexican kept the car within sight of the leaders throughout his stint. It was the fifth podium finish of the season for Diaz and Pruett, but the first since a third-place run in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen in June.
One of the key storylines going into the race was how Daytona Prototype points co-leaders Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor would respond after their No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley caught fire with Taylor at the wheel during Friday's qualifying session. The SunTrust team worked overnight to rebuild the car, which was ready in time for the morning warm-up.
However, Taylor and Angelelli still faced an uphill battle in the race. Taylor would have to start from 19th on the Daytona Prototype grid owing to an engine change, and it seemed before the race that the door might have been open for Taylor and Angelelli's pursuers to gain significant ground in the championship chase.
The No. 10 co-drivers quickly slammed that door, as Taylor marched toward the front from the drop of the green flag before handing off to Angelelli on a Lap 17 pit stop. As he has done on more than one occasion, Angelelli sliced through the field and found his way to third place as the race reached its zenith. While Pruett desperately searched for a way past Leitzinger in the closing laps, Angelelli nearly took second place away from the defending Daytona Prototype co-champion. He settled for a well-deserved third-place result.
"Basically, I got eight hours of sleep, but the guys stayed up since yesterday and never slept," Angelelli said. "They're incredible. I think it took 12 hours to completely redo the car. I think we started the engine for the first time at eight o'clock this morning and in the warm-up, everything was fantastic. I have to say that today's car was even better than yesterday's."
While they finished third to their closest competitors in the Daytona Prototype championship standings, Taylor was quick to point out that it could have been considerably worse. He and Angelelli collected their seventh podium result of the season--and fourth-in-a-row--and lead Pruett and Diaz by 19 points, 312-293, with 10 of 14 races now in the books.
"It means a lot for the championship," Taylor said. "We could have been out of the race. That incident with the fire could have happened this morning. If it had happened this morning in warm-up instead of yesterday we'd be done. I really believe things happen for a reason. The championship is not over, but today we didn't lose too many points, and that's thanks to Max."
After running second to polesitter Alex Gurney in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley for the first 36 laps, McDowell took over the lead when Gurney pitted on Lap 37 and led for seven laps before making a pit stop of his own. On the pit stop, McDowell turned the car over to co-driver Memo Gidley, who brought the car home to its fifth top-four result in its past six races with a fourth-place performance.
Max Papis and Jorg Bergmeister finished fifth in the No. 66 Krohn Racing/TRG Pontiac Riley for their third top-five result of the season together. It was Bergmeister's sixth top five overall. Bergmeister and Papis finished just ahead of Nic Jonsson and Tracy Krohn, who co-drove the No. 67 Krohn Racing/TRG Pontiac Riley to a sixth place finish. The No. 67 duo came home just 2.126 seconds behind the winners despite a persistent cloud of smoke at the rear of the car that forced Jonsson onto pit road after leading Laps 44 through 60.
COLLINS AND MILNER DRIVE FROM THE REAR TO SCORE MID-OHIO GT VICTORY WITH LATE-RACE PASS
Just a few moments after Butch Leitzinger made the decisive pass for the overall race victory in the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio, Tom Milner in the No. 21 F1 Air BMW M3 found his way past Andy Lally's No. 65 TRG Pontiac GTO.R to secure a victory in the GT class for himself and co-driver Kelly Collins.
The performance by Collins and Milner was all the more remarkable considering that Collins had to start from the rear of the field when post-qualifying inspection revealed a technical infraction on the BMW Team PTG machine. Collins moved steadily through the pack for the first half of the race, before handing-off to Milner who took the lead with just seven laps remaining.
"Kelly did an awesome job picking cars off lap-by-lap," said Milner, who recorded his second GT win of the season. "Once I got in the car, I had no traffic to contend with. I can't say enough for the entire team. The car has been off all week, and it was the best it's been in the race."
"When you start last, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain," added Collins. "I handed over the car to Tom in fifth place and when the No. 64 car had misfortune, we knew we had a chance. It was the little engine that could."
The No. 64 TRG Pontiac GTO.R, driven by Ron Fellows and Paul Edwards, led the GT class for much of the race, building their advantage over second place to more than one minute. But when a left-front suspension issue forced the car to retire, the race was wide open.
"I was exiting Turn 10 and heading to Turn 11 when the front left just dropped," said Edwards, who won the CompUSA 200 at The Glen two weeks ago alongside regular co-driver, Jan Magnussen. "I was lucky that I wasn't into the corner with that side loaded up. I was able to gather it back and get it slowed down. It is tough to bring in a car when it is so good and you are leading. Ron did a good job in his stint and was able to stay out of trouble. He really knows when to push and when to be patient; I think I learned something today."
TRG's other car, the No. 65 Pontiac GTO.R, had the lead fall right into the laps of co-drivers Marc Bunting and Andy Lally after the No. 64 fell out of contention. However, when a car slid into the gravel trap to bring out a full-course on Lap 83, the GT field was tightened up. On the Lap 87 restart, Milner swept to the inside of Lally in Turn 1 to take the class lead and the victory.
"Our car ran great," said Lally. "We adjusted on it slightly throughout the day, and it really responded well to change. We fell back early, but were able to rally back and run at the front. The team did a great job on the pit stops and everything went according to plan."
Greg Wilkins and Dave Lacey, co-pilots of the No. 61 SAMAX/Doncaster Racing Porsche GT3 Cup finished third, just over 14 seconds behind the winners. Craig Stanton, the GT points leader coming into the race, finished sixth in class with co-driver David Murry in the No. 80 Synergy Racing Porsche GT3 Cup. Stanton's sixth-place finish, combined with a 16th-place showing by No. 16 F1 Air BMW M3 driver Joey Hand enabled Stanton to extend his points lead to 18 points over Murry, 278-260. Hand is now third with 257 points.
After leading the first 36 laps, polesitter Alex Gurney and his No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing co-driver Bob Stallings came home in 11th place. Stallings drove the final stint and kept the car in contention for a top-five finish until power steering problems dropped him back in the field-- 2003 Daytona Prototype champion Terry Borcheller steered his No. 54 Kodak EasyShare Bell Motorsports Pontiac Doran to the lead for the first time since he led eight laps in the Sahlen's 200 at The Glen in 2004. Borcheller became the 38th different driver to lead in Rolex Series competition this year, and headed the field for a total of 15 laps. He and co-driver Ralf Kelleners finished 12th-- Prior to the EMCO Gears Classic, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course paid tribute to the 102 military members from Ohio who have lost their lives and one prisoner of war during the current conflict in Iraq. The parents and sister of a Marine Lance Corporal who was killed on June 9 were among those in attendance.