Mid-Ohio: Series race report

GAINSCO drivers make it two straight at Mid-Ohio; Keen, Lux Win First 2008 GT Race for Porsche LEXINGTON, Ohio (June 21, 2008) -- While it rained -- and sometimes poured -- during Saturday's EMCO Gears Classic for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports...

GAINSCO drivers make it two straight at Mid-Ohio; Keen, Lux Win First 2008 GT Race for Porsche

LEXINGTON, Ohio (June 21, 2008) -- While it rained -- and sometimes poured -- during Saturday's EMCO Gears Classic for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16, defending series champions and race winners Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty found a ray of sunshine at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in their first victory of the 2008 season.

Gurney passed Matt Plumb with nine laps remaining of the 76-lap, two-hour and 45-minute race and went on to win his and Fogarty's first race of the season. Gurney, in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley, crossed the finish line 1.347 seconds ahead of Plumb. The defending Daytona Prototype champions had not visited the podium since finishing second in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.

It was a fitting end to the pair's day, as Fogarty led the opening nine laps before spinning and falling to the rear during the first round of pit stops. Last year, the pair led all but six of the 111 laps.

Rain started shortly after the green flag flew and let up midway through the race, but the track stayed wet and spins into the gravel traps were frequent. Overall, eight cautions for 37 laps -- including several for many of the top competitors in the standings -- slowed the race's average speed to 62.317 mph.

A sudden cloud burst early in the race resulted in a multi-car spin involving several contenders in both classes. The incident began when Tom Kimber-Smith spun the No. 16 Cheever Racing Crown Royal Pontiac Coyote after contact. John Pew spun the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley to avoid Kimber-Smith, but Brad Jaeger slid the No. 77 Doran Racing Ford Dallara into Pew. Meanwhile, several other Daytona Prototypes slid off course and needed tows, including Jim Matthews in the No. 91 Riley Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley and JC France in the No. 59 Brumos Porsche Riley.

Series point leaders Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas struggled throughout the day and were among the spin victims. Though Rojas led 22 laps, he spun while leading under the third caution period. Pruett made his way back to third before pitting for the final time, and dropped out of the top 10. He moved back to eighth -- the team's first finish off the podium this season -- although the pair still hold a 37-point advantage in the standings ahead of Gurney and Fogarty. The pair jumped ahead by two points over Marc Goossens and Jim Matthews in the No. 91 Bob Stallings/Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley.

Plumb led a race-high 31 laps before Gurney's winning pass, and Darren Law made a pass for second-place with just under two laps remaining. Though one of the fastest cars on the track, he couldn't make up enough ground on Gurney before the final caution -- which came when Jeff Segal, Bryan Sellers and Steve Johnson hit the wall on the main straightaway. The caution came with less than five minutes remaining, and workers could not clear the track in time for a restart.

Law and polesitter David Donohue finished second in the No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley, while Plumb and Sigal advanced 15 positions to third in the No. 7 Rum Bum Racing BMW Riley. Brian Frisselle and Mark Wilkins were fourth in the No. 61 AIM Autosport Exchange Traded Gold Ford Riley, while Joao Barbosa moved to fifth on a late-race run in the No. 59 he shared with JC France.

Keen Holds Off Liddell in Porsche's First GT Victory of 2008

Leh Keen took the lead from Robin Liddell in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R -- also nine laps from the checkered flag -- to give him, co-driver Eric Lux and the No. 86 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3 their first victory of the season.

In a back-and-forth battle between Lux and Robin Liddell, Keen won by more than 20 seconds after three lead changes between the two in the final 13 laps. Liddell and co-driver Andrew Davis -- in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Stevenson Automotive Porsche GXP.R -- finished second, their fifth podium finish in their last six races.

Ryan Phinny led a race-high 30 laps in the GT class before pitting for the final time, and he and Diego Alessi finished third No. 21 Matt Connolly Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R. Andy Lally's TRG team put on slicks late in the race, and he gave himself, co-driver Ted Ballou and the No. 66 TRG Mitchell Rubber Porsche GT3 a fourth-place finish. Craig Stanton and Josemanuel Gutierrez finished fifth in the No. 65 TRG/Riegel Autosport Mike Wiegel/Helicopter Skiing Porsche GT3.

Series point leaders Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards finished 11th in the GT class, co-driving in the No. 07 Banner Racing Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R.

The next Grand-Am Rolex Series race will be the July 3 Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

NEWS & NOTES

- The victory is the first Daytona Prototype victory of the season for Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley. This is also the first victory for the Pontiac Riley.

- This is the first victory for Fogarty, Gurney and the GAINSCO team since winning in August 2007 at Infineon Raceway.

- Fogarty and Gurney's second-place starting position marks the highest starting position winners have come from this season. The previous best was third (Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas in March 2008 at Homestead-Miami Speedway). Five other victories have come from the 13th starting position or worse.

- This is the second straight victory at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for Fogarty and Gurney. The pair led 105 of the 111 laps in the 2007 event. Saturday, they led 18 of the 76 laps.

- This is the second victory of the season for a Pontiac-powered Daytona Prototype. Lexus has four victories, while Porsche also has one.

- Riley Chassis has won all Daytona Prototype races this season and 17 dating back to last year's Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen. The manufacturer also swept the top six positions.

- David Donohue and Darren Law matched their best finish of the season with their second-place finish. The duo was also the highest-placing Porsche-powered Daytona Prototype.

- Matt Plumb and Gene Sigal posted their best finish of the season and their best career finishes with a third. Plumb led a race-high 31 laps in the No. 7 Rum Bum Racing BMW Riley, which was the highest-finishing BMW in the race. The pair's previously best finish was fifth, which came twice this season.

- Brian Frisselle and Mark Wilkins scored their best finish of the season and best as co-drivers with a fourth-place finish.

- JC France and Joao Barbosa gave Brumos Racing its second top five of the race with a fifth-place finish in the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley, the duo's best finish of the season.

- Michael Shank Racing teammates Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson mustered their sixth top-10 finish of 2008 with a sixth-place run.

- Six drivers in five cars led laps in the race. Among those were Matt Plumb (31), Memo Rojas (22), Jon Fogarty (9), Alex Gurney (9), Nic Jonsson (3), Michael Valiante (2).

- Ten Daytona Prototypes finished all 76 laps of the race.

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- The GT victory by Eric Lux and Leh Keen was the duo's first Rolex Series victory of the season and first for the Farnbacher Loles Racing team. It was the second career victory for Keen (2005 Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen) and the first for Lux.

- Lux and Keen's victory was the first for Porsche this season and first since the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve at August 2007.

- This is the first Farnbacher Loles Racing victory since Virginia International Raceway in April 2007.

- All eight teams that have won Rolex Series GT races have been won from the front two rows, including four from the front row.

- Second-place GT finishers Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell have finished on the podium in five of their eight GT starts this season. They have combined for two victories.

- Matt Connolly Motorsports drivers Ryan Phinny and Diego Alessi posted their best career finish of third in the No. 21 Pontiac GTO.R after Phinny paced a race-high 30 GT laps.

POST-RACE QUOTES

Alex Gurney (No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley): "It was a pretty wild race, for sure. I didn't envy not being in the car at the beginning. It looked really difficult. I wondered if they were going to red flag it at some point, it looked that tough. When I got in, when Jon went to the back, it worked out for us because we ended up pitting at an earlier point than we would have. We got the driver change done, and it made us good until the end. I just concentrated on not getting off the road, trying to pick off guys. The strategy worked out for us real well. It was a fun race and very satisfying. I'm very happy for the team. We feel like we've been better than the results have been shown, and it's nice to get one on the board."

Jon Fogarty (No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley): "We haven't been up here much this year, especially after the season we had last year, but the team has been doing a great job all year. We've been in a position to win races and be on the podium, and it seems like whole world has conspired to keep us off the podium. But we broke that today, which is great. It was a nightmare when it first started raining. I came down the back straightaway and it was like there were a million cars everywhere. I thought what are these jokers doing, then I almost ended up wrecking myself. When we were on slicks right then, it was unbelievable. I was doing everything I could, going as slow as I possibly could, and I almost ended up crashing. There were a lot of changing conditions, and they favored different cars at different times in the race. So it was an exciting race. It's great to get the first win for us this year. The team never gave up hope. It's fantastic."

Darren Law (No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley): "The car was just really good and it was hooked up. We were on rain tires and trying not to slide the back end. But it was hooked up off the corners. I could see everyone sliding around out there, but I was just making good time at the end there."

David Donohue (No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley): "I thought it was a wise thing to put the defogger on before the windshield fogged up, but it was a mistake because it blew water all over the inside of the windshield. I'm too short to reach up and wipe it clean. Under the yellows, I tried to get up there but I couldn't reach. The biggest problem was visibility at the end of the straightaways, I just had to guess. It was just dump luck that I did. It seems when one of us struggles, the other one picks up the ball. Today, the team was flawless, I struggled but Darren picked up the ball and ran with it at the end. The Porsche power really helped us get up here today, the engine ran great."

Matt Plumb (No. 7 Rum Bum Racing BMW Riley): "It felt great. The conditions were a little sketchy, but obviously it allowed us to move up pretty quick because we had a good wet setup. It was great. The Rum Bum car ran flawlessly. We never had any issues. The Pirelli tires were great, but obviously, near the end, we may have found the limit on the rain tires."

Gene Sigal (No. 7 Rum Bum Racing BMW Riley): "It was exciting. We thought it was going to rain all weekend, but we thought we would get some practice time in the rain. When the race started, I just tried to keep it clean and give a good car to Matt. But right at the beginning of the first lap, I got rear ended. That was the worst of it, but I saw parts flying everywhere. But it all worked out good. The team did a great job. We've been through a lot the last few weeks, but everyone stayed with the game plan. We set up the car to work through both dry and wet conditions. The Pirelli tires worked out great, they held up for two hours. Matt had a handful at the end but we had a great time. I'd like to thank Mr. Bacardi for making this all possible."

Eric Lux (No. 86 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT-3): "It was pretty interesting with the sealer they put down in the corners. We had no idea what we were getting into. We went into the last corner, but luckily, we kept it on track and stayed out of trouble. And now we're here."

Leh Keen (No. 86 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT-3): "With the 57 car, when it was really wet he (Robin Liddell) was better. Once it started to dry out I guess his tires started to give way. And that's why it was better for me in the damp -- not wet -- conditions. When it was wet, it was crazy with the sealer...it's so slick. It was a struggle at first, but then I got going a bit. Obviously, it worked out pretty good for us. It was awesome racing with Robin. I'm so happy. The team did an incredible job. We struggled in the past couple of races. All the Porsches have. To get the first win for Porsche is really big to me. And a win -- any win -- is so awesome because this series is so competitive."

Andrew Davis (No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R): "We struggled a bit yesterday, and even this morning, to get the car right. Qualifying went well. We just kept it clean and tried not to make any mistakes. It's been really exciting. Robin had a really good fight at the end in some tough conditions. When it's really wet, and then begins to dry out, it can be really difficult. It was good all around. Congratulations to Eric and Leh. We're proud of them."

Robin Liddell (No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R): "I had a great battle with Leh at the end. We were close to winning, so that can make it a little disappointing to come in second. We did struggle trying to get the car right all weekend, but as soon as we saw the rain was coming, we felt pretty confident. We were able to turn some good times under it. And the end of the day, we didn't make any huge mistakes. We were able to keep it going and we were at the front when it counted. I am happy and this is good for the points. We just want to keep finishing on the podium. Obviously there are a lot of strong drivers and team combinations, so getting to the top step takes a huge amount and we came up a wee bit short."

Ryan Phinny (No. 21 Matt Connolly Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R): "The track conditions for awhile were bad so it was hard to tell where I was. I ended up in the lead and I was really surprised. Our set up paid off in the rain and we were very quick the majority of the race."

Diego Alessi (No. 21 Matt Connolly Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R): "I had some nice fights with some of the Mazdas and the Porsches. It was fun because there were some different lines to drive. We stayed side-by-side in a couple of corners with some other guys. I enjoyed it."

-credit: garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Alex Gurney , Paul Edwards , Jon Fogarty , Scott Pruett , Marc Goossens , Robin Liddell , Michael Valiante , Kelly Collins , Andy Lally , Darren Law , David Donohue , Gilles Villeneuve , JC France , Joao Barbosa , Memo Rojas , Jim Matthews , Andrew Davis , Alessi Diego , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Matt Connolly , Bryan Sellers , Mark Wilkins , Jeff Segal , Matt Plumb , John Pew , Brad Jaeger , Mark Patterson , Gene Sigal , Steve Johnson , Lehman Keen , Brian Frisselle , Eric Lux , Bob Stallings , Michael Shank , Ted Ballou , Ryan Phinny
Teams Stevenson Motorsports , Doran Racing , Rum Bum Racing , Michael Shank Racing