Lally and George Take First 2008 Rolex Series Win for TRG at New Jersey Team Places Three Cars Inside Top 10 in Inaugural Race at Thunderbolt Raceway Tim George Jr. and Andy Lally MILLVILLE, N.J. - Andy Lally and Tim George Jr. co-drove the No.
Lally and George Take First 2008 Rolex Series Win for TRG at New Jersey
Team Places Three Cars Inside Top 10 in Inaugural Race at Thunderbolt Raceway
Tim George Jr. and Andy Lally MILLVILLE, N.J. - Andy Lally and Tim George Jr. co-drove the No. 67 Johnnie-O Clothing/Sirius Satellite Radio Porsche GT3 to TRG's first Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 of the season with an outstanding effort in the Supercar Life 250 at New Jersey Motorsports Park's Thunderbolt Raceway.
It was the 24th class victory in Rolex Series competition for TRG, which already owned more class victories in series history than any other team. George started the No. 67 machine from 14th on the grid and kept the car strongly in contention before turning the car over to Lally at the second set of pit stops.
As he has done so many times in the past, Lally immediately began carving his way through the field and took the lead for the first time on Lap 56 of the 102-lap race. He briefly surrendered the lead to Robin Liddell on a Lap 80 restart, but found his way back into the lead six laps later. A final full-course caution period set up a two-lap shootout for the finish, but Lally got away cleanly on the restart and was never challenged en route to the victory. He led a race-high total of 38 laps.
"It was fantastic," said TRG owner Kevin Buckler. "Other than Daytona, this was probably the most important race we could win this year. It's a brand new track and we had a lot going on out here with four cars. I'm so proud of Tim, Andy and the team. It was perfect. It was a big win for us."
The victory was the first in George's Rolex Series career and allowed him to move back atop the MESCO Building for the Future Rookie of the Year standings. It was also George's sixth podium finish in 12 starts this season.
"It's great to win here," said George. "It's a brand new track, obviously, and it was very treacherous. I felt like I was back at Skip Barber racing since we weren't allowed to drop tires or you'd get called in, so it was a pretty big deal. I've got to thank Andy for helping me get up to speed really quick. I felt like I put a pretty good first stint in, and we were just fighting some gas issues toward the end, but other than that, we came out on top. I'm pretty happy."
Lally, meanwhile, picked up his 19th career class victory in the Rolex Series, moving the three-time Rolex Series champion into a tie with Bill Auberlen for third place on the all-time Rolex Series class winners list. It was the first Rolex Series win for Lally and the team since their triumph at Montreal last season.
"It was definitely a battle (with Liddell)," Lally said. "We've had a lot of good battles in the past and this was just another one. Just like at Barber (earlier this year) it came down to a late yellow and went green-white-checker. I knew it was all going to hit the fan as soon as the green flag dropped, and we just had to keep him behind us.
"I learned on the restart before that we really had to keep our tires clean, because there was a lot of pickup here, more than usual. I guess it was just new track teething things that we had to deal with. I lost a little ground on that restart. Robin made a real good move and got by and I was able to hang on his back for a little while and get back by. I knew they were thinking championship, so I could take a little bit of a risk, but at the same time, I'm thinking championship for Tim because that was big points for the Rookie of the Year. He's got a commanding lead going into the last race of the season. We just need to be smart and get the job finished here and bring her home, and he'll be the 2008 Rookie of the Year."
Just missing the podium themselves were Ted Ballou and Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 66 Mitchell Rubber Porsche GT3, who came home fourth from the Supercar Life 250. Like George, Ballou also did the early heavy lifting and drove an excellent opening stint before turning the car over to Pumpelly. Pumpelly quickly worked his way forward and ran as high as second before fuel issues created some difficulties for him and the team. Nevertheless, he managed to fight his way through the field on several occasions to pick up the seventh top-10 result of the year for both himself and Ballou.
"Spencer obviously did an awesome job," Ballou said. "The track was pretty busy out there. There were a lot of people dropping wheels and going crazy out there, but Spencer drove through the field a couple of times. He had everybody covered. Fourth is good, but Spencer really deserved better today so it's disappointing, but overall, the team did a great job of helping him move through the field. It was great."
"It feels pretty good," Pumpelly added. "Ted did an awesome job. He gave me the car in pretty good position, but I guess we were pretty deep in the cue because a lot of people pitted on different strategies. We came through the field and almost got the lead and then we started to run out of gas with about half a tank. I came in, we topped it off and I went through the field again. We realized we weren't going to make it, so I came in, topped off and I got up to fourth. We just missed the podium by a couple of inches. It was an excellent job by TRG and everyone here. The car was awesome. Congrats to Andy and Tim on the win, and again, Ted did an awesome job."
Were it not for an errant Daytona Prototype on the final lap of the race, No. 68 CRG/Colliers International/TRG Porsche GT3 co-driver Bryan Sellers and RJ Valentine-who is a co-owner of New Jersey Motorsports Park-would have also been celebrating on the podium.
After starting from the pole position, Sellers pitted on the first full-course caution of the race to turn the car over to Valentine. Valentine drove a strong second stint and and then turned the car back over to Sellers at the next caution. He was third on the race's final restart, but contact from a Daytona Prototype forced him off-course, dropped the No. 68 machine to ninth in the final race standings.
"We had a great weekend," Valentine said. "Bryan, as usual, did his thing. That kid is incredible. He's a well-kept secret, but I think a lot of people are beginning to see how good a driver he really is. It's just unfair when these DP guys just push people off. They did it to Dirk (Werner), they did it to Bryan and they did it to half a dozen other guys. 'Get out of my way, I'm coming through.' They have no respect for anybody else. It's really bad when they do stuff like that.
"We had an incredible turnout here. A lot of people showed up, and I think a lot of people were impressed by the track. We've got some rough edges on it, but overall, those are things that happen on the first time out."
No. 65 Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing/Total R Insulation Porsche GT3 co-drivers John Potter and Craig Stanton finished 14th for TRG/Riegel Autosport. Potter started the No. 65 machine from 17th on the grid and drove brilliantly and well into the race's second hour before turning the controls over to Stanton. The team encountered some misfortune with the left front tire on the final pit stop of the race but the team persevered and finished strong.
"It was great," Potter said. "The car ran really well. We had a little unfortunate thing, but you add up all the bad luck and the good luck, and you don't question the good stuff, so the bad stuff happens too. What are you going to do? The car ran great and it was a fun race."
"I did the last hour and 15 minutes and the TRG guys, the 65 car guys, did really, really good," Stanton added. "I think we had one of the best cars at the end of the race. John Potter did a great job for us in the opening stint. We had really good pit stops and we had a little unfortunate situation with a lug nut or a stud or something like that. That tire wasn't going to last a whole stint, so we had to come in. We went another lap down and we had to kind of fight at the end.
"I'll tell you, a lot of cars went away and this one didn't really go away at all. The TRG guys once again did a great job, and I want to thank (car owner) Ted Rozsa and all the fans here. It's incredible here at New Jersey. I can't wait to come back. This place is going to be unbelievable when we come back."
All told, it was the first time since the 2008 season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona that TRG placed three cars inside the top 10 in a Rolex Series event.
"We were so close on the other cars," Buckler concluded. "Bryan had a heartbreak. We had two cars on the podium and Bryan got pushed off on the very last lap by a DP and was relegated back to ninth. Spencer charged through the field and finished fourth with Ted. John and Craig did great. We had a couple of little problems, but it was really good. Congratulations to everybody. I'm proud of everybody on the team. It was a big win for us. We had three cars in the top 10 and that's pretty damn good. It says a whole lot about TRG." TRG was founded in 1993 and has been competing at the top level of sports car racing ever since. The team has the most wins of any team in the Grand-Am Rolex Series with 23, including the 2005 and 2006 Rolex Series GT championship trophy to go along with wins at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 24 Hours or Le Mans.