Automatic Racing's Strongest Race of the Year Ends in Disappointment LEEDS, Ala. -- Automatic Racing suffered disappointment at Barber Motorsports Park for the second year in a row, but not before running as high as second overall. ...
Automatic Racing's Strongest Race of the Year Ends in Disappointment
LEEDS, Ala. -- Automatic Racing suffered disappointment at Barber Motorsports Park for the second year in a row, but not before running as high as second overall. Saturday's Grand-Am Cup 200 was shaping up to be the team's best race of the season before contact in the final ten minutes sent them to the pits.
Jep Thornton started the two-hour and 30-minute race from ninth in the No. 09 Automatic Racing BMW M3. Despite some handling issues, Thornton was able to hold his own in the Grand Sport class while competitors consistently made contact with each other on the twisty track.
A full-course caution began shortly before the team's first routine stop, and Thornton brought the No. 09 BMW in to hand it over to David Russell. The team's strategy of pitting early had positive results, as Russell was able to steadily move up the field while other teams pitted later in the race.
As the second hour began, Russell had the No. 09 BMW in second overall. On the restart, he held down the position for the first few laps before settling into a comfortable third.
With ten minutes to go, a restart after a caution period had allowed the field to bunch up behind Russell. A car further back in the field made a hard charge to the front, and clipped the right rear of the No. 09 BMW. The rear fender was bent into the tire, and Russell was forced to slow dramatically and limp to the pits for a new tire and quick bodywork repair from the crew.
At the checkered flag, the No. 09 Automatic Racing BMW M3 of Thornton and Russell was 28th overall and 19th in class.
"The car was hard to drive in the slow turns, but I kept it going," said Thornton. "There was so much carnage out there it was unbelievable, but I managed to get through it without getting caught up. The strategy worked perfectly, so it's a shame we didn't get the finish we deserved."
"We didn't have a perfect car this weekend, but we made the best of it and had a top five locked in," said Russell. "It's really disappointing to end the race like this; to be hit so unexpectedly by a competitor. But we performed well today and showed that we are on the right track so we know that we're heading in the right direction."
The No. 90 Automatic Racing BMW M3 of Dave Riddle and Kris Wilson had to fight traffic the entire race, and the car was forced to come into the pits early in the first hour after contact. Riddle and Wilson rallied to make up for lost time and drove to a finish of 26th overall and 17th in the Grand Sport class.