Lux and Espenlaub Outlast 88-Car Field to Record Grand-Am Cup 200 Victory DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 27, 2006) -- Eric Lux started the No. 44 Rembrandt Charms/GOJO/Hawk Porsche 996 second on the grid for Team Sahlen, ended his stint at the...
Lux and Espenlaub Outlast 88-Car Field to Record Grand-Am Cup 200 Victory
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 27, 2006) -- Eric Lux started the No. 44 Rembrandt Charms/GOJO/Hawk Porsche 996 second on the grid for Team Sahlen, ended his stint at the front of the pack, and watched as teammate Charles Espenlaub charged to victory in the season-opening Grand-Am Cup 200 at Daytona International Speedway.
Espenlaub took control of the No. 44 Porsche during a caution period just after the race's one-hour mark. After constant pestering from 2004 Grand-Am Cup champion Craig Stanton in the No. 38 RUF Auto Centre Porsche 996 for BGB Motorsports--with whom he eventually exchanged the lead numerous times later in the race--Espenlaub held off a field of 88 cars to record the win.
"Eric handed over the car in good shape," said Espenlaub. "I tried really hard to mess up the win, but fortunately we were able to get it. I can't say enough about my co-driver. He's a young kid, but he's very mature for his age and obviously a very talented driver."
Stanton--who co-drove with Mark Plummer--passed Espenlaub on a Lap 52 restart, and the two exchanged the lead numerous times throughout the lap, before Stanton claimed the position outright. However, Stanton needed a splash of fuel with only two laps remaining, and on Lap 55 of the 57-lap race, the No. 38 Porsche needed to stop for a splash of fuel, allowing Espenlaub to take the checkered flag first.
Lux started the No. 44 Porsche on the outside of Row 1, and immediately pressured polesitter Ryan Pilla in the No. 55 Hyper Sport Engineering/Car Doctor Mustang GT throughout the opening laps. Lux eventually made a Lap 3 pass for the lead, and held the position throughout the remainder of his stint.
"I had a perfect car to start the race," said Lux. "I missed a shift on the start and fell back a little bit, but we regained it pretty quickly and the car was perfect all the way through. The competition was unbelievable. I still managed to be up there and I turned it over to Charles and he managed to keep it up there as well."
Finishing second in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 were Bill Auberlen and Chris Gleason, who charged from the back of the field to finish as the runners-up. The No. 96 machine experienced engine troubles during practice and failed to post a qualifying time, but both Gleason and Auberlen steadily picked off positions throughout their stints.
Rob Finlay and Michael McDowell took the last podium spot, sharing the No. 15 Playboy/Palms Ford Mustang GT to a third-place finish. Finlay qualified the car fifth and handed control to McDowell in contention for the lead. McDowell pressured for the lead during the middle section of the race, but after driving off-course in Turn 1, was relegated to playing "catch up" during the final stretch.
Bret Seafuse and James Gue finished fourth in the No. 37 Trumansburg ShurSave Ford Mustang GT and defending race-winners Tom Nastasi and Ian James rounded out the top five in the No. 5 USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools/OMP Ford Mustang GT for Blackforest Motorsports.
ROUSH AND SCHMITT DRIVE HONDA ACCORD TO ST CLASS WIN
With 88 cars on the track, and over half of them in a faster class, surviving the Grand-Am Cup 200 in the Street Tuner class can be considered a victory. But for John Schmitt and Dave Roush, taking the class win in the No. 92 Red Line Oil/HART Honda Accord is much more impressive.
Schmitt--a six-time Grand-Am Cup class race winner--qualified the No. 92 machine fourth in class, and avoided the trouble caused by numerous cars spinning off-track to hand the car to Roush with a chance to win.
"I've won a few races in the Grand-Am Cup, but it feels good to win here in Daytona," said Schmitt. "There were a lot of cars out there, but as long as I could stay out of trouble and pick my positions, I knew I could give the car to Dave with a chance to win."
Roush's stint was a little more dramatic, and as the large field began to spread out across the 3.56-mile, 14-turn circuit, not many cars could avoid trading paint with others. With less than five laps remaining, Roush was involved in an incident where two cars in front of him made side-to-side contact and slowed, leaving Roush little room to maneuver. However, the leading car avoided major contact, and only incurred minimal damage to its left-front fender, before speeding off still at the front of the class pack.
"This is my first win in Grand-Am Cup," said Roush. "It took a lot of energy to keep the car out of trouble today, and Jack was able to do that during his stint, and that gave me a good opportunity to contend for the victory."
Hugh and Matt Plumb--co-driving the No. 27 Acura RSX-S for Bill Fenton Motorsports--finished second. The machine started on the pole, but contact during the race left the car damaged and out of contention for the win. Finishing third in the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW 330i were Will Turner and Don Salama. The duo finished tied for third in the final 2005 Grand-Am Cup ST standings, and with the podium finish, ran their streak of consecutive top-six Grand-Am Cup ST class finishes to seven.
Georgian Bay Motorsports put their No. 01 Scada Pack Chevrolet Cobalt fourth in class, co-driven by Eric Curran and Jamie Holtom, and Mike Liebl and Bob Beede gave Bill Fenton Motorsports its second car in the top-five positions, finishing fifth in the No. 29 Acura Certified Pre-Owned/Southern Auto Auction Acura RSX-S.
After a nearly three month break, the Grand-Am Cup Series will return to action for Round 2 at Virginia International Raceway on the weekend of April 21-23.