SCC: Daytona: TRG race report

SCC: Daytona: TRG race report
Jan 27, 2008, 5:26 AM

Schroeder and Lally Finish Eighth for TRG in KONI Challenge Opener at Daytona Engine Management Woes Rob Team of Potential Victory DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. January 25, 2008 -- After starting last in a 42-car field, No. 41 Cohen Financial Porsche 997 ...

Schroeder and Lally Finish Eighth for TRG in KONI Challenge Opener at Daytona

Engine Management Woes Rob Team of Potential Victory

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. January 25, 2008 -- After starting last in a 42-car field, No. 41 Cohen Financial Porsche 997 co-drivers Scott Schroeder and Andy Lally charged through the field to finish eighth and lead a three-car effort for TRG in the 2008 Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series season-opening Fresh >From Florida 200 at Daytona International Speedway.

"The (No.) 41 team was amazing," said TRG owner Kevin Buckler. "Scott did a great job keeping the car on the lead lap and Andy got in. We used a little bit of strategy and it paid off. It looked like it was going to pay off even better, we were close. We lost about 20 seconds early on, but we'll try to get it back at the next race and keep working on it."

Schroeder started last in the Grand Sport (GS) class field after missing Thursday's qualifying session for an engine change that was prompted by an engine management problem in the first practice session of the weekend. He made up the bulk of the positions for the team during his stint, working all the way to 10th place before pitting just after the one-hour mark in the three-hour race. From there, Lally took over and the team adopted a slightly different strategy than the rest of the front-runners, electing to pit under green at the two-hour mark instead of waiting for a full-course caution.

Although the stop dropped Lally from eighth to 19th at the time, Lally was nearly in the catbird seat when the leaders pitted under full-course caution on Lap 63 of the 76-lap event. Unfortunately, some of those leaders were somehow able to make their stops and get back on course ahead of Lally. As a result, the No. 41 machine was in 12th position on the ensuing restart on Lap 65, and Lally battled the remainder of the race to finish eighth.

"These guys hustled, put a motor in and gave me a wicked car," Lally said. "We were able to come back from, like, 154th up to eighth. I'm super proud of the guys for that. The other incredible job today was Scotty. He was super. He was DFL and he came all the way up to 10th. To take that in this field, and the depth of the field is pretty good, and manipulate that and not put a scratch on this thing says a ton for him. I think he's going to be a big contender this year."

"The first day was rough," Schroeder added. "We blew a motor right off the trailer. The crew worked really hard prepping motors to get a motor that was decent enough to run for the race. Starting in the last position, I really just focused on working my way up, keeping my nose clean and picking my choices for when I would make a pass and when I would wait for it. Overall, we were there in the end, and that's what you've got to do. We're in this for the points for the whole season and our goal for this race was to finish in the top 10. For a Porsche, that's not that bad."

Another of the TRG Porsches, the No. 39 The DigiTrust Group Porsche 997 of co-drivers Duncan Ende and Spencer Pumpelly, almost had an even better result. After starting 10th, Ende drove a clean and competitive first stint that included a brief appearance in the top five before pitting just before the one-hour mark in seventh position.

Pumpelly then jumped into the cockpit and he and the No. 39 team used essentially the same strategy as the No. 41 team. Pumpelly moved up to second place at one point in the first half of his double stint and pitted under green with one hour and one minute remaining while running in fifth place.

He resumed in 21st position but quickly worked his way forward and when the other leaders pitted on Lap 62, Pumpelly found himself in third place for the Lap 65 restart. When leader Doug Goad had a brief off-course excursion on the first green flag lap, Pumpelly moved into second place. Two laps later, Pumpelly charged past Tom Milner and into the lead with less than 20 minutes remaining.

Just a few seconds later, however, disaster struck the No. 39 team, as the car slowed to a stop on the Daytona Superstretch with the same engine management problems that felled the No. 41 team a day earlier. Pumpelly and Ende wound up 32nd in the GS class and 70th overall.

"We did all that work in the offseason, and the one thing we just can't get under control is our engine management issues," Buckler said. "The car was great, even with the extra weight. We did all these other things, and Spencer just drove the wheels off the thing. Duncan did a fantastic job keeping the car up front. What a great team! The guys worked so hard, but no matter what, we just run too hot and we blow up. That's what happened, right as we took the lead. I'm pretty sure we would have kept it."

"We were having a great race," added Ende. "Our strategy was playing absolutely to perfection, but it doesn't matter if you don't finish. It's really frustrating. We're not really sure what did it. We think it was just running too hot for too long, and that's been our problem since the program started last year. I thought we were making progress, but each of our cars lost an engine this weekend. Unfortunately for us, ours went right after we took the lead in the race with 20 minutes to go. I don't know if we would have won, but it would have been close. I think we would have been up there, so it's a tough pill to swallow."

"It's always disappointing when you have bad luck, but I'm very encouraged about this year," Pumpelly contributed. "The team was excellent and the car was very well-prepared. Our strategy was perfect and I had a great car thanks to the TRG guys. Even though it was disappointing today, I'm very optimistic about our chances to win a lot of races this year. Duncan did an awesome job today. The reason why we were in the front at the end was because Duncan kept the car right at the front and I didn't have to make up any time. We just let the strategy fall where it was. If it hadn't been for Ende's really strong run, I don't think we'd have been anywhere near the front."

Engine management issues also cost the third TRG entry, the No. 42 Maxwell Paper Porsche 997 of co-drivers Daniel Di Leo and Bryan Sellers. The problem occurred in Friday's pre-event warm-up session, and although the No. 42 team was able to successfully change engines, the engine control unit would not allow the engine to fire, leaving the car on the sidelines. Di Leo and Sellers were credited with 43rd in the GS class and 92nd overall.

"We all come down here for the 24 Hours of Daytona weekend and we're supposed to be a big part of the show," Di Leo said. "Unfortunately, we didn't even get to take the green flag. It's just one of those things. The crew did a great job trying to get a new motor. We had a motor go in the warm-up and the crew did all they can to get that sorted out before the race. We got the engine in on time and we just couldn't get it sorted out. There's a whole season, and we're on board with Maxwell Paper for the year. I just want to get out there and go racing. I'm just jealous of what these guys are doing, wishing I could be a part of it."

"It is a disappointing day," Sellers added. "You work all off-season to get to this one single race, and hopefully it sets the tone for how your season goes. To have it start off this way is hard. This race has gone the way we would have needed it to go. We have two strong drivers and it was--at the beginning---a fairly caution-free race. It's just disappointing, but we'll move on to the next one."

"The (No.) 42 car, unfortunately, had an engine blow up as well, so we never made the start," Buckler concluded. "The Maxwell Paper and TRG guys worked so hard for the last few months, and with this driver pairing, I know this car will be lethal--when it runs. It's a tough start for our KONI Challenge season, but I can tell you one thing, we've got great team of crew, drivers and equipment. Except for some of the other issues we've got to sort out, everything is good."

-credit: trg

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