FONTANA, Calif. (October 30, 2004) -- In Grand-Am Cup Series championship battles that seemingly changed by the lap as the Lexus Grand American 250 approached its conclusion, No. 43 TheRaceSite.com Racing Porsche 996 driver Craig Stanton emerged...
FONTANA, Calif. (October 30, 2004) -- In Grand-Am Cup Series championship battles that seemingly changed by the lap as the Lexus Grand American 250 approached its conclusion, No. 43 TheRaceSite.com Racing Porsche 996 driver Craig Stanton emerged as the 2004 Grand Sport (GS) driver champion and No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 co-drivers Sylvain Tremblay and David Haskell claimed the Sport Touring (ST) driving title.
While the No. 17 Doncaster Racing Porsche 996 of co-drivers Greg Wilkins and Dave Lacey was speeding to the race victory, many eyes were also watching the No. 43 of Stanton and co-driver David Murry as well as the No. 11 Powell Motorsport Cadillac CTS-V of co-drivers Terry Borcheller and Devon Powell to see who would emerge as the GS champion. Stanton entered the race trailing Borcheller in the driver standings by four points (242-246).
After starting from the pole position, Stanton took the early lead while Powell quickly moved from his fourth-place starting spot into second place. Ten laps into the race, Powell made his way past Stanton's car and held the lead until Lap 23 when he and Bobby Julien in the No. 91 Doncaster Racing Porsche 996 made contact, forcing Powell to the pits for extensive repairs. Borcheller eventually got in the car, albeit several laps down, but he would later find out that every lap counted.
While the No. 11 team struggled, the No. 43 remained comfortably inside the top five and well within range for Stanton to take the GS championship. However, with just 11 laps remaining and Murry behind the wheel, the No. 43 Porsche slowed dramatically and began dropping fluids on the circuit. The problems forced Murry to bring the car into the pits, and with Powell back out on track in the No. 11, the pendulum suddenly appeared to swing back in Borcheller's direction.
TheRaceSite.com Racing crew worked frantically to get the No. 43 back on track to stay in the championship hunt, and after lengthy repairs, Murry was able to return to the track and finish 13th in class and 22nd overall. The No. 11, meanwhile, finished 17th in the GS class and 28th overall, leaving Borcheller and Stanton deadlocked in the driver standings with 260 markers apiece. As Stanton won six races--including three with Borcheller as his co-driver--to Borcheller's four victories, Stanton won the championship on a most wins tiebreaker.
"What a surprise," Stanton said. "I knew Terry and I would go down the last lap in the last race and it did. I love this series. I'm a big fan. I've told people to get involved. It hones your race skills. I hope to be back next year. The cars are so incredible with TheRaceSite.com team. It's a philosophy of family, it starts there. I'm really proud of the team, and I want to thank them for a great year."
While Stanton won the season-long war, Wilkins and Lacey were the victors in today's battle. Between them, they led a race-high 52 laps in the 89-lap race en route to their first Grand-Am Cup Series win of the season. The race was run without a full-course caution period, which contributed to the one-lap margin of victory for the Canadian duo.
"It was a fun race," Wilkins said. "I was only able to get to the track late last night so I only had this morning with the practice and qualifying to get up to speed The competition in this series is very close. Wins are few and far between. Our pit stops were great today. I think we made up about 30 seconds in the pits and 30 seconds in a race like this is big. Dave did a fabulous job as he always does. I don't have to do the heavy lifting at the end when all the fast guys come out on the track."
"We had a bit of an issue with second gear in practice and we still had a bit of a klunky second gear," Lacey added. "But Greg was very deliberate with his shifting to give me a clean car."
Finishing second in the race were Wayne and Will Nonnamaker in the No. 44 TheRaceSite.com Racing Porsche 996, giving the No. 44 operation the 2004 Grand-Am Cup GS team title. Blake Rosser and Kelly Collins finished third in the No. 23 Unitech Racing Nissan 350Z, followed by teammates Boris Said and Anders Hainer, who finished fourth in the No. 13 Nissan 350Z. John Munson and Larry Wright filled out the top five in the No. 92 Anchor Racing BMW M3.
The final chapter in the ST championship chase was similar to that of the GS title fight, as No. 95 Turner Motorsport co-drivers Will Turner and Don Salama entered the race eight points ahead of Haskell and Tremblay. Haskell qualified the No. 70 Mazda first on the ST grid and led the opening laps, but Turner found his way to the front of the class field 10 laps into the race and remained out front until the No. 70 reclaimed the top spot on Lap 34.
As the other frontrunners pitted, Turner found himself back in the ST race lead until he made a Lap 72 pit stop to get Salama into the car. The stop gave the race lead back to the No. 70 with Tremblay now behind the wheel, but Salama kept the BMW well within range of the class championship as the race wound down.
On Lap 75, however, disaster struck for the No. 95 teammates as Salama and Andy Lally in the No. 3 Team Lexus IS300 made contact in Turn 3 as they transitioned from the oval portion of the track to the infield circuit. While Salama was able to continue for a time, the car developed severe problems with the left rear suspension and was forced to pit lane. The Turner Motorsport team did all it could to get the car back on track--and Salama did go back out for one more lap--but the damage forced them out of the race with a 10th place class result.
Although he lost the lead to the No. 27 Bill Fenton Motorsports Acura RSX-S of Bob Beede and Bob Endicott, Tremblay kept the No. 70 machine second in class. A runner-up finish was more than enough for Tremblay and Haskell to take the 2004 ST driver title, as they finished three points ahead of Turner and Salama.
"Man, this is great," Tremblay said. "We didn't know what the actual setup for the points championship was and we hadn't done the math, so we were just concentrating on winning the race. It wasn't our championship to win. We had some problems early and fought back, so we just wanted to see what we could do. This is great for Mazda and MazdaSpeed, we have a lot of guests here, so this is a real special day. This is David's first championship, my best friend, he's been through all of it, so I'm glad he gets this championship."
"I think it's great," contributed Haskell. "We're going to have a great time tonight. It's the car's first year out and my first championship. It was a nail biter, but that's the way it's supposed to be, I guess."
Beede and Endicott claimed the ST class victory, which was their first win together this season. With the win, they also clinched the ST manufacturer's championship for Acura.
"It was an interesting race," Beede said. "We had good fuel mileage and it was a matter of staying clean. I have to thank Bob Endicott. I ran a pretty crappy race and it was Bob who dug us out of the hole."
"The Acuras have always gotten good fuel economy," said Endicott. That won the race for us. And our pit crew did really well today."
Daniel Colembie and Ken Dobson finished third in ST driving the No. 12 TC Kline Racing BMW Z4, followed by Bill Fenton and Mike Liebl in the No. 29 Bill Fenton Motorsports Acura RSX-S. Scott Bradley and Charles Espenlaub finished fifth in the ST class sharing the No. 65 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8.