Empringham & Ford Take GS Titles as James & Nastasi Take VIR 200 Victory Haskell & Mazda Claim ST Crowns While Herrington and Thompson Win Race for BMW ALTON, Va. (October 8, 2005) -- Despite Tom Nastasi and Ian James outlasting the rest of...
Empringham & Ford Take GS Titles as James & Nastasi Take VIR 200 Victory
Haskell & Mazda Claim ST Crowns While Herrington and Thompson Win Race for BMW
ALTON, Va. (October 8, 2005) -- Despite Tom Nastasi and Ian James outlasting the rest of the field in a wet and wild finale in the VIR 200 at Virginia International Raceway, fellow Mustang driver David Empringham, Ford and Multimatic claimed the 2005 Grand-Am Cup Series driver, manufacturer and team championships.
Steady rain fell throughout most of the day on the 3.27-mile, 17-turn circuit, and the slick track paved the way for the No. 5 Ford Credit/DeWALT Tools/Ramset Tools to be at the front of the pack when the 51-lap race was complete. The two-hour and 30-minute timed event ended under a full-course yellow flag.
Nastasi qualified the No. 5 machine ninth overall, survived an early penalty for rough driving, and ran up front for most of his 10-lap stint, handing control to James during the race's first caution period. Avoiding major trouble during the middle stages of the race, James took the lead when Gunnar Jeanette in the No. 55 Ford Racing/Multimatic Motorsports/Venture Steel Mustang slid off-course on Lap 32. Although the conditions never improved and several other cars ended up off the track and into tire walls, James kept the Blackforest Motorsports Mustang on the pavement to bookend the year with victories for the duo. They claimed their first victory in the first race of the year, the Grand-Am Cup 200 at Daytona International Raceway in February.
"I love driving in the rain, and I hoped it would rain the entire time," Nastasi said. "I drove the first stint and just kept the car on course, so that Ian could get in it and bring it home for us. He did that today and we just had a powerful Mustang today. It's amazing that we were able to win the first race of the season and cap off the season with a victory here today."
"I'm really happy," James added. "The Ford ran really strong today. Tom got at it and had fun for a little while there and put me in the car in a good position. We really never had a challenge at all; it was fun."
David Empringham, coming into the race with a 15-point championship lead over Justin Marks, finished third in the race with teammate Scott Maxwell in the No. 05 Ford Racing/Multimatic Motorsports/Venture Steel, clinching the 2005 GS driver championship. The third place result was fitting for a car that never finished lower than 10th, claiming seven podium finishes in 11 starts. Empringham and Maxwell drove together in all but one race this season, a Mosport 200 victory for Empringham that put him atop the standings for good.
"We had a great year," Empringham said. "Scotty and I have certainly enjoyed racing together. We got the championship; I wish we could be co-champions but it's a little bit of a points problem there. Multimatic won the team championship and Ford the manufacturer, and it couldn't be better."
Marks, who posed the only real threat to Empringham coming into the season's final race, caught a bad break at VIR as the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 he was sharing this weekend with Bill Auberlen, experienced engine failure during Saturday morning's qualifying session. As a result, Maxwell overtook Marks to finish second in the driver standings. Despite failing to earn points at VIR, Marks was third.
Ford, the Mustang's manufacturer, overcame BMW's three-point lead heading into the weekend to claim its first Grand-Am Cup title with its new Mustang while the No. 05 Mustang also gave Multimatic its second team title since 2002. In total, Mustangs won five races this year.
BMW posted a season-worst seventh-place finish in the VIR 200, but still held onto the second overall spot in the manufacturer standings. The German-based manufacturer claimed five victories in 2005 to go along with two runner-up finishes and two third-place runs. Porsche was third in the final standings.
HERRINGTON AND THOMPSON WIN RACE; TREMBLAY, MAZDA & SPEEDSOURCE WIN TITLES
Much like in the GS race, the key to victory in the Sport Touring (ST) class was to avoid major trouble and maneuver carefully on the wet racetrack. Karl Thompson and Daniel Herrington, co-drivers of the No. 06 Compass360 Advertising/Hockley Autosport BMW Z3, kept all four tires on the ground and crossed the finish line first in class to claim their first victory of the season.
Thompson, who qualified the car 12th in the ST class, had a season-best seventh-place finish at California Speedway in the second race of the year. Thompson avoided contact during his stint and handed Herrington control after an early pit stop.
We pitted early and changed tires, not sure we would last on the fuel," said Thompson. "It was a great run and we're very happy."
Herrington, making his Grand-Am Cup ST class debut in the race, stayed near the front of the class pack for the remainder of the race, eventually earning a victory for the Compass360/Racing teammates.
"This is the first time I've run with Compass360/Racing, and from day one, I knew it was a quality team," said Herrington. "They had a great pit strategy, and I drove for about an hour and a half. I just had to bring it home at the end and crank out laps. We had good speed all week."
The No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 came into the weekend having already claimed the team championship. Co-drivers David Haskell and Sylvain Tremblay drove a solid race, finishing seventh in class, knowing that back-to-back titles for both Haskell and the SpeedSource machine were already foregone conclusions. The duo shared the championship title last season.
"My buddy Sylvain is right here with me and finished second," said Haskell. "We wanted to do that for him for sure. It's good for everyone. We won the championship for Mazda and the team championship again. The team is awesome, and everything is great. It was hectic race, but Sylvain drove perfect like he always does."
Since Tremblay didn't make Grand-Am Cup's first trip to Watkins Glen for the Chemung Canal Trust 200 in June -- a race that Haskell finished 29th -- he missed out on the title by two points.
"The championship was the goal," said Tremblay. "We could have pushed the issue and been on the podium today, but the No. 68 finished second so it was a good day for Mazda. Today was for the team and customers. This is our second championship in two years for a brand new car -- we're pretty excited."
With Mazda's second-place run, they clinched their second consecutive manufacturer title, edging BMW by 18 points. Mazda posted five victories -- all with the No. 70 RX-8 -- and two runner-up finishes to repeat as champion.