Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Finishes Fifth at Miller Motorsports Park TOOELE, Utah (Sept. 15, 2007) -- The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team finished out the 2007 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special ...
Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Finishes Fifth at Miller Motorsports Park
TOOELE, Utah (Sept. 15, 2007) -- The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team finished out the 2007 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve season with a fifth place finish in the Sunchaser 1000k at Miller Motorsports Park.
Today's final round race was a microcosm of how the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team's season has gone -- experiencing both the highs and lows that go with this sport. Starting from the inside of row three, driver Patrick Long took the green and immediately lost two positions heading into turn one. Not discourage by the situation, Long battled back rattling off consecutive fast race laps that had him back in fifth by lap 15. On lap 20 Long set the team's fastest race lap with a 2:42.525 around the 4.486-mile, 24-turn track.
At this point the driver and the team were feeling pretty good about their position early in the race. However, six laps later Long spun in turn 16, which dropped him back to 10th. On lap 27, Long brought the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche-powered Crawford Daytona Prototype to pit lane for the first round of pit stops which included four new Hoosier tires, fuel and a driver change.
When driver Jorg Bermeister took to the track for his first stint, he was in 10th. But, it did not take Bergmeister long to make up some of the positions that his teammate lost when he spun. Eight laps later he was in eighth place and knocking on the door for seventh. On lap 38, Bergmeister work his way too seventh, but was more than a minute down to the race leader. Bergmeister continued in seventh until his stint was over on lap 55, when he brought the No. 23 machine to pit lane for a full pit stop.
After having not driven the Alex Job Racing-prepared Porsche Crawford in more than a year, Mike Rockenfeller took the reigns of the machine he won two races and had seven podium finishes in a year ago. Despite his lack of seat time in the car this year, Rockenfeller showed that he still had what it takes to make the No. 23 Porsche Crawford to go fast. By lap 73, he was up to fifth when the second full course caution came out for debris and fluids on the track. Under the yellow, Rockenfeller moved to fourth as several of the leaders came to pit lane for service.
When the race went green on lap 77, Rockenfeller had to immediately defend his fourth place position from the cars that were on new tires. Unfortunately, he surrendered three positions on three consecutive laps before making his pit stop on lap 85.
At this point, Rockenfeller turned the car over to Long for his second stint. After the pit stop, Long returned to the track in 11th place, the lowest position the team had been in all day. During Long's second stint, he managed to work his way through traffic and was riding in seventh by lap 101.
On lap 115, Long made his final pit stop and Bergmeister got back into the car for his final stint. During those final 24 event-filled laps, fans saw all three Daytona Prototype championship contenders get flat tires, including a flat tire on the No. 10 machine that led to the car catching fire entering pit lane. This brought out the race's third caution.
All of this action did little to advance Bergmeister's position, but what it did do was set up a sense of urgency with only 19 laps to go. When the race went green on lap 122, Bergmeister was still in seventh and looking to pass the No. 61 Lexus Riley at the end of the front straight heading into turn one. Unfortunately, the two machines made contact and spun. The result found Bergmeister temporarily without power and losing positions fast. Fortunately, the safety crews helped Bergmeister get underway as the race went yellow for the fourth time. With 13 laps remaining, the race went green. Bergmeister was in 10th and needed to push hard if he wanted a top five finish. Thanks to some high-intensity racing between the championship contenders, Bergmeister passed both the No. 99 Pontiac Riley and the No. 01 Lexus Riley with a move similar to the one Rockenfeller made on the No. 10 Pontiac Riley and No. 01 Lexus Riley at Virginia International Raceway more than a year ago.
This pass moved Bergmeister up to sixth with only seven laps to go. Frustrated by his spin 10 laps earlier, Bergmeister really wanted a top five finish and to get it he was going to have to pass the No. 60 Lexus Riley. On lap 133, Bergmeister passed the No. 60 machine for fifth and never looked back giving the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team its third top five finish of the season.
"What a crazy race," Bergmeister said. "We had a really quick car in a straight line. When I tried to pass the 61, I went through a lot of pick up so I had to brake a little earlier. We were side-by-side [in turn one]. I tried to avoid him by going up on the curb, but he just turned in a little more and we both spun. Unfortunately, our battery was dead. So, I couldn't restart the car. I finally got the car going under yellow and we were in 10th. I was able to make a couple of late passes to finish fifth."
"To finish with a top five, at the end of this ultra competitive year, is very uplifting," Long said of the team's finish. "We said at the beginning of weekend, 'if we could finish in the top five that would be an awesome result.' And, that is what we achieved. We finished strong for Ruby Tuesday, Crawford and Porsche."
"A top five finish, with all of the problems we had today, is not too bad," Rockenfeller said of his team's effort. "Patrick had a little incident at the beginning. I wasn't really happy with my speed. It took me a while [to get up to speed] because I only did a few laps before the race. I missed [an opportunity] under braking because I was fighting with the 75 car. But, I brought the car back in one piece. Patrick did a great job today. He was really quick. At the end, Jorg spun off when he tried to overtake the 61, so we were really lucky that we didn't lose a lap. To finish fifth is good for the team. It would have been nice to finish on the podium. But, in the end, everyone is happy to have a top five finish."
"It was a really crazy race," team owner Alex Job said. "We didn't have a good two days leading up to qualifying. But, we put it together in qualifying and qualified fifth. At the beginning of the race, we were running well -- up in the top five or six. Patrick was charging hard before he spun and unfortunately that put us back to 10th. But, we worked our way back and then Jorg spun towards the end [of the race]. Jorg really redeemed himself with an incredible pass -- kind of like the pass Rocky [Mike Rockenfeller] made at VIR last year -- passing the 01 and 99 cars as they were battling it out. And, he worked his way up to fifth at the end. To finish fifth, considering our car was good but not quite as quick as the cars that won, we'll take it. But, we've got to get to work for next year. And, we expect to come back real hard next year."