Edwards, Collins & Pilgrim and the Banner Pontiac GXP win Rolex Grand-Am GT finale in Utah Tooele Utah (September 16, 2007): Paul Edwards started the ...
Edwards, Collins & Pilgrim and the Banner Pontiac GXP win Rolex Grand-Am GT finale in Utah
Tooele Utah (September 16, 2007): Paul Edwards started the #07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R from the pole position of the Grand-Am Rolex GT presented by Crown Royal Sunchaser 1000 and never looked back. Edwards along with co-drivers Kelly Collins and Andy Pilgrim led every single lap of the seven hour race, surviving a scare in the last turn and a brief loss of the lead just before taking the checkered flag. The win moved the duo of Collins and Edwards up to second place in the final Drivers Championship standings.
As he worked through the final turns of the last lap, Edwards got blocked by the #36 Pontiac GTO, who was several laps behind. The #85 Porsche which had run in second place for most of the race closed on the #07 in Turn 22 and coming out of Turn 23 passed Edwards and the #36 on the right. However, the #36 and #85 made contact, spinning both toward the main straightaway wall.
Edwards wasn't in the clear though. The #36 turned into Edwards' right front, nearly sending Edwards into the sand. However, Edwards straightened the car out on the main straightaway and led the #85 to the checkered flag by 6.493 seconds.
"It went down to the last lap," Edwards said. "In the last three turns the #85 and I came up on the slow #36 GTO. I went wide and got in the marbles giving the #85 a chance to take the lead. Then I went low into the last turn and the #36 got into the #85. I hit the #36 when he caromed off of the #85, but I was able to continue and get the win. The car was good all race, just gas, tires and driver changes. The Banner crew prepared a great car and it really ran well here all weekend. We led every practice session, got the pole and won the race. This was a great race day!"
The # 06 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R driven by Leighton Reese, Tim Lewis Jr. and Johnny O'Connell started from the seventh position and Reese had moved up to fourth before the end of the first lap. Lewis, Jr. took over from Reese on the 28th lap and reported about half way through his stint that the handling of the car had deteriorated.
When O'Connell took over the driver seat near mid-point of the race the car was barely drivable. A few laps later on a full course caution he brought the car into the pits for inspection. The crew found that the right rear axle boot had disintegrated, allowing the axle grease to escape and ultimately burning up the wheel bearings.
The Banner crew took advantage of the yellow flag to begin a complete replacement of the right rear -- axle half shaft, upright, shock, brakes. Ultimately they lost 11 laps sitting in the pits and dropped to 18th position on the track.
"We had a tough run today," Lewis Jr. said. "The opening stint with Leighton was pretty good, making our way up to a solid fourth. I got in and things started to go bad at the rear of the car. The crew did a great job during the extended pit stop when Johnny was in the car, but unfortunately that damage put us out of contention for the day."
The #06 Banner Racing Pontiac finished 16th which was good enough to move Reese and Lewis, Jr. to 5th in the final Drivers Championship standings. With his strong showings throughout the year, including a victory at Lime Rock, Lewis, Jr. finished fourth in the Mesco Building for the Future Rookie of the Year Award.
"Despite today's results, I'm very happy with our efforts for my rookie year," Lewis, Jr. continued. "Leighton and the entire Banner Racing team stood beside me throughout the year and to finish in 5th place in the points standings is very rewarding."
"We've seen just about everything there was to see this season," said Collins, who led during both of his stints in the #07 for a total of 43 laps. "We led the championship twice, led laps and won races. We finished in the top 10 in every race but one this year, and that's a testament to our team and Banner Racing. This victory feels great."
"That was an awesome finish that typifies the thrill of auto racing," stated team-owner Leighton Reese. "This was a great finish to a very successful year in our rookie factory-supported effort. We were thrilled that GM and Pontiac chose us to be their partner in this adventure, and we are looking forward to 2008."
"We had to accomplish a lot this year," continued Reese. "Development of the new Pontiac GXP.R, expanding the Banner Racing team and integrating the GM Racing, Pratt & Miller and Banner Racing crews. To also have come so close to winning the Drivers Championship makes it all very rewarding."
The 2008 Grand-Am schedule will kick-off with the traditional Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona January 26 -- 27.