With less than three minutes remaining in Sunday's Miami 250, Andy Wallace, on the verge of passing out at the wheel due to the scorching South Florida heat, darted around the outside of race leader Max Angelelli to win his second consecutive race...
With less than three minutes remaining in Sunday's Miami 250, Andy Wallace, on the verge of passing out at the wheel due to the scorching South Florida heat, darted around the outside of race leader Max Angelelli to win his second consecutive race at the 2.3-mile, 11-turn Miami Homestead Speedway.
Indeed, as Angelelli entered Turn 11, he had to dive to the inside of the track to avoid hitting a lapped car, losing precious momentum in the process. At the same time, Wallace, who had closed to within inches of Angelelli, swung high, making it a three-wide race down the front straight. Once both drivers had cleared the backmarker, Wallace then cut sharply across the bow of Angelelli's SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley to assume the lead. Angelelli tried to fight back, but it was no use as Wallace opened up a sizable gap.
"That last corner is really something," said Wallace, who shared his Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford with Milka Duno. "If you catch lapped traffic around there it's really, really fast. And, ultimately that's what decided the race, I suppose. Every time you see a slow car and you're trying to decide which way to go, nine times out of 10 you go the wrong side. But this time, I thought that I would go around the top and just see if it works. And I got such a draft around the outside that it worked."
Though victorious, Wallace, who drove 85 of the race's 104 laps, was at one point not entirely sure if he would make it the end. "I thought I was going to pass out because it was really hot. It was so hot in the car that, under the caution flags, I could not touch the rest pedal or the clutch pedal with my left foot because it was going to burn the skin off the bottom of my feet. So I just had a little bit of a breather to convince myself that I wasn't going to throw up or pass out or do any of those things. And then I went for it."
"It's amazing to win for the second time because the championship is so competitive," added Duno.
Angelelli, who had to go to the infield care center for fluids after the race, wound up second, 2.731 seconds behind Wallace.
"I live in Florida and I train in these conditions, but it was really very, very tough," explained Angelelli's teammate and car owner, Wayne Taylor, who himself had to be helped from the car early in the race. "The heat for some reason was starting in the footwell and I don't actually remember getting out of the car. And Max was pretty close to unconscious. He kept saying to me that he tried everything.
"But sometimes on these big ovals, when you're flat out in fifth gear all the time, you have traffic moving all around you and there's a couple of lines, but if you get on the marbles, you go into the wall. You have to be in the right place at the right time. But, we still ran a fairly good race. And it was great to gain some points on the 01 car."
Taylor now lays eight points behind Ganassi Racing drivers Scott Pruett and Max Papis in the Daytona Prototype drivers' championship, while Wallace is only three points behind Taylor. Pruett and Papis finished 10th after Pruett spun off course late in the race. "The guys said there was some oil out there, but I can't see that," Pruett admitted. "All I know is that it got away from me pretty quickly. I didn't change anything and I wasn't driving any differently. All of the sudden it jumped out from underneath me. It's a little disappointing. We were giving it all we had and when you're on the edge like that there's not that much room to step off. But we're just going to keep doing what we've been doing. We came here to try to win the race and we'll go to the next three trying to win the race."
Butch Leitzinger and Elliott Forbes-Robinson, driving another Pontiac Crawford, ended up third after leading several laps. "The car was so nice," Leitzinger explained after his first podium of the season. "The thing that really lost it for us was that the last yellow came out right before I came into the pit lane. If I would have just trusted my instincts I would have ducked in and we would have been in good shape. But I wavered and it cost us. But in spite of losing the lead, I'm very happy with the team. If we just keep putting out an effort like that, the wins will come.
"The difference between the car at the beginning of the year and now is night and day. From the beginning of the year, it was really a handful. It's hard to wonder whether I forgot how to drive. The team just never stopped, and every week we had new bits to put on the car. And it's really paying fruit now."
The second Ganassi Racing entry of Luis Diaz and Jimmy Morales and the Michael Shank Racing Lexus Doran of Oswaldo Negri and Burt Frisselle rounded out the top-five.
The No. 67 Racer's Group Porsche of Kevin Buckler and Tom Nastasi drove to victory in the GT class, becoming the first team to defeat Tom Milner's BMW M3s in 2004. "It feels really good because they (Milner's Prototype Technology Group) always prepare goods cars," said Buckler, who seems to have more or less recovered from the beating he took in a huge crash at Watkins Glen in August. "This is a track that is fairly well suited for the Porsche's aerodynamics and horsepower. And I've had good luck here at Homestead. I've been on the podium every time here, I think. But the heat was unbearable."
The second Racer's Group Porsche, shared by RJ Valentine, Ian James, and Chris Gleason, finished second, followed by the JMB Racing USA Ferrari 360GT of Matt Plumb and Maurizio Mediani. GT class drivers' championship leader Bill Auberlen and his teammate, Justin Marks, led for most of the race, but their BMW M3 expired with less than half an hour remaining, allowing Boris Said to gain some ground on Auberlen in the championship standings.
In SGS, Randy Pobst and Michael Levitas won for the third time this season in the No. 36 TPC Racing Porsche. "We just had some of the weirdest things happen that took us out of a couple races," said Pobst, referring to the persistent problems that have plagued his team since it last won at Mont-Tremblant in May. "And that kind of thing happens in racing and you just have to kind of hold your breath and let it pass. Homestead has been good for our team and this is great win for us." The SGS class drivers' championship leaders, Andy Lally and Marc Bunting, finished 29th.
The Porsche of Harrison Brix and Gene Sigal crossed the finish line second in class, one lap behind the winners. Spencer Pumpelly and John Littlechild held on for third in another TPC Racing Porsche.
The Rolex Sports Car Series will return to the track Sunday, October 3, 2004 at the Virginia International Raceway.