Watkins Glen: Banner Racing race report

Banner Pontiacs finish 3rd and 6th in Sahlen's 6-hours of the Glen Watkins Glen, New York: (June 7, 2008): The Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.Rs finished 3rd and 6th in Round 6 of the Rolex Grand-Am Championships Presented by Crown Royal Cask...

Banner Pontiacs finish 3rd and 6th in Sahlen's 6-hours of the Glen

Watkins Glen, New York: (June 7, 2008): The Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.Rs finished 3rd and 6th in Round 6 of the Rolex Grand-Am Championships Presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 the Sahlen's 6-Hours at The Glen.

Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards extended their championship point's lead by racing the #07 Banner Pontiac GXP.R into the 3rd position after the duo ran within the top 5 and at or near the lead for most of the 6-hour race. Their finish coupled with trouble filled runs by their closes competitors actually extended their championship lead on a weekend that going in the team was just hoping to hold their own.

"We knew we had to come out of here not losing points and we actually gained some due to the problems for the 67 Porsche and you don't want to gain points because of something like that but honestly we are happy to be here (on the podium)," said Kelly Collins. Our engineers from Pratt and Miller did an excellent job working with the added weight and weight distribution changes and getting the car as balanced as it was. Over all it was a good weekend for us!"

"All we could do was third but Kelly did an ironman stint in the middle, almost three hours which allowed me to be fresh at the end," Said Paul Edwards. "But it was a good day for us being able to finish on the podium and that combined with the misfortunes of the #70 Mazda and the #67 Porsche allowed us to add to our points lead.

"The good thing was that we finished well and were able to open up a bigger gap for the championship so overall it was a good weekend for us and the Banner Team."

"Yes we wanted to win but we are happy with this finish and the day," said team owner and driver Leighton Reese. "Kelly and Paul managed to solidify and actually increase their points lead and this is a championship team and that is our goal for the season and we hope we are bound for that.

"It was brutally hot out there and the crew and all of the drivers did a great job, didn't make any mistakes and we have two cars with no damage. That means we can spend the off time until the next race developing the cars instead of fixing them. And that is really important in a super competitive series like Grand-Am GT."

As expected the unusually high heat here in Upstate New York added to the stress of the long race as both in-car temperatures soared and high track temperatures took their toll on the equipment and tires.

"We gave it everything we had all day," said Edwards after the race. "We were pushing it as hard as we could and blistered our tires on that first stint so I had to use a different driving style to be able to go that quick at the end without the tires going off. We expected the tires to go off a bit with the added 100 pounds."

But it wasn't all bad as the in-car air-conditioning units were making the driving conditions at least tolerable.

"It is about the same (as Florida) it is hot and it is humid," said Collins. "The car itself is always hot and when it is this hot the heat soaks into you. The ac in the car is actually working fantastic. I'll tell you this air conditioning could extend my career 5 or 6 years."

"I don't know what I would have done out there without the air-conditioning," said Leighton Reese. "It was almost refreshing! And we are going to get these units working even better!"

Edwards turned over the #07 Banner Pontiac to Collins about 90 minutes into the race and Kelly did an ironman stint for almost three hours before turning the car back over to Edwards for the finish.

On the final stint Paul Edwards held the lead of the race as once again the Banner Racing crew got the $70 Pontiac out of the pits first but the eventual racing winning #69 Mazda of Segal drive past both Liddell's #57 Pontiac and then on the same part of the main straight drove calmly past Edwards to take the lead.

Edwards tried to stay with the much lighter Mazda and was when a caution flew with about 25 minutes left. On the restart with about 18 minutes remaining Segal started to open up a gap as Edwards was left to try to defend 2nd spot from Liddell's Pontiac.

"They (the #69 Mazda) seemed to be able to catch us real quick, get by us real quick and hold the lead but they are super strong here and you have to congratulate those guys with the #69 Mazda because they were strong here all weekend and they deserved the win," said Paul Edwards. "And congratulations to Robin (Liddell) and Andy (Davis) in the #57 Pontiac because they ran strong all as well.

"We were concerned as to how hard we could push because it was a bit of an unknown. The weight was a concern and we haven't quite figured out how to get some more life out of our tires but we have some time before Mid-Ohio to work on that.

"But this was a pretty good run for us. We stayed out of trouble except for my over ambitious keep it on the throttle when the car over-steers drive over the bumps and into the sand box which let Robin (Liddell) get by. I tried to keep pressure on Robin but he didn't make a mistake."

#06 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R finishes 6th

Andy Pilgrim, Marc Bunting and Leighton Reese combined to drive the #06 Banner Pontiac GXP.R to a strong 6th place finish as the trio stayed out of trouble as Pilgrim came up less than a car length out of the 5th position at the end.

Pilgrim started the race and ran a smooth and uneventful race at the beginning. Or at least it looked to be uneventful.

"It is never uneventful when you are running with 25 guys who want the same position you do," said Andy Pilgrim after his opening stint in the #06 Banner Pontiac GXP.R. "The racing in the Grand-Am Series is really tight and there are a lot of good drivers who drive aggressively. Not overly aggressive but they defend their position aggressively. It doesn't matter if you are racing for 5th, first or 15th they race you hard but that is fair. They race you hard and fair but it is tough competition."

Talk about timing a full course caution came out 35 laps into the race and as the Banner crew was preparing to have Andy Pilgrim come in for a pit stop and a driver change. Marc Bunting's timing must be all bad because a small but fairly strong rainstorm rained all over the pit straight. Fortunately the racing was neither long nor widely dispersed as little or no rain fell on the back parts of the track.

"It wasn't any problem, really," said Bunting with a shrug after turning the #06 Banner Pontiac GXP.R to Leighton Reese. "It was as only wet on the front straight and the first two or three turns and it dried up pretty quickly.

"I had to change the driving style about halfway through my first stint but I was still able to set some pretty quick times later in my session and we got up into the top five so the car is running very well."

About mid-race Leighton Reese took over for Bunting and kept the #06 Banner Pontiac well within the top 10 and into the top 5.

"The Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R was solid all day," said Reese after his stint. "Marc and Andy did a great job keeping our Banner Pontiac in contention all day. My stint was pretty uneventful except for getting bumped and almost put off the track by Angelelli. That was really my only moment out there today."

Reversing the driver order Marc Bunting took over for Reese who turned over the wheel to Andy Pilgrim during the final stop under caution with less than an hour left in the race.

Pilgrim had a late race battle with the #27 Porsche of Kevin Roush but was unable to find a way past and had to settle for 6th.

"His car was really fast down the straightaway and he didn't make any mistakes," said Pilgrim of his race with Roush at the end. "He drove well, he was blocking pretty aggressively but fair and Leighton said to bring it home in one piece so I didn't want to make any mistakes.

The track got hotter I think and the back tires went away faster that I had thought they would and that is why I couldn't get super aggressive at the end because I didn't want to make any mistakes."

"I am actually very pleased and happy with our result, and the result for all of the Pontiacs considering the 100 pound weight gain and the 3 percent weight distribution change," said Kelly Collins at the end of a long day of racing. "I have to thank Chuck Houghton and Lynn Bishop of Pratt and Miller for all of their awesome pit calls and keeping us out front with great race strategy. We are just happy this one is over because we gained points and we can move onto the next one."

"Sure we wanted to be on the podium today but it's all good because Banner Racing and Pontiac showed their true strength overcoming the disadvantages we had going into this race today so we have to be really proud about our accomplishments today," Leighton Reese concluded of the 2008 running of the Sahlen's 6-Hours at the Glen.

-credit: br

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Paul Edwards , Andy Pilgrim , Kelly Collins , Leighton Reese , Marc Bunting , Kevin Roush