MID-RACE MELEE MUCKS UP POTENTIAL PODIUM FOR NEW CENTURY AT THE GLEN WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (September 24, 2005) -- The New Century Mortgage Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates tandem of Cort Wagner and Stefan Johansson turned in a respectable...
MID-RACE MELEE MUCKS UP POTENTIAL PODIUM FOR NEW CENTURY AT THE GLEN
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (September 24, 2005) -- The New Century Mortgage Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates tandem of Cort Wagner and Stefan Johansson turned in a respectable sixth-place effort in the Crown Royal 250 on New York's Thunder Road at Watkins Glen International. After Wagner qualified second as part of the third one-two start in team history, Johansson was involved in a backstretch bar fight on Lap 43 that ultimately forced the team to abandon any hopes for victory in a race that reached the 2:45 time limit before its scheduled 74-lap distance.
Californian Cort Wagner kept his cool as the Daytona Prototype class roared to life at the start, giving CGR front-row cohabitant Luis Diaz enough room to stretch the legs of his no.01 CompUSA Lexus-Riley and get to the first turn cleanly. A second yellow would emerge on Lap 12 for a stalled-out GT machine in Turn 9, and Wagner brought his ground-pounding 500hp DP down pit lane for the first of three stops on the day.
After the stop for fuel and tires was completed, the pit cycle shuffled the car back to 13th, and Wagner charged on until the driver change for Johansson on Lap 24. With the Swede strapped in and the green flag flying again on Lap 28, the team was able to move to seventh before a Lap 34 melee took out no less than five contending Daytona Prototypes.
Johansson had avoided the carnage for the most part-- even gaining four or five positions in the scrap before the fight pushed its way to his side panels and sent him adrift into the track's turquoise retaining walls.
He managed to keep a car that was bruised but not broken in the top seven for the remained of the 66-lap sprint race, but knows that a podium quite possible got away for the New Century team.
"The whole situation that caused that long yellow just really hurt us," said a dejected Johansson of the event that caused 11-lap caution period. "I was in a great position to avoid most of the damage out there, and I was sure we were going to move up a number of spots as a result of it. What can you say though? A car got into the side of me and pushed me out off the racing line and we lost all the spots we should have had."
A determined Johansson drove on to collect a sixth-plane finish, and co-driver Wagner backed his teammate up in the yellow-ridden event on the Glen's 3.4-mile long course.
"I'll sum it up for you like this...it's pretty difficult to win a race when there's very little racing," said Wagner. "There were so many yellows out there I wasn't able to capitalize on the strength of our car and the team's race strategy. It's disappointing, but Stefan did an outstanding job for us today."
The New Century duo dropped one spot in the championship to sixth with 286 points with the result, 93 markers out of first place.