The team now only needs to start the race at Road Atlanta in order to clinch the team championship title.
Austin, Texas (20 September 2014) – It was big day for Action Express Racing on Saturday as the team delivered another positive outing in the No. 5 Corvette Daytona Prototype to not only score a podium result of third but also solidify their position atop the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship standings. With just one race yet to run in the 2014 Championship, Action Express Racing leads by 22 points over the No. 10 Corvette DP following the Lone Star Le Mans event at Circuit of the Americas.
Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa combined for the squad’s seventh podium of the year and led 24 laps en route to the podium finish. It was a welcome result for the team who now only needs to start the race at Road Atlanta in order to clinch the team championship title.
Fittipaldi opened the race from fourth on the grid and slotted up into third on the start when two cars ahead got together in Turn 1. With Action Express Racing engineer Iain Watt coaching Fittipaldi to settle into a rhythm, the No. 5 ran in second through much of the first hour of the race.
We were in the fight right to the end and it actually got pretty hectic out there with a couple of the GT cars pushing me around.
When the event reached 45 minutes complete, the team called Fittpaldi to pit lane for fuel, tires and a driver change. A perfect pit stop saw Barbosa emerge from the pit lane fifth in line which was followed shortly thereafter by the one and only caution of the 2.75-hour race.
“Things went very well and we raced everybody out there with a certain margin for error,” said Fittipaldi following his opening stint. “Obviously we were paying a lot of attention to the championship. The car was very good. The championship is very important - much more important than anything else right now. We have to keep ourselves in the championship and if the race were to fall into our lap – excellent.”
As the cars circulated under yellow, Barbosa cycled up to restart fourth when the Lone Star Le Mans event went back to green with one hour completed. Running under hot and sunny conditions with the occasional sprinkle thrown into the mix, Barbosa ran strongly in the challenging circumstances and moved up to run second and then regain the lead with an hour and half to go.
Barbosa had extended his leading advantage to nearly 13-seconds when he took the No. 5 Corvette Daytona Prototype to pit road for a splash of fuel. Another fast pit stop by the Action Express Racing team saw Barbosa return to the track second in line and closing in on the leading No. 01 car. As Barbosa gained on the No. 01, he became not only the hunter but also the hunted as the third place No. 42 also gained on the No. 5.
The top-three ran in line for several laps and when Barbosa got caught up by several slower GT cars while being mindful of the maintaining good championship position, the No. 42 was able to slip by. Barbosa held on to take third at the checkered flag.
“We were having a great race and everything was working perfect,” said Barbosa of the run. “It was a great team result. We were in the fight right to the end and it actually got pretty hectic out there with a couple of the GT cars pushing me around. I said to myself that this wasn’t my fight and I knew where the other (championship contending) cars were. I said this was not our fight and we needed to get as many points as we could, as safe as we could, and that is what I did at the end and was just cruising to save third place without any worries. I am really proud of all the work that the guys have done this weekend and looking forward to Petit.”
The No. 5 Corvette Daytona Prototype finished ahead of the two closest championship contenders which has Action Express Racing very strongly positioned in the championship heading into the final round.
“We had a real opportunity I think to pull off the win today, but that would have been quite a gamble on fuel and we took the conservative route,” said Team Manager Gary Nelson. “We were in the same exact position earlier this year at Indy and we went for the win by gambling that we could save enough fuel, keep the lead, and make it to the finish. Unlike Indy, this time we chose to give up the lead and stop for a splash of fuel. It was a very hard decision because it is in our DNA to always go for the race win.
Going to Atlanta with a slim overall points lead because our fuel gamble in COTA failed would have changed our approach for the NAEC championship considerably because the NAEC championship rewards points to the race leaders at several segments during the race. We will watch how things unfold in the early stages of the 10 hour Road Atlanta event and hope that we can get in a position to race hard for all three of our goals: the TUDOR Championship, Patron NAEC championship and another 2014 race win. That's how we like to race.”
As leaders of both the overall and NAEC, Action Express Racing will look to claim both championship titles at Road Atlanta in two weeks. The team will return to a two-car entry with the addition of the No. 9 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Burt and Brian Frisselle who will once again be joined by Jon Fogarty. Sebastien Bourdais will return to the team as the third driver in the No. 5 Corvette DP. Action Express Racing leads the NAEC 1-2 and will look to complete the 2014 championship the same way.
Action Express Racing remains the only team to have completed every TUDOR Championship race lap this year.
A two-hour recap show of the Lone Star Le Mans event from Circuit of the Americas will air on Sunday, September 21. Check your local listings.
Action Express Racing