Monday, July 25, 2011

In GT, It’s Corvette, Ferrari, BMW At Mosport

BOMANVILLE, ONTARIO - The Lola/Aston Martin entry of Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf clearly dominated Sunday’s Grand Prix of Mosport crossing over 28 seconds ahead of the Lola/Mazda of Chris Dyson. Though the Aston was clearly the fastest car, a pit lane fumble by the officials during the first caution sent them back to fourth place. Team orders over the radio were clear, “We have the speed, just do your job!”

The GT-class race was quite a bit juicier with the BMWs appearing invincible. After qualifying 1-2, the bimmers were running fast early in the race until the #56 Team RLL car driven by Joey Hand collided with the #62 Risi Ferrari of Vilander. The officials deemed the contact as “avoidable,” and issued Hand a stop-and-go penalty. The #55 BMW piloted by Bill Auberlein and Dirk Werner kept the lead until a contact with the GTC-class leading Porsche of Spencer Pumpelly also resulted in a stop-and-go penalty. There was also a great mid-race battle between the 3rd place Auberlein and a Flying Lizards Porsche piloted by Bergmeister (video).

One of the secrets of racing is knowing when to be in the lead. Jan Magnussen took advantage of the situation with the bimmers and claimed the lead crossing the finish line 4.409 sec ahead of the Risi Competition Ferrari. Auberlein/Werner made up some good time claiming a 3rd place finish in the race. "This race had a bunch of different potential winners at different stages," Magnussen said. "I think BMW looked like they had the most advantage, but we were able to push at the right moments and pull a win out.” If you asked us this morning, we'd say, there will only be one winner. It just unfolded that way today. I'm glad we were the ones that got to break the win barrier.”

CORE Autosport's Gunnar Jeannette and Ricardo Gonzalez celebrated their second class victory in the last three races after a dominating performance in their Oreca FLM09. It was an impressive fourth overall. They finished a whopping two laps ahead of the sister No. 05 entry of Jon Bennett and Frankie Montecalvo! It was the first ever 1-2 finish for the Bennett-owned team.

In GTC, following the spin resulting from the collision with Aberlein’s BMW, Pumpelly in his TRG Cup car was able to capitalize on the opportunity that arose as the Alex Job Racing car of Brian Wong ran out-of-gas, slipping into second place behind their stable-mate’s TRG car of von Moltke. On the final lap, the two TRG cars battled closely for the lead. It must have been a nervous time for TRG-owner Kevin Buckler as the two Porsches nearly exchanged paint (video) as they raced to the finish. In the final analysis, Pumpelly crossed the finish line first. It was the second 1-2 finish for the TRG team from Charlotte. It was the second 1-2 finish for the TRG team from Charlotte.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Stewart-Haas 1-2 at New Hampshire

LOUDON, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Starting from the pole, Ryan Newman piloted the US Army #39 car to victory at the SPRINT Cup race at Loudon on Sunday. To make a good day even better, team-mate and boss Tony Stewart finished in second place. “It’s no secret we’ve been struggling this year, but it really shows me the depth we’ve got in our organization,” Stewart said. “It’s been one of the weirdest years as far as bad things happening. Our guys at the shop keep plugging away. It shows the character of what Stewart-Haas Racing is about.”

Despite a wreck on lap 171 due to contact with AJ Almendinger, Denny Hamlin was able to claw his way to third place.

Kyle Busch had a bad day at the track. On lap 41, he tangled with Jimmie Johnson and had to go to the pits twice to repair the damage, putting him 2-laps down. Then on lap 61, following a slight tap from Dale Earnhardt Jr, Busch’s tire blew, causing him to lose control and slam into the wall. Busch was able to finish after spending 76 laps in the garage. Turns out that the tap by Earnhardt was not the cause of the wreck. Instead, Goodyear attributed the blowout to bead meltdown due to heat buildup in the tire. Busch commented, “Blew a bead,” Busch said. “Fastest car here” he continued, “getting through the field pretty good and kind of the only guy passing ... We made some big changes there on that (previous) pit stop. We came back and got four (tires) just to make sure that we got all the changes we wanted to.” Then “just blew a bead I guess. Transferring too much brake heat through the wheel. Couldn’t tell you anything else besides that. Kind of knew things weren’t going to go our way today. This morning, woke up and everything went wrong that could go wrong . . . ”

Busch was not the only driver to experience tire problems. On lap 185, Mark Martin spun when his left rear tire failed. Brad Keselowski also suffered bead meltdown, eliminating him from the race.

Jeff Gordon had a great car and ran in the top-ten the whole race, leading for several laps. With two laps to go, Gordon was running 4th and within striking distance of the leaders. He had a good car and it looked as if the comeback kid might do it. While leading the race earlier, Gordon noted his gauges were acting strange. Then a massive failed alternator sidelined the former champ. They tried replacing the battery, but it was no use. "So we knew that we were losing the power to the engine from an alternator standpoint, a battery standpoint. We had one battery in there that has an automatic shutoff when it gets to a certain volt, and it shut off on us. So that's why we had to come in and change the battery. Gordon continued, "when I switched over to the other battery, yeah, everything was lighting up and flashing and going crazy.” The ever-optimistic Gordon praised his team, "From a performance standpoint I think we showed everybody what we're capable of doing; and for that I'm very excited," Gordon said. "I know the guys feel really bad about the issues that we had, but it was a great lesson for us to go through this and understand how to deal with it and how we reacted to it.”

These mishaps cost Kyle Busch the points lead in the race to the championship dropping him 4 spots to 5th. Moving to first is Carl Edwards, followed by Jimmie Johnson then Kurt Bush. Tony Stewart is tied for 10th place with Hamlin, but is not included in The Chase as Hamlin has a win and 4 top five finishes, verses Stewart with no wins and only 2 top five finishes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gurney and Fogarty Claim Victory At Laguna Seca

MONTEREY, CA – There was a wispy fog that morning and I could hear the piercing sounds of Ferrari V-12s running on the track. I could occasionally see the red cars through the fog as they came around turn 5. The low hills covered in dry grass surrounded by vineyards and cypress trees could easily have been in Tuscany, but this was my first time at Laguna Seca. It is a magical place.

The magic continued this past weekend with the Grand Am Rolex and Continental Tire Sports Car races. For 108 laps over the fabled track, the Daytona Prototype (DP) and GT sports cars battled for victory. Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty claimed victory in their Chevrolet-powered Riley. The win was clinched when Gurney capitalized on an error by the DP championship point’s leader, Scott Pruett, during the final round of pit stops on lap 80. Pruett came into the pits hot and overshot his pit requiring the team to push him back. Leaving the pits in front of the pack, Gurney was able to hold off Pruett to win by a mere 0.431 seconds. With the win, Gurney and Fogarty broke a 10-race winless streak.

After the race, an elated Alex Gurney said “We were struggling earlier this season, and this is a great culmination of our work. Our car came in really good at the end of the race. I spent most of my race trying to chase down Scott. Then we had our stop and they had their problem. I was really hooked up at the end of the race, and I had clear sailing at the end. This is a great place for us to win. Both being California boys, this is as good as it gets." This was also Scott Pruett’s 100th DP start, "I couldn't get it ‘whoaed' up in time.” Pruett quipped, “I was on and off the brakes again and again, but it just wouldn't stop in time. Both Alex and I were giving it 110 percent at the end. We were both running strong. It was one of those races that we both wanted to win."

Round 9 of the 2011 Rolex Series will be the American Red Cross 250 on Sunday, July 23, at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, N.Y. Gurney/Fogarty and Pruett/Rojas will undoubtedly be battling hard.

Friday, July 1, 2011

DG-Spec Scion tC Remains Bulletproof

LONG BEACH, Calif. — Typically when you debut an untested turbo setup in 100-degree weather, and then attempt to race continuously for 240 miles, you anticipate that “issues” will crop up. This past weekend, at the fourth round of the WERC endurance series, the DG-Spec team proved that solid engineering and the right partners can produce winning results, even the first time out.

After three hours and 78 laps, and with no problems, the team captured the win in the competitive E1 class. Drivers Scott Webb and Dan Gardner kept the car (mostly) out of trouble, as they brought it home not much worse for the wear. Finishing a whopping two laps behind was a Porsche Boxster, followed by a winged BMW.

Just two E0 and three ES cars finished ahead of the Scion, as DG-Spec claimed a heady sixth place in the overall standings. In fact, second place overall was just a lap ahead of the turbo tC. The win gives the team 380 total points in the WERC series, a good 55 points ahead of second-place, with four races left to go.

“On Friday during testing we saw ambient temps get as high as 103 degrees, and we knew it was going to be brutal on our new turbo setup,” said team owner and driver Dan Gardner. “The water and oil got hot, as did everything in the engine bay, but this Scion just kept going and going. I can’t say enough about our partners at Dezod, Garrett, Burns, Goodridge, and AEM. They all provided great pieces and tech support to give us the best chance of an issue-free setup right out of the gates. As it turns out, it wasn’t just issue-free, it also carried us to the winner’s circle.”

The race started promptly at 6:15 p.m. As the green flew, Webb got into a good clear pocket, as others jockeyed for position. He passed a couple cars before turn one, and glued the front of the Scion to the back bumper of faster-class E0 BMW. In back was another E0 BMW, and Webb would battle for a first half of the race, as he kept the Scion out in front.

Early on, Webb managed to rip off fast lap of the weekend with a 2:09.xx, which helped the Scion build up a gap over the E1 Acura, which had started one position behind the tC.

Just a few laps into the race, the radio kit in Webb’s helmet would fail. He could hear the crew on the radio, but couldn’t respond back. The team put their contingency communications plan into place, which involved flashing the lights to signal affirmative responses.

The biggest issue involved trying to calculate when it was time for a fuel stop. When the car first bobbled Webb flashed his lights and zig-zagged down the front straight to indicate that he had switched the other two pumps on. The team now had a general idea about when the car would need to come in for fuel. Without two-way radio communications, however, the pit crew needed to be ready on a moment’s notice if Webb pulled into the pits without warning.

The crew consisted of David Fredrickson, Aidan Spraic, Shawn Meze, John McNulty, and Alec Johnston, so Webb, Gardner and the turbo Scion were in good hands. Crew Chief and team anchor Sean Morris couldn’t make the event as he was saying “I do” to his now wife, automotive engineer, swimmer, and all-around great gal, Merritt Johnson.

“Sean’s how I met Dan and this team, and his role as the main fueler during stops is critical,” said crewman Spraic. “I had some big shoes to fill, taking his spot in the pits, but he prepared me well before he left. I think Dave and I got into a rhythm during fueling practice, and the stops went pretty flawless I’m proud to say.”

Just before the race’s halfway mark, Webb came in for fuel and a driver change. The crew sprung into action, as Gardner jumped into the car. The first few laps were rough as he tried to find his groove, but things improved as the race wore on.

Early on, Webb came on the radio to let Gardner know he had been hit twice on the left side by an out-of-class BMW. The hits came on the last lap before Webb pitted, so no one really knew the extent of the damage.

Fortunately the team would regain two-way radio communications, and driver and crew would have a running dialogue throughout the remainder of the race. During the first part of Gardner’s shift, the low, fiery sun would be blinding in a couple of turns, with cars driving off the track regularly. Gardner too found himself in the dirt in off-ramp, but drove on without incident.

As darkness approached the team radioed that the main HID driving lights were not on. Gardner hit the switch repeatedly, but the lights would not turn back on. During testing and qualifying the team had kept the lights on to test this very issue, and the lights performed flawlessly.

With the two supplemental HIDs still functioning, Gardner started to feel out how to drive with limited vision. Fortunately, reflectors on the track really helped the driver when it became pitch black.

Fuel would become an issue as the team hadn’t made it quite halfway through on the first tank. Rather than wait until later in the race, the team decided to have Gardner come in early to take on a splash, as the Scion was two laps ahead of second place. The idea was to run a conservative race from this point on, as it was pointless to take unnecessary chances with a two-lap lead.

The crew banged off another great stop, and Gardner would take off again, carefully watching his dash, as radar guns were constantly monitoring pit lane speed. As the Scion took to the track again, the team checked Timing and Scoring and still saw they were up a lap. Gardner extended the lead, as he managed the darkness by relying on the reflectors, which were well-placed by series officials.

One benefit of the night was that water and oil temps came back down, and the bright green temp warning light would extinguish, giving the driver more confidence that risk of a failure was low.

With just a few laps to go, Gardner kept the car pointed ahead though he took evasive action once at the bus stop, when a car slowed considerably and the closing rate was too fast to bleed with brakes. As the checkered flew, the Scion took home the win, and barely missed a top five finish overall, impressive for a limited-class E1 car.

The fifth and sixth rounds of the WERC endurance series will take place at Thunderhill Raceway on August 13-14.

Press Release by Dan Gardner, DG-Spec