In what became a yellow plagued race, nine cautions equaling 27 laps, complimented by 93-degree temperatures made it rough on drivers and crew at the track located in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.
Andrew Davis started the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R from the fourth row. The team from North Carolina ran toward the front, led some laps and eventually finished second. The GXP.R teams were struggling with 100lb. weight penalty and no more than 49% weight on the rear tires assigned by the series following the last race at Lime Rock Park. Blistering tires were the order of the day. For Stevenson the second place finish compliments two wins at Virginia International Raceway and at Mexico City.
“We sadly didn’t have anything for the 69 car,” Liddell said. “I had some good battles with a lot of cars today. I had a good run with Edwards at the end of the race, but didn’t have the car to get by the winner. We had to deal with the weight penalty and change in weight percentage from rear to the front. As a result we are working the rears a lot harder. We are happy with second. We just look for solid results. We had a podium at Lime Rock and one here. Two podiums in a row is good for us and solidifies what we are doing as a team.”
The No. 07 Banner Pontiac GXP.R of Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards started on the front row and stayed at the front of the GT field all day finishing third. The duo who has three wins on the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Laguna Seca and Lime Rock Park managed to lead 40 laps of the six-hour race.
“We had a big weight penalty on the car coming into this race,” Collins said. “The GM Racing and Pratt & Miller did a great job to get a good balance on the car this weekend. The car was good all day. The brake pedal stayed high and everything went smooth. I was pushing the car and leaning it on the front tires to help save the rears. I was told that there were some blistering problems, so we had to manage our car and tires. I spent nearly three hours in the car and was fatigued and my right foot was cooking on the accelerator pedal. I think we will need to insulate the gas pedal, definitely before Barber. The air conditioning was killer today and really helped.”
Autohaus Motorsports with drivers Lawson Aschenbach and Tim Lewis Jr. equaled their best finish of the year with a fourth. The team from Pompano Beach, Florida was in contention all day with a good car.
“This was the first race all year that we really ran incident free,” Lewis said. “The Autohaus team did a great job with the pit stops and strategy. We couldn’t equal the speed of the winning car. The team kept us in it today. The car was consistent, but a little tough to drive without the cool suit working.”
In the No. 06 Banner Racing Pontiac Leighton Reese, Marc Bunting and Andy Pilgrim finished sixth on the day. Andy Pilgrim started deep in the field from the sixth row and was up to the front by the time he turned it over to Bunting.
“The car was really good,” Bunting said. “We had to really manage the tires today. I had a small problem with the helmet cooling hose and finally just tucked into my suit. The AC in the car makes a huge difference. I had a few close calls in my first stint with a couple DP cars shoving me off line. But that is part of Grand-Am racing. The Pontiac was consistent and the Banner guys always have great strategy and pit work.”
PR1Motorsports finished 12th on the day in their No. 32 Pontiac GXP.R. Mike Forest and Thomas Merrill completed their first endurance race.
“The race was more grueling than I expected,” Forest said. “Early in the race the 21 car hit us and we had to recover from that incident which took about thirty seconds and sent us back early and eventually a lap down. After that we had a consistent run. The car was really good and the pace we were running kept the tires under the car. We really had no issues after our early event and had a strong finish.”
SunTrust racing got back to their competitive ways by finishing third after six-hours. The team that had to find everything to race including a car, pit equipment, tools, drivers suits and helmets rebounded with a third place finish. Nothing was salvageable from their transporter fire on the way home from Laguna Seca three weeks ago.
“The team has been going through a rough patch especially with the fire,” Valiante said. “Ganassi lent us a lot of equip and the trailer to get here. The team did incredible job to prepare the car after we ran it last in the 24 hour. The race was hot and grueling. Max did a great job with no cool suit at the end to get us to the podium. This is a new start for us. I hope our bad luck went up with the fire in Texas. We have been optimistic as a team. I think this finish is key for us right now. We just want to get back to racing and not worrying about problems or where to get equipment and cars.”
In the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Motorsports Pontiac Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney came back from being a lap down to finish eighth at The Glen. Early race contact, overheating and a laundry list of issues cost the team time and track position today.
“The overheating thing is kind of a mystery,” Fogarty said. “We really don’t know what it was, but as soon as I got in the car things weren’t going well. We had the radio antennae plate fall down in front of my face and that was a big issue for awhile. There was also a little bit of questionable tactics out there by one of the Krohn guys checking up on us, but all in all the crew did a great job, getting our lap back and keeping us in the game. Tons of things to overcome – the nose damage, the radio deal, the punctured tire, overheating – it was a rough one. We will get back to our old ways of winning, though, for sure. The odds of these kinds of things continuing just can’t go that way.”
The Krohn Racing No. 76 of Ricardo Zonta and Nic Jonsson were a fixture at the front of the field all day. The pair was able to lead seven laps and were in a position for a podium finish up until their last pit stop eventually coming home in tenth.
“The car is getting faster and faster,” Jonsson said. “I think we set the second fastest race lap today. We had the car in contention all race. We came in for the last fuel stop and mistimed it with the caution. That sent us back in the field and we ended up tenth. Basically we ran in the top three or four positions all day. We have the speed in the car to run up front, we just need to put all of the elements together for a good finish. We will just keep plugging away.”
Tracy Krohn and Eric van de Poele also spent a good part of the race in the top ten. The pair finished 14th in their No. 75 Krohn Racing Lola.
“We had both cars toward the front today,” Krohn said. “Unfortunately we had a slight tactical error in the 76 that cost us a top finish. Our car had no cool suit, so that made for a long day behind the wheel. The car was pretty consistent all race. Every race we get better and faster.”
Jim Matthews, Marc Goossens and Marcel Tiemann had a tough day that started with an early race spin by Matthews. Coming onto the front straight the car came around and backed into the wall. Matthews was able to cross the track and get into pit lane. The subsequent repairs sent the team down two laps making it difficult to recover.
“Jim had a spin in the last turn and the repairs had us down a couple laps,” Goossens said. “Usually in a six-hour race with a lot of yellows like we had today you can recover from that type of situation. We couldn’t today. We were fighting understeer in the car all weekend and the guys got it a little better for the race. By the time we got up to speed I could run with the front cars, but did not want to interfere with their race. After the great start to the season we had, we should probably just forget this one.”
The next race for the Grand-Am Series will be at Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course July 21.
Grand-Am Top Ten Daytona Prototype Watkins Glen Finishers:
1. Pruett, Rojas, Lexus Riley
2. Donohue, Law, Porsche Riley
3. Angelelli, Valiante, Pontiac Riley
4. Negri, Patterson, Ford Riley
5. Gidley, Jaeger, Ford Dallara
6. James Pew, Ford Riley
7. Frisselle, Wilkins, Ford Riley
8. Fogarty, Gurney, Pontiac Riley
9. Barbosa, France, Haywood, Porsche Riley
10. Jonsson, Zonta, Pontiac Lola
13. Goossens, Matthews, Tiemann Pontiac Riley
14. Krohn, van de Poele, Pontiac Lola
18. Garcia, Bobbi, Babini, Pontiac Coyote
Top 10 Grand-Am GT Watkins Glen Finishers:
1. Segal, Longhi, Assentato, Mazda
2. Davis, Liddell, Pontiac GXP.R
3. Collins, Edwards, Pontiac GXP.R
4. Aschenbach, Lewis Jr. Pontiac GXP.R
5. O’Connell, Roush, Porsche GT3
6. Reese, Pilgrim, Bunting, Pontiac GXP.R
7. Dumoulin, De Quesada, Porsche GT3
8. Tremblay, Ham, Haskell, Mazda RX-8
9. Maher, Stanton, Porsche GT3
10. Johnson, Lacey, Potter, Porsche GT3