Pontiac Wraps Up '08 Grand-Am Season
Four Championships for Pontiac
Pontiac has wrapped up the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 by garnering four championships and a lot of steam as the team’s head toward the 2009 Rolex 24 at Daytona in just 112 days.
• Banner Racing wins GT team championship
• Collins and Edwards win GT drivers championship
• Pontiac wins GT manufacturers title
• Stevenson Motorsports Davis and Liddell 2nd in GT championship
• Seven Pontiac wins in GT
• Three Pontiac GT pole positions
• Pontiac GT teams led a collective 658 laps of 1,838 laps run, 36%
• Pontiac wins manufacturer title in Daytona Prototype
• GAINSCO Bob Stallings Racing 2nd in Daytona Prototype
• Three DP wins for Pontiac
• Five Pontiac DP pole positions
• 17 Pontiac DP podium finishes
• Pontiac DP teams led a total of 571 laps of 2,156 laps run, 26%
Pontiac won its first ever GT road racing championship on the strength of seven race wins by the Pontiac GXP.R. In 2007 it was the Daytona Prototypes (DP) cars that had Pontiac winning the championship in every category for the Rolex Series top class. In 2008 the Pontiac GT teams led the way with Banner Racing taking home the team championship, drivers Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins winning the drivers title and Pontiac taking the manufacturer trophy.
The 2008 Season In Review:
Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona
No. 99 GAINSCO finishes second / Banner Racing No. 07 seventh in GT
The defending 2007 Rolex Series champions No. 99 GAINSCO team soldiered back from an early morning gear box change to finish second. This came after they swapped the lead several times throughout Saturday and Sunday morning. The big points paying weekend, sets the Texas based team up for another run at the Grand-Am championship. Drivers Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty, Jimmy Johnson and Jimmy Vasser drove a great race to be the top placing Pontiac in the DP field.
The four car Pontiac GXP.R contingent had a race plagued with contact. The No. 06, 07 and 72 each had an excursion into the pit road wall. The No. 57 Stevenson Motorsport GXP.R was struck by an out of control DP car. All of the GXP.R racers spent many laps in the paddock for repairs. Paul Edwards, Kelly Collins and Jan Magnussen battled back from a 20 lap deficit to be the highest placing Pontiac in GT, finishing seventh.
Riley-Matthews fourth / Banner Racing No. 07 wins in GT
Kelly Collins started the No. 07 Banner GXP.R from the pole and led right up to a few laps before handing the car over to Paul Edwards. The yellow hampered race, nine caution periods for 33 laps, kept the teams guessing on strategy. The Banner team performed faultless pit stops and the drivers were able to avoid the on track carnage to win.
The Riley-Matthews Pontiac DP car driven by Jim Matthews and Marc Goossens finished fourth. Matthews started the car from his sixteenth place qualifying position and was able to steer through the early yellows to hand over to Goossens. Goossens put together a great drive through the field to finish fourth, just missing the podium.
Riley-Matthews wins / Stevenson Motorsports No. 57 wins in GT
Jim Matthews started the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Pontiac from deep in the field. Matthews turned over the controls to Goossens who set about utilizing excellent pit strategy to march through the field to the victory. The Belgian made a competitive pass for the lead on lap 71 and never looked back.
In only their third outing with the Pontiac GXP.R, Stevenson Motorsports won the GT race. Andrew Davis started from the second row and kept the No. 57 Pontiac in the top five. Robin Liddell took over and through a very long run on the track with old tires was able to secure the team’s first ever Grand-Am win.
Virginia International Raceway
Riley-Matthews third / Stevenson Motorsports No. 57 wins in GT
Stevenson Motorsports backed up their win just eight days before in Mexico City with another victory. Once again strategy separated the North Carolina based team from the field. Andrew Davis started the No. 57 from the outside front row and ran consistently upfront at the beginning of the race. Robin Liddell took over and a late race strategy call to pit for fuel only got the team out of the pits in front. The team showed once again that a balanced Pontiac GXP.R will get excellent tire ware.
In the Daytona Prototype category the Riley-Matthews team continued their consistent season. Jim Matthews and Marc Goossens finished third on the strength of a good start by Matthews and strong last stint by the Belgian. The team was a fixture at the front most of the day with Matthews leading four laps.
Riley-Matthews second / Banner Racing No. 07 wins in GT
Kelly Collins started the No. 07 from the second row and was able to avoid the early carnage to hand the car over Edwards on lap 48. Edwards proceeded to drive according to strategy as well as miss the wayward cars throughout his stint. The race was marred with eight cautions periods for 32 laps. Edwards was going into the last lap running in second, when the leading Mazda got loose in the Corkscrew and went off the track. The off handed the lead and the win to the Banner team. The win is the second for the No. 07 car, the first coming in the second race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
In the DP class the Riley-Matthews Pontiac with Goossens and Matthews once again showed their consistency by finishing second. Matthews started the car and handed it over to Goossens solidly in contention. Goossens used the many cautions to make up track position and put himself in a place to win the race. Goossens was able to get a run on the leader going into the Corkscrew, both cars went off track and when they recovered he was still in second place.
Lime Rock Park
Banner Racing No. 07 wins in GT
The Banner team had the No. 07 and the No. 06 Pontiac GXP.Rs on differing strategies from the drop of the green flag in what was a caution free race. Jan Magnussen in the 06 Banner Pontiac pitted on the first lap, getting the 45-minute required pit stop out of the way early. Kelly Collins in the No. 07 Banner GXP.R had fallen back to fifth at the start as his strategy was to go the full 45-minutes. Meanwhile in the No. 72 Autohaus Pontiac, Tim Lewis Jr. was leading the race from his pole starting position. Lewis led the first 21 laps before pitting. As the pit stops cycled through the 06 of Magnussen took over the lead on the strength of his differing strategy. Magnussen turned the car over to sportscar legend Ron Fellows on lap 76, briefly surrendering the lead to the 07. When the 07 pitted the 06 took the lead until just three laps remained when Fellows spun in turn two handing the lead and the victory to Edwards.
Watkins Glen 1
SunTrust third / Stevenson Motorsports No. 57 second in GT
In what became a yellow plagued race, nine cautions equaling 27 laps, complicated 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.
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.
GAINSCO Wins / Stevenson Motorsports No. 57 second in GT
The race started under threatening skies. The Daytona Prototype and GT competitors started the race in the dry then on lap seven the sky opened up. In what became a rain soaked race with eight cautions allowing only 39 green laps of running.
The No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team defended their win from last year at the track located just north of Columbus. Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney got back to their winning ways in a renewed quest to defend their 2007 championship season.
In GT Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis finished second. After starting the weekend with setup difficulties the team qualified third and finished the race in second. Liddell was able to lead some laps late in the race.
The No. 07 Banner Racing team of Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards finished 11th. The early part of the race had the 07 running in fourth. When the rain came the timing transponder on the car became inoperable. The officials forced the team to pit twice for repairs sending them down two laps.
Daytona International Speedway
GAINSCO second / Stevenson Motorsports No. 57 third in GT
Jon Fogarty started the No. 99 GAINSCO Pontiac DP car from the front row. Fogarty was able to take over the lead on lap 37. Soon after Fogarty pitted and turned the wheel over to Alex Gurney. Gurney took over the lead again after the pit stops cycled through. The Californian then lost the lead to the 01 on lap 50 and then retakes the head spot on lap 57. A late race yellow flew on lap 61. Grand-Am then took the race green again with one lap remaining. Coming out of the Bus Stop turn and up on NASCAR turn four, the 01 car pulled alongside the 99 and beat them to the checkered flag by .081-seconds to account for the closest finish in Grand-Am history.
In GT Liddell and Davis made a late race run to the front finishing in third. Liddell took over the car late in the race and as teams got caught out by caution flags, good pit work and strategy had the team at the front. In the waning laps, Liddell took over second place and was not able to hold the position on the final restart settling for third.
Barber Motorsport Park
SunTrust sixth / Stevenson Motorsports No. 57 fourth in GT
The near 100-degree heat proved to be a factor up and down pit lane playing havoc with tires, engines and drivers. Even with the heat the day started strong for the No. 57 Stevenson Pontiac GXP.R team. Andrew Davis started the red-white-and-blue 57 from his fourth place qualifying position and quickly went into second place. He turned the car over to teammate Robin Liddell who continued the charge at the front of the GT pack, leading 55 laps. Liddell was leading on lap 91 with only 15 laps remaining. However two caution periods flew during the last 15 laps which eroded the 10 second lead the team amassed. The heat and additional weight of the GXP.R used up the tires of the Pontiac allowing three pursuers to get by during the last two restarts relegating the team to a fourth place finish.
The SunTrust Pontiac was the highest placing Pontiac powered DP car coming to the checker in sixth place. Early in the race it was a Pontiac juggernaut at the front with the No. 76 Krohn Pontiac, the No. 10 SunTrust and the No. 99 GAINSCO car running one-two-and-three. What started out as a strong day for the Pontiac contingent steadily went away as the laps ticked down.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
Cheever Racing second / Stevenson Motorsports No. 57 wins in GT
The two-hour timed race became a strategy event for the Rolex Series GT competitors. The lack of a late race caution rewarded the teams that chose to pit on lap 37 of the 69 lap race. The Stevenson Motorsports No. 57 GXP.R was one of those that pitted for gas. The leading cars in the class stayed out, relegating them to mid-pack as they ran out of fuel on the last lap. Robin Liddell took the white flag, one lap remaining, in third position and crossed the line in first as the front two cars sputtered out of fuel. The Stevenson crew adds another win to their victories at Mexico City and Virginia International Raceway.
In the DP class the Montreal crowd witnessed some of the best racing of the season. Cheever Racing had their Coyote came alive for a second place finish. The team’s best previous finish was ninth at Daytona in July. Christian Fittipaldi rejoined Antonio Garcia and the team that he has had a history with this weekend to help spark a successful finish.
The two-hour race started under dry conditions. Some eight laps in the rain began to fall on the front stretch of the track. Some teams decided to pit for rains, but the 99 team persevered on slicks. As the changing weather conditions had team’s guessing, the 99 guys stayed on slicks and up toward the front.
The drama started on the reconnaissance lap for the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings team. Racing driver Jon Fogarty had a moment on before the green putting the red 99 in the gravel at the Bus Stop. He was extricated and was able to start from his fourth place qualifying position. The duo had the car running as high as second in the race, but were never able to lead. The finish puts Fogarty and Gurney 39 back in the points.
The 2.47-mile, 12-turn Infineon road course proved to be the perfect location for the SunTrust team’s first win of the season. Michael Valiante started the race from pole position, which he inherited late last night when the original pole sitter was sent to the back following the post qualifying technical inspection. Valiante led every lap of his stint and then turned the car over to Angelelli. He reassumed the lead on lap 45 with a competitive pass on the leader and was never headed since then. The team led every lap of the 102 circuit event except 22.
The win was a special one as the team, owned by 2005 series champion Wayne Taylor, and has endured a difficult season. The team was returning from the race at Laguna Seca in May when their trailer caught fire in Texas and destroyed their first Dallara and all of their support equipment. The team was quick to rebuild and showed the tenacity today to win their first race of the season.
New Jersey Motorsports Park
SunTrust second / Stevenson Motorsports No. 57 second in GT
New Jersey Motorsports Park proved it may take a year of seasoning before it is truly a track that can be liked by all. The fans turned out from the tri-state area to see some of the best action of the year, some caused by the competitors, most attributed to the dust and dirt of this brand new racing facility. Five cautions for 27 laps hampered the speed of the race, with those caution periods used to blow dust and debris from the racing surface.
Andrew Davis started the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R from the front row and maintained second place right up to when he transferred the controls to teammate Robin Liddell. Liddell ran a conservative first part of his stint to let the race settle in. On the second half of his time in the car he began to move forward and took the lead of the GT race on lap 57 He couldn’t hold off the charging 67 and with the big picture of the championship looming he ran a fast yet safe race to come home in second. Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins still lead the GT points with 337 in their Banner Pontiac GXP.R, with Liddell and Davis moving into second just five points out.
Valiante started from outside of the front row and by lap six he was in the lead. The No. 10 Dallara led up to the team’s first pit stop. Valiante turned the wheel over to Max Angelelli who had some off course excursions but maintained his poise to comeback and finished second. The finish is the second best of the season. The bankers won the race just last weekend at Infineon.
Miller Motorsports Park
SunTrust second / Banner Racing No. 07 wins in GT
In ever changing weather conditions at Miller Motorsports Park the duo of Edwards and Collins were able to defend their race win from last year as well as close the 2008 Rolex Series season as the GT champions. The race had plenty of drama including a rain storm that saturated the racing surface. Collins was caught in the downpour and pitted on lap 77 for a driver change and rain tires under caution. The team then had Edwards return to pit lane before the race went green on lap 81 for slicks and this gave the team nearly a lap advantage on the rest of the GT field and was the deciding moment of the race.
In the Daytona Prototype race the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Dallara driven by Michael Valiante and Max Angelelli finished second. The team had a strong race all day leading 12 laps. At the end Angelelli could not get a break to take the win.
The Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona will be the first race of the 2009 Grand-Am season to be held January 24-25.
Daytona Prototype Final Standings:
1. Pruett, Rojas, Lexus Riley 408
2. Gurney, Fogarty, Pontiac Riley 378
3. Barbosa, France, Porsche Riley 340
4. Law, Donohue, Porsche Riley 334
5. Wilkins, Frisselle, Ford Dallara 332
6. Angelelli, Pontiac Dallara 328
7. Patterson, Ford Riley 325
8. Jonsson, Zonta, Pontiac Lola 321
9. James, Pew, Ford Riley 315
10. Negri, Ford Riley 312
GT Points Final Standings:
1. Collins, Edwards, Pontiac GXP.R 373
2. Davis, Liddell, Pontiac GXP.R 364
3. Tremblay, Ham, Mazda RX-8 351
4. George Jr., Porsche GT3 330
5. Miller, Ballou, Porsche GT3 301
6. Pumpelly, Porsche GT3 297
7. Werner, Porsche GT3 275
8. Keen, Porsche GT3 274
9. Assentato, Mazda RX8 266
10. Lux, Porsche GT3 264
Grand-Am Manufacturer Point Final Standings:
1. Pontiac 442
2. Ford 415
3. Lexus 408
4. Porsche 396
5. BMW 313
1. Pontiac 423
2. Porsche 401
3. Mazda 383
4. Chevrolet 193
5. BMW 56
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