American Red Cross 250 – Grand Am Racing at New Jersey Motorsports Park

GT Traffic on Lap 1

It’s a shame that pole positions and laps led do not count for championship then maybe the #10 Suntrust Dallara driven by Max Angelilli and Ricky Taylor would be closer in the points race for the Daytona Prototypes with the #01 Telmex BMW – Riley of Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett.  As it stands now, such is not the case; and with nearly a .500 winning percentage, Pruett and Rojas have a considerable lead in the champions points standings over the second place Suntrust car.  On Sunday, July 24th, the history seemed to repeat itself.  Ricky Taylor put the Chevy powered Suntrust Dallara on the pole and somehow Pruett managed to put his Telmex BMW Riley on the top step of the podium. For Pruett, this is only one of two circuits on the Grand Am schedule that he had not won at, until Sunday.  In the beginning of the race it looked as if Pruett was going to remain winless here when he spun Ricky Taylor and received a drive through penalty for avoidable contact.  Pruett and others thought that Ricky Taylor may have been slower than usual through the corner, but the officials did not see it that way.  Pruett and Rojas gambled and went with a 2 stop strategy leaving them vulnerable with old tires and low fuel.  The reward would be less time in the pits and able to gain valuable track position over those who stopped 3 times. Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney of the #99 Gainsco Ford Riley were actually leading the majority of the race until a caution flag came out with under 20 minutes to go.  Their 13 second lead was erased, so they decided to pit for fresh tires giving the lead to Pruett.  With approximately 6 minutes to go when the green flag waved, Pruett’s strategy would be put to the test.  Would their tires hold up against Max Angelilli and Jon Fogarty.  Fortunately for Pruett, there were a few GT cars in the between him and his nearest competitors at the restart and the was just the buffer he needed to maintain his lead and hold on for the victory.

Overall Winner, Telmex 01
Pole Sitter and Runner Up #10 Suntrust Dallara
Nicknamed "The Red Dragon", the #99 GAINSCO Ford Riley finished third.

In the GT class, the story was not “The Same Old, Same Old” as it was in the DP, but more like, “It’s about time!”  With half of the GT regulars running Mazda RX-8s, you would think that winning would be a fairly regular occurrence, but in fact, entering Sunday, they had not won a race all year.  Porsche has 2 wins with 2 cars, (3 wins if you count the 24hrs of Daytona won by a non regular TRG Porsche) Corvette has 1 win with  1 car, Camaro has 2 wins with 3 cars.  Mazda has 6 cars and has no wins, until Sunday.

GT Class Winner Speedsource Mazda

The Marsh Racing Corvette was in the lead, and appeared to be dominating the race until a DP car punted them off the track ending their day with a broken suspension.  This left the door open for the Mazdas since the Camaros each had their own off track excursions and run ins with the DPs and the points leading Brumhos Porsche had a broken alternator belt leaving them to finish in 12th.  The Mazdas really had no choice but to win, and to sweep the podium.  The #70 Speedsource Mazda held off a charging #42 Sahlen’s Mazda, and actor/owner Patrick Dempsey’s Mazda finished in third.  Dempsey fields 2 cars in the Grand Am series, and was not the driver of the podium car.  Dempsey’s car finished 9th in class.

Runner Up, Sahlen's Mazda
Dempsey Racing's #41 Mazda finished third, completing the podium sweep for Mazda

After Sunday’s events, the GT class is heating up with only 3 races left in the season. The Brumhos Porsche of Leh Keen and Andrew Davis now only have a 1 point lead over the Autohaus Camaro of Bill Lester and Jordan Taylor (younger brother of Ricky Taylor and son of principal owner of the Ricky’s Suntrust Dallara) and with their win, Slyvan Tremblay and Jonathan Bomarito are 12 points behind in their #70 Speedsource Mazda.   For more information about Grand Am racing, visit here: www.grand-am.com

New Jersey Motorsports Park: www.njmp.com

For more of my photos from the race, visit here: My Flickr

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