Second Consecutive Grand-Am Rolex Series Victory at Watkins Glen International
13th-Place Finish Cuts Pruett, Rojas Daytona Prototype Lead to 49 Points
One week after scoring an improbable first victory in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16, AIM Autosport made victory number two look easy Friday night at Watkins Glen International.
Brian Frisselle and Mark Wilkins led 78 of the 82 laps to win the Crown Royal 200, Round 12 of the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Series season showcasing the Daytona Prototypes on The Glen’s 2.45-mile short course.
Wilkins took the checkered flag in last Saturday’s Montreal 200 only .064 seconds ahead of Antonio Garcia to win the closest finish in series history. Friday evening, Wilkins won by 1.986 seconds over Alex Gurney.
“It was a tough race and was mentally very fatiguing,” Frisselle said of the changing conditions from showers to sunlight in the early stages of the race. “We didn’t know what the elements were going to throw at us, because the track was constantly changing. Overall, it was a great result. Mark drove the wheels off the car at the end, and I did my best at the beginning.”
Gurney and Jon Fogarty finished second in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley, cutting the championship lead of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas to 49 points with three races remaining. The six-time race winning No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley was never a factor, placing 13th – two laps down – for the team’s worst finish of the season after scoring eight podium finishes in 10 races.
Darren Law and David Donohue finished third in the No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley, followed by Joey Hand and Bill Auberlen in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Porsche Riley and the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola of Ricardo Zonta and Nic Jonsson.
The opening laps of the race were run in intermittent showers, causing several of the competitors to start the race on rain tires. The changing conditions led to numerous green-flag pit stops, dropping nearly half the field at least one lap down in the early going.
Frisselle started from the pole and led throughout his 30-lap shift. Wilkins took over and led the 31st lap, before being passed while on pit road by Christian Fittipaldi, who stayed out in the No. 16 Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Pontiac Coyote. Fittipaldi pitted to hand the controls over to Garcia four laps later, turning the lead back to Wilkins.
Wilkins had built up a 19.939-second lead over Gurney on lap 56, when caution waved to retrieve the stalled No. 4 Childress-Howard Motorsports Pontiac Crawford of Andy Wallace.
On the restart, Eric van de Poele lost control, spun in turn 11 and slammed the tire wall, nearly flipping the No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola.
That bunched the field for the restart with 19 laps/32 minutes remaining, but Wilkins pulled away. He was passed by Joao Barbosa in late stages of the race, but the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley was two laps down.
“We had a great gap, we had a great lead,” Wilkins said. “We gave it up and we had to fight at the end. I had to bring this car home for the guys.”
The No. 91 Bob Stallings/Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley was eliminated in a first lap incident when the No. 47 Brach’s/CDOC Ford Dallara of Ricky Taylor was turned around in turn one and was T-boned by Jim Matthews. It marked the fifth time in six races that the Riley-Matthews team was involved in an incident, threatening to drop Matthews and Marc Goossens out of the top 10 in the point standings.
The event marked the competition debut of the No. 4 AT&T Childress-Howard Motorsports Pontiac Crawford of Wallace and Andy Lally, which finished 19th in the 20-car field. Also debuting in Daytona Prototype competition was the No. 22 Alegra Motorsports Porsche Riley of Carlos de Quesada and Jean-Francois Dumoulin, finishing 16th.
The next action for the Grand-Am Rolex Series will be held August 23 at Infineon Raceway, featuring the Daytona Prototypes sharing an event weekend with the IRL IndyCar Series. The next combined Daytona Prototype/GT race will be August 31, the Supercar Life 250 at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
POST RACE QUOTES
Mark Wilkins, No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley: “It was awesome. I have to thank all of the AIM Autosport crew, Ford, and Roush-Yates for a great engine. We just got this car dialed in during practice and Brian did a spectacular job in the first half of this race and in qualifying. He just was fantastic. When it got a little wet, he kept pushing, he kept it on the track and made no mistakes. You can’t make mistakes in this series. We had a great gap, we had a great lead. We gave it up and we had to fight at the end. I had to bring this car home for the guys. It was fantastic.
“It was dry for the first few laps and then it got a bit wet. Our lap times slowed down quite a bit and Brian just did a spectacular job to keep the car up front and running strong. We’re here at the end at it feels great.”
Brian Frisselle, No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley: “It started off a little wet, then went dry. Then it got real wet and super sketchy. It was just a tough race. Mentally, very fatiguing. It was one of those races where you’re just on edge the whole time. You don’t know what the elements are going to throw at you. The track was constantly changing. Overall, this is just a great result. Mark drove the wheels off the car at the end. I did my best at the beginning.”
Jon Fogarty, No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley: “It was very difficult. We opted – I made the decision to start the race on slicks based on my recon laps and we were feeling pretty smart about that as the track dried quickly. But, then the rain came quickly again and it became a real handful out there. We saw the pace slow down a bunch. Because of the thirty minute rule, I needed to stay out there on the slicks even though it was wet. The same went for some other guys. It was pretty wild. We had a couple cars start on wets and they went back to wets. All in all it was pretty difficult to hang onto the car. I definitely had my share of moments out there in the slicks. The 61 was on the same strategy as us – tire-wise and pit stop-wise -- and they did a great job. I was able to close on them on occasions. But, things dried out and they were able to pull out. I brought it in and handed it to him in second and Alex kept it there. He did a great job even with it getting dark here at the end of the day and a little bit difficult to see. But, he definitely did what he needed to do. We’re very happy with second place.”
Alex Gurney, No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley: “It was nicer conditions for me for sure. But, a tough race nonetheless.”
David Donohue, No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley: “It was pretty treacherous. I was just wanted to make sure I handed that car over to Darren in good shape. I lost a lot of ground in a 360 spin. We’ve got a little motor and it’s pretty peaky on the power and I just got up on the power and it looped itself. At least I brought it in, safe and sound in third place. But, there was a pretty big gap and the yellow closed it up. That helped even the score. It’s a good day for Brumos racing. We were really hoping for a win, but another podium shows we’re here – shows we’re consistent.”
Darren Law, No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley: “It was great. The Brumos team did a great job. I’ve got to commend David for an unbelievable first stint with the rain and the dry. He did a great job there. I was just hanging on. I was trying to catch the ninety-nine, but it was so even I just couldn’t get by in the end.”