Crash.Net Grand AM News
Titles decided as Brumos book-ends season
11 October 2009
Joao Barbosa and Hurley Haywood won Saturday's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, giving the Brumos team victory in the first and last races of the 2009 season.
Fourth place, meanwhile, was enough to hand Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney a second Daytona Prototype championship with the #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team.
Barbosa passed title contender Scott Pruett on the back straight with 28 minutes remaining in the two-and-half hour race to score his first Daytona Prototype triumph, while veteran Haywood - a late addition to the Brumos line-up - recorded his first since winning a pair of races at Homestead and Phoenix in 2003.
"This is a testament to the Brumos legacy," the 61-year old insisted, "To put an old guy in the car with hardly any practice time, and to have Joao bring the car home in the dramatic fashion he did, well, that is Brumos. I don't think anybody thought we could win today - it's just overwhelming."
The second Daytona Prototype title for Fogarty and Gurney came after they did enough to finish six points ahead of Pruett and TELMEX Ganassi co-driver Memo Rojas, who finished second in the #01 Lexus Riley. Brian Frisselle and Max Angelelli entered the race second in the standings, but finished seventh in the #10 SunTrust Ford Dallara and slipped to third in the standings.
The race ended under caution following a multi-car spin at a restart with six minutes remaining, when Jared Beyer was turned around in front of a pack of cars - eliminating the victim and damaging many of the GT contenders. That gave the Acxiom GT victory to Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards in the #07 Team Drinkin' Mate Pontiac GXP.R, while Leh Keen and Dirk Werner captured the championship with a third-place finish.
Fogarty won his fifth consecutive pole, and six in seven races, in Friday's qualifying, and led twice for 45 of the 100 laps, while Gurney took over and ran in position to hold the upper hand in the title battle throughout his run.
"We fought harder this year," said Gurney, who shared seven race wins with Fogarty in their 2007 championship run, "This one was a little more rewarding."
Both Rojas and Pruett each took turns in the lead, but Barbosa went by and led the final 17 circuits.
"I did not think, in the beginning, that we had a car to win," Barbosa admitted, "The crew made the car better on every pit-stop and, suddenly, I am in a position to pass for the lead. When I went by Scott, I was so happy I could cry. To be competitive, to be in position to win a race is a great feeling. And to win it is the happiest a driver can be."
Pruett, who shared the 2004 and 2008 Daytona Prototype titles, finished second in the points for the fourth time.
"It was a hard-fought battle all day long, and we fought hard for every position," he said, "We gave it all we had. It was a brutal day - the heat was ugly - but that's the way it is."
Darren Law and David Donohue, winners of the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, finished fifth in the #58 Brumos Porsche Riley.
Scott Tucker and Christophe Bouchut finished sixth in the #55 Supercar Life Racing BMW Riley after Bouchut led twelve laps, and Tucker also drove in the team's #95 sister car, joining IndyCar regular Ryan Hunter-Reay in sharing an eleventh-place finish. At one point, the team-mates ran 1-2 before both cars pitted.
Collins and Edwards took their second consecutive victory at Homestead in the GT class, but it took Edwards going from fourth to first on the final restart to seal the team's first success of 2009.
"It was just carnage on the last restart," Edwards said, "Everyone had the same idea - go for the glory. I had the same idea as everyone, but I came out clean - a little bit better than everyone else. I saw the destruction derby coming, and went to the outside and missed them all."
Collins finished the year second in the points, albeit some 29 points down on new champions Keen and Werner..
"We got lucky, but I'd rather be lucky than good any day," he said, "We've had a lot of bad luck this year, and still came back to finish second in the championship."
Collins entered the race still eligible for the GT title, but was eliminated when Keen ran the 30 minutes needed to score points in the #87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3. Keen clinched his first title, while Werner, who won the title for the team in 2007, ran the 30 minutes he needed to join Keen atop the standings following a third-place finish.
"We started the year with the one objective - the championship," team owner Greg Loles commented, "We were very fortunate, because we were up against a very good group of people, like the #07 team. This championship is more special. We won in '07 with our consistency, but we won more races this year, and I couldn't be happier."
"For me, it is awesome to win a second championship in only three years here in the States," Werner added, "It was only possible with this team and I'm very happy."
Liddell held the lead in the #57 Stevenson Automotive/BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R started by Andrew Davis on the final restart, but was bottled up in heavy traffic as Edwards went by. The Scot had led three times for a race-high 37, but had to settle for finishing second.
Nick Ham won the GT pole in the #70 Castrol/Syntec Mazda RX-8, and joined co-driver Sylvain Tremblay in leading three times for 34 laps. However, Ham cut a tyre after contact with Liddell while battling for the lead in heavy traffic, and held on to finish fifth. John Potter and Spencer Pumpelly finished fourth in the #65 TRG/Magnus Racing Porsche GT3.