Grand AM » 4 May 2009
Krohn takes surprise New Jersey Grand-Am win.
Wet and wild from the outset, the Verizon Wireless 250 at New Jersey Motorsports Park was eventually won in dominant - but surprising - back-to-front fashion by Ricardo Zonta and Nic Jonsson's #76 Krohn Racing Ford Lola.
Round three of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series started amid steady rain on the increasingly challenging 2.25-mile, 14-turn Thunderbolt Raceway road course, and conditions got the upper hand immediately, with a two-car Daytona Prototype mishap at the very first turn involving the race's defending champions, Michael Shank Racing.
Mark Patterson, sharing the #60 Ford Riley that won at NJMP last autumn with Oswaldo Negri, rammed the back of the #13 Beyer Racing Pontiac Riley piloted by young Ricky Taylor. The impact sheared off the #60's front cowling and sent the car to the garage, its day done as far as attempting a repeat victory was concerned.
"It's not Ricky's fault," Patterson insisted, "We got a good start and went up the middle - but it was very dark and hard to see. I tried to get off the gas in time, but the next thing I knew, there was a gap way too small to get my car through it. Ricky braked up ahead and I clipped him on the right rear. Our left front [corner] was shot."
And that was just the start of an incident-filled two hours and 45 minutes as the rain continued to worsen. By lap 32 - just over an hour into the race - a caution flag came out solely because of the amount of standing water at various points around the course, and lasted until lap 44, approximately a half-hour later.
After that, the 31-car field raced the rest of the way to the chequer, as huge rooster-tails belied the fact the rain did actually let up slightly as the afternoon wore on.
Reigning Daytona Prototype champions Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas - who had started their #01 Telmex/Chip Ganassi Lexus Riley on the outside front row - were never a factor, thanks to a series of mechanical issues which started with a faulty windscreen wiper that forced a costly green flag pit stop on lap 18.
That left the race for honours open to some of the Rolex Series' lesser lights to shine, with Zonta and Jonsson emerging from the gloom - and last in class - to claim a commanding 44.752secs victory over the #10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara co-driven by Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle. While the Krohn team is no stranger to success in Grand-Am, having taken the DP title with Jorg Bergmeister in the past, victory at NJMP was a first in the series for Zonta and only the second for team stalwart Jonsson, whose only previous win came in 2005 at Watkins Glen International.
It was not straightforward for the pair, however, as Zonta later revealed that the team had an additional challenge besides the weather.
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