Starworks Motorsport ended a tumultuous couple of weeks with a redeeming 1-2 finish at the Grand-Am Rolex Series two-hour race at Watkins Glen International. Ryan Dalziel, teaming with Lucas Luhr for the first time since Daytona this season, scored the first win for Starworks' No. 8 Riley Ford, with the sister No. 2 driven by Alex Popow and Sebastien Bourdais in second.
The team made had a driver switch after Enzo Potolicchio withdrew his support earlier in the week following the series' last round at Indianapolis, when Dalziel and Juan Pablo Montoya had made contact that ended where Dalziel spun into the gravel. Still, rather than pull the entry completely, with Luhr available, the team still had two cars this race.
Dalziel had stretched his lead to as much as 15 seconds before a final yellow with 15 minutes remaining brought the field back to him. Still, with Bourdais not likely to make a realistic challenge on the restart, Dalziel held on in the final few minutes.
“Thanks so much for Enzo to putting us out there, and giving Lucas and me a chance,” said Dalziel. “We knew we'd been knocking on the door. We needed this really badly. It's sweet redemption.”
“It's very emotional,” added Luhr, who's been in the sister car most of the season save for a couple conflicts. “Everyone knows the team has been through some tough times. It's great times now.”
Bourdais admitted he wanted to go for it, with Popow also in title contention, but wasn't going to risk the result. The points-leading TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Riley BMW of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas finished third, capping a Riley chassis podium sweep.
Hard luck team on the day of DP probably would go to Michael Shank Racing, which, in the other Riley, incurred a penalty for crewmembers going over the wall too quickly and a later flat right front tire with Oswaldo Negri driving that sent the team to the pits from second place. The team's eponymous owner had an eventful race of his own, as Shank fell over the pit wall on the stop where the crew was penalized. After the incident, Shank wrote on Twitter, “I'm fine for everyone asking .. I need some help from Gabby (Douglas, U.S. Olympic gymnast) on my dismounts though #olympicgold.”
The GT win went to Turner Motorsport for the second time this season, in the hands of Bill Auberlen and Paul Dalla Lana. Several class contenders had issues but the BMW led most of the second half of the race.
Polesitters Marsh Racing (Eric Curran, Boris Said, RIGHT) finished second in their Corvette ahead of two Porsches from Brumos Racing and Magnus Racing.
The late restart aided Turner and affected the runner-ups, as Auberlen related.
“Boris and Eric are rocket ships in the Corvette, and luckily we had one car between us,” Auberlen said. “Everyone at Turner prepared a great car. Paul drove a great opening stint.”
Curran's take: “The 70 car (SpeedSource Mazda RX-8) was in-between us. You can't pass until start-finish, and he wants to let me by, but Bill got a great jump on the start. This 31 car was great. We came close at the end. It's so good to get a podium, as it's been a tough season. We'll take it.”
Dempsey Racing picked up a top five with the Charles Espenlaub/Charlie Putnam Mazda RX-8 although the day was mixed for Patrick Dempsey's squad. Dempsey's co-driver Joe Foster (set to drive with Tom Long this weekend as Dempsey was backed up on acting commitments) had contact from Darren Law in the Action Express Corvette DP at Turn 7, with Foster sent off course and hard, head-on into the tire barriers. He was released from the infield care center despite the hard lick.
The same story occurred for Horton Autosport's Patrick Lindsey, who was set for a likely top-five and possible podium finish co-driving with Eric Foss in the team's No. 73 Porsche. Lindsey was bumped by the sister Action Express car, this time driven by David Donohue, as Donohue went out to attempt to pass Pruett but sent Lindsey into the guardrail in another hard impact. APR Motorsport also fell out of a possible top-10 finish, what would have been the first with its Audi R8, with a rear bearing brake in the final 20 minutes of the race.
A four-way spin at Turn 1 mid-race took two of the other Mazdas, one of the Sahlen's and the SpeedSource RX-8, out contention. The bigger Turn 1 incident occurred on the first lap and had championship implications, as AIM's Ferrari 458 of Emil Assentato spun and collected the Stevenson Motorsports Camaro driven by John Edwards. The AIM Ferrari of Assentato and Jeff Segal recovered to seventh, one spot ahead of the Michael Baughman Corvette driven by him and former Indy Lights driver James Davison, largely via attrition.
Both title gaps closed as a result. The DP lead for Pruett and Rojas is down to six points over Dalziel; the GT one is now 16 from Assentato and Segal to Dalla Lana. The series heads for Montreal next week.