30 July 2012
JLowe and PT achieve a season best finish of 6th in Daytona Prototype at the Brickyard for the final round of the inaugural GRAND-AM Rolex Series North American Endurance Championship Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway running the 77 Doran Racing M&M?s Snack Mix Ford Dallara.
One of the most intense days of racing in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series began with back-to-back practice and qualifying sessions which resulted in the team starting 11th on grid in the Daytona Prototype class. The tight schedule of a one-day event left no margin for error, or changes to the car, before the start to the championship?s much anticipated first race at the Brickyard at 4:00 pm. With frequently changing weather conditions, the drivers were also in for a totally different on-track experience than they had had three weeks earlier, with a dry track during the two-day test.
The field took the start under yellow, behind the pace car, as a deluge of rain blanketed the track for a second time that afternoon. Visibility was limited and the standing water quickly accumulated in several corners over the 2.534 mile course, making the infield road course?s already slippery concrete surface even more treacherous to navigate. JLowe maintained his position on wet weather tires as the track began to dry out, and successfully steered clear of trouble that befell so many others in the 11 Prototype and 23 GT car field.
“The beginning was the ugliest and hairiest part,” said Lowe. “Neither Paul nor I had driven a Prototype in the rain before, and obviously I was kind of hoping my first time driving in the rain would have been somewhere other than Indy. Because this was supposed to be my fun-time! Instead we started in pouring rain and it was an absolutely attention-grabbing, hell-raising, exciting, freaky experience. At the green, going into Turn 1, it was a total white-wash. I couldn’t see anything. I was just looking at the green lights up on the catch fencing trying to figure out where the turn was. After that it got really hairy! Cars were spinning and doing lots of crazy stuff in the infield. There was standing water and puddles everywhere. There was so much going on out there. So once it started drying out, I was stuck on wet tires, then you had to look for puddles to drive through to keep the tires wet. I was just plodding along. Once it dried out the tires didn’t have any grip either. But I didn’t spin. My goal was to keep it facing forward. While I didn’t make any big mistakes, I didn’t. “Wow” anybody with speed either. So I gave the car over to Paul in good shape; and very quickly he got our lap back and moved up.
Paul Tracy took the 77 Doran Racing M&M?s Snack Mix Ford Dallara over in P10 and wasted no time getting up to speed with the higher running Prototypes, recording a fastest lap of 1 minute 24.999 seconds. Traffic, weather and full course yellows would play a key role in PT moving up in position. While drying conditions brought out the fight with drivers pushing the limits around the tight road course, another heavy shower would take out more competitors, bringing out a total of 7 full course cautions over the three-hour race. PT would continue to race hard without any mistakes and made up several positions, getting as high up as 4th in Class. This would have been the best finish for the Kevin Doran led team for the season. However, this position was short lived as PT was given a drive-through penalty for jumping the restart with 45 minutes remaining in the race.
I’m a little disappointed with what happened with the penalty,? said Tracy. ?We could have had a top 4 finish if everything had played out right. We were running as high as 4th. On the restart the 90 car was 20 laps down and jerking around on the start ? stopping and going. I timed the restart well and I don?t know what he did, he pulled out of line and pulled to the inside. I just kept my momentum going and was about half way up his car coming to the start finish line – and I got the drive through penalty for pulling out of line. So I don?t understand what that was about. It?s one thing if you?re doing that with cars you?re racing with, but when someone is 20 laps down, I don?t understand it. After that I got a flat tire. Luckily in the end we caught a couple of yellows and that put us back a little bit into contention; and we were able to get a 6th out of it which is good. I?m just disappointed; we could have been 4th ? 5th at best. I mean it is what it is. The team did a good job. Jim did a good job. We represented M&M?s good and took the car up toward the front and were battling with the leaders, so it?s all we can do.?
PT went on to finish 6th in class as the race ended under the final full course caution brought on by a GT car stuck in the gravel. This marks the best finish to date for JLowe, PT and Doran Racing in the inaugural GRAND-AM Rolex Series North American Endurance Championship. For a team running the older generation aero package, this is quite an accomplishment and one to be proud of.
The end result Paul drove an unbelievable race like the Super Star that he is,? said Lowe. ?In the end, he brought the car home in 6th which is the best finish for us this season and we?re satisfied with that. It was a good way to experience Indy for the first time. The next time I come back here I just prefer it stay dry!?