Monday
May212007

TEAM NEWS: Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Wins In Thrilling Fashion At Laguna Seca

Photo by John Thawley MONTEREY, Calif. (May 19, 2007) -- The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team pushed its No. 23 Porsche Crawford to its extreme limit winning Round Five of the Grand-Am Rolex Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve with only one liter of fuel left in the car.

The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team mantra is Quality, Passion, Pride, and that is just what the team demonstrated Sunday to capture its first win of the season. If you believe in racing omens, be prepared for a tale of two races.

The team got off to an inauspicious start once the car left the garage for the parade lap. Piloting the Alex Job Racing-prepared Porsche Crawford, driver Patrick Long went out on the parade lap and tried to report back to the crew that he was experiencing an electrical problem. Unfortunately, the electrical issue led to two problems: no radio communications and a starter problem. The crew immediately went to the front straight to quickly diagnose the problem -- a failed IPU unit. The team work feverously to solve the problem before the race went green. With approximately two minutes before the pace laps were to begin, the team pulled together and fixed the problem -- remember Quality, Passion, Pride.

Starting from the inside of row two, Long mashed the gas heading into Turn One on the start and immediately took over second-place behind the No. 99 Pontiac Riley. The race was on and so was the race strategy. A full course caution came out on lap five because the No. 3 Lexus Riley went off course into the Turn One gravel. With that in mind, the team had Long pit under the yellow to put fuel in the car -- the race leader also pitted. When the race went green, Long was in fourth place. A few laps later, Long reported having no power steering in Turns nine and 10 -- a problem that both Long and co-driver Jorg Bergmeister would have to deal with throughout the race.

Even though Long had to deal with the reoccurring power steering issue, it did not seem to affect his lap times as he proceeded to lay down consecutive fast race laps on laps 23 and 24. It is ironic (or maybe an omen) that the No. 23 car would set the race's fastest lap (at that point) on lap 23.

Thanks to back-to-back fast race laps, Long found himself back in second-place by lap 26. On lap 33, Long made the team's second and final pit stop. The team put on four fresh Hoosier tires, loaded it with what turned out to be just enough fuel, and put the defending Daytona Prototype Drivers' Champion Bergmeister in the car.

"When I was out there, I was really relaxed," Long said of his stint in the car. "The car had exactly what it needed. It was nice to be back in the hunt. These guys have never given up. They kept their heads down and here we are back in the game."

With Bergmeister in the car (in 14th-place) and running consistent lap times nearly two seconds off the pace for nearly 15 laps, team owner Alex Job told Bergmeister he needed to "pick it up." Bergmeister simply replied "no problem."

Now going back to the theme of "do you believe in racing omens," it begs this question. If Bergmeister had kept running lap times on par with the leaders from the moment he got into the car, would he have had enough fuel to finish the race? Thankfully, that was not a question the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team would have to ponder after the race.

After Job's request, it only took Bergmeister roughly five laps to set the team's new fast race lap. Not only did he do it once, but he proceeded to do it twice within three laps and by lap 59 he was back in second-place. On lap 60, Bergmeister took over the race lead when fifth caution of the day came out. This was the first time the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team led a race all season.

Once the race went green on lap 63, Bergmeister was challenged for the lead by the No. 01 Lexus Riley into Turn One. But, Bergmeister held his ground. In fact, he got faster and faster as the race went on setting new fast lap times on laps 77 and 79.

Now, while Bergmeister was clicking off fast race laps, the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team began to worry about the fuel situation. Early calculations were that Bergmeister would not have enough fuel to finish the race. The best estimates were that he would have to pit with two or three laps to go.

What the team needed was a full course caution with about 10 laps to go. And, as luck would have it, the team got the caution it needed. But, the team did not take advantage of the fueling opportunity. Instead, they elected to stay out on course and gamble that Bergmeister could make it to the end. Again, do you believe in racing omens?

Under the caution, Bergmeister was told to conserve fuel. So, when the race went green with five laps remaining, Bergmeister not only had to conserve full, but he had to also defend his race lead from a hard-charging No. 01 Lexus Riley in the process.

With only three laps remaining, the team quickly realized that Bergmeister was not going have enough fuel to finish the race. What the team needed desperately was one last caution. Though that scenario looked doubtful at the time, the team held true to its mantra Quality, Passion, Pride. They were not about to give up.

Again, do you believe racing omens? As fate would have it, the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team got just what it needed at the most opportune time -- a final full course caution. This caution came with two laps to go. At that point, the team had Bergmeister switch over to the reserve fuel tank and told him to conserve as much fuel as possible.

"It was really nerve-racking especially with [Scott] Pruett behind me," Bergmeister said about having to conserve fuel. "He is really quick. But, the car was so 'hooked-up' today that I was still able to keep him behind me on the first of the two cautions."

Under the caution, Bergmeister made one last circuit around the 11-turn, 2.238-mile track to take the checkered flag with only one liter of fuel left in the car. The win gave the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team its first win of 2007.

"It was just a matter of time before we won our first race," Bergmeister said. "The car has been getting better and better with each race and now we've won."

"This is unbelievable," Job said of the team's win. "The drama that we had at the beginning of the race, with the IPU electrical problem, was almost unbearable. But, we got that cured just before the race started. Patrick did a tremendous job keeping us up there in second. While our strategy played out perfectly, we still need some really opportune cautions at just the right time. Our strategist, Mike Evans, is the one of the best in the business. This [win] proves you can't get any closer than this.

"Jorg just did an outstanding job to keep us in the lead. This win has been a long time coming. It has been a difficult year. We really, really needed this win. But, the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team is back. We never gave up. It was the Quality, the Passion, the Pride that got us to the checkered flag."

It was truly a tale of two races, one that began with a frustrating mechanical issue and one that ended with pure elation from a well-fought win. And, for the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team, this is just another example of the Quality, Passion, and Pride that the team demonstrates every time they come to the race track.

The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team travels to Watkins Glen June 7-9 for Round Six of the Grand-Am Rolex Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve, as part of the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen race weekend.

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