Saturday
Jul072007

TEAM NEWS: Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Finishes 14th In Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona

Photo by John Thawley DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 6, 2007) -- The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team concluded its "rollercoaster-like" day with a 14th place finish in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

In preparation for yesterday's Round Eight race, the team's rollercoaster ride began under hot, humid conditions with a short rain shower in between the two morning practice sessions. Early indications from those sessions were that the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford Daytona Prototype was nearly two seconds off the pace.

With that in mind, the team only had 45 minutes to find some speed in the Alex Job Racing-prepared Porsche Crawford before the 15-minute afternoon qualifying session. After two frustrating practice sessions, chasing the right car setup, the Ruby Tuesday team pulled together to find just enough speed to allow driver Jorg Bergmeister to qualify third with a lap time of 1:45.619 (121.342 mph). All things considered, the team was feeling pretty good about starting on the inside of row two.

But, the rollercoaster ride continued and the jubilation was short-lived. After looking at the car's telemetry following qualifying, the team felt that it was wise to change the engine due to some questionable engine data. As a result of this change, Bergmeister had to start last night's race from pit lane.

From his last place starting position, Bergmeister's early stint looked promising as he picked up positions lap after lap and found himself in the top-10 by lap six. On lap eight, a full course caution came out for contact between the No. 72 Porsche GT3 and the No. 85 Porsche GT3. At this point, Bergmeister made his first pit stop and took fuel only. For the next 10 laps, Bergmeister continued to lay down fast race laps and was in third place by lap 18. Bergmeister's aggressiveness was paying off and the team's spirits were high anticipating a possible podium finish.

But, Bergmeister had just gotten into the top three, when he drove the Porsche Crawford through the chicane on lap 28 falling to fourth place. From there, the team's rollercoaster ride got worse on the next lap, as Bergmeister spun in the same place dropping two more slots and was now more than 30 seconds off the race leader's pace.

"In the beginning, we had a pretty good car," Bergmeister said. "We were able to move through the field pretty good. Unfortunately, I had a big problem going through the chicane twice. The first time the pedal went soft and I could not blip any more -- that locked up the rear (of the car). So, I had to go straight (through the chicane) and we lost one position. The next lap, I tried braking even earlier going into the chicane. There must have been some water or dirt or something on the track because the rear of the car came around and I managed to go straight again."

Bergmeister worked his way back up to second as the race leaders began to cycle through their second round of pit stops. On lap 45, Bergmeister brought the No. 23 Porsche Crawford to pit lane for its second pit stop. The team put on four fresh Hoosier tires, added fuel and put driver Patrick Long in the car. Unfortunately, the scheduled pit stop did not go as planned. The pit stop took more that 55 seconds to complete, as a safety belt got hung up during the driver change and the team needed extra time to strap Long into the car.

"We had some tough luck on the pit stop," Bergmeister said. "There was a problem with the driver change and that put us near the back again."

By the time the race leaders cycled through their pit stops and the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team finished their stop, Long found himself in 12th place more than one minute behind the race leader.

Long did not give up. Demonstrating the team's mantra of Quality, Passion and Pride, Long set the team's fastest race lap on lap 53 with a 1:46.469 and passed the No. 39 Pontiac Fabcar for 11th place in the process. However, even the small victories, like trying to pick up a few more positions to finish in the top-10, were difficult to accomplish on the rollercoaster-like night.

Just as Long was chasing down the 10th-place car on lap 55, the No. 21 Pontiac GTO.R made contact with him and put a hole in the left side pod of the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford.

Two laps later, the team decided to bring Long in for an unscheduled pit stop under green flag conditions to examine the extent of the damage. The team put tape over the large hole, changed the left rear tire and sent Long back out onto the track. Now, Long was a lap down to the leaders in 15th place with only 13 laps remaining in the 70-lap race.

Knowing that any chance for a top-10 finish was now out of the question, Job continued to encourage Long on the radio to pick up as many positions as he could. Long did not disappoint, as he continued to push the No. 23 Porsche Crawford to its limit and he picked up one more position to finish 14th.

"It was a promising start to the race, Jorg did an awesome job," Long said. "The team did awesome job setting up and changing the engine at the last minute. Unfortunately, the driver change really hurt us because it was under green. One of the belts got hung up and there was nothing we could do. The team stayed calm and worked through it. After that, we got T-boned by a GT car that got off into the grass and was out of control. It was a combination of things and it just wasn't our night. The car was fast, which we proved in our lap times. Now, we've just got to look forward to the race in Iowa."

"We were up to third at one point," team owner Alex Job said encouragingly. "It was good to start the race in last place from pit lane and to drive it up to third. But, the problem with the driver change killed us. That put us way back. Then, we got hit by the (number) 21 GT car, which put a big hole in the side of the car. We had to come in a cover the hole. But, it is very disappointing to finish 14th."

This season, the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team has one win, two top-five and six top-10 finishes.

The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team heads to the Midwest and Iowa Speedway June 13 for Round Nine of the Grand-Am Rolex Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve.

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