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Action Express Corvette Captures Brickyard GP

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, July 26 2014

Action Express drivers Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa celebrate their overall win at Indy on Friday. (Photo by Richard Prince for Chevy Racing)

The No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP team took the lead with 48 minutes remaining, conserved fuel and went on to win Friday’s Brickyard Grand Prix sports car race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield road course.

Driving the winning car in the timed event were Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa.

Barbosa was at the wheel on the final stint and took the checkered flag 48.964 seconds ahead of the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost/Riley DP of Scott Pruett, who was co-driving with Sage Karam.

It was the second Tudor United SportsCar Championship victory of the season for Fittipaldi and Barbosa. The first victory came at another legendary infield road course – the one at Daytona International Speedway – in the season-opening event.

“It was a perfect day,” Fittipaldi said. “All of the stars aligned, the team did an excellent job and hats off to them. I’m happy for the win, but I’m also happy to be in the lead of the championship again and still in the hunt.”

Pruett was one of the drivers who was forced to pit road for fuel in the closing stages of the two-hour, 45-minute race. He pitted with eight laps remaining.

Karam, who was subbing in the event for regular driver Memo Rojas, ran into trouble on his opening stint. Going into the first turn on the opening lap, he made contact with another Prototype.

The No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.com/GoPro Corvette DP driven by Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante finished third to continue a streak of four consecutive podium finishes for the team dating back to Detroit Belle Isle in May.

The Prototype class next races in the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase Aug. 10 at Road America.

Prototype Challenge

Jack Hawksworth and Bruno Junqueira gave RSR Racing a 1-2 finish  in the Prototype Challenge class win in the Brickyard Grand Prix.

While Junqueira — the 2002 Indianapolis 500 pole winner — led much of the final stint, it was Hawksworth who made the winning pass with three minutes remaining in the No. 08 AutomaxUSA.com ORECA FLM09 started by co-driver Chris Cumming.

“The last 45 minutes were some of the most fun I’ve had in a race car, to be honest,” said Hawksworth, who finished 20th in the Indianapolis 500 this season, but finished seventh on the same IMS road-course layout in the IndyCar Grand Prix of Indianapolis in May. “I had a great battle with Bruno, fighting through the traffic. I enjoyed every minute of it. It’s a great circuit and I enjoyed it. To finally get a win here, it feels awesome.”

Junqueira co-drove with Duncan Ende

The points-leading CORE autosport duo of Colin Braun and Jon Bennett, drove to a third-place finish, their fifth podium finish in six starts this season. They maintain a healthy points lead in the PC class after winning four races this season.

“My day started with a very bad, unforced error on the reconnaissance lap,” Bennett said. “Unfortunately, I missed pit entry and found myself with an extra recon lap. For that, we got to start at the back of the field.”

GT Le Mans

SRT Motorsports’ Jonathan Bomarito and Kuno Wittmer scored the first GT Le Mans class victory for the Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R.

Bomarito qualified the car third and yielded to Wittmer to start the race. With 44 minutes elapsed in the two-hour and 45-minute race, Bomarito took over behind the wheel. Just over an hour later, Bomarito passed Nick Tandy in the Porsche 911 RSR for the lead and held it until the checkered flag.

“I was second in 2012, and I’ve got to tell you, I was pretty jealous watching those guys kiss the bricks,” said Bomarito. “To come back here and experience that first hand with the team…everybody that is part of this team was out there kissing the bricks. I hope, and I know, it drives everyone to push even harder between now and the race at Road America.”

“Everything is coming together ever so slowly and it’s starting to show. The last two or three races you think, ‘Can we keep this momentum going?’ That’s always the question and you always try to work harder,” said Wittmer. “You don’t get to kiss the bricks every day.”

Patrick Long and Michael Christensen put Porsche North American on the podium with a third-place run in their No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR, finishing just 0.348 seconds out of second.

Formula 1 veteran Giancarlo Fisichella earned the No. 62 Ferrari F458 Italia its first GTLM pole on Thursday and teamed with Pierre Kaffer to finish second for Risi Competizione. During his run, Fisichella turned a new race lap record of 1:26.846.

Fisichella surrendered the lead to John Edwards just eight minutes into the race, but battled back into the lead 15 minutes later. He would give it back up for good while pitting under yellow at the 48-minute mark.

Bomarito and Wittmer had been slowly working their way up the podium in recent races after finishing third at Watkins Glen International and second at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

“It was very special. It’s great momentum, we have three podiums in a row,” added Bomarito.

The top seven GTLM cars finished on the same lap.

GT Daytona

Alessandro Balzan and Jeff Westphal won the GTD class in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia.

Westphal held the lead with the Ferrari briefly while under caution before he turned over the wheel to Balzan at the one-hour mark. On the seventh and final class lead change of the race, Balzan passed James Davison’s No. 007 TRG Aston Martin V12 Vantage with 36 minutes remaining.

“It was the perfect race,” Balzan said. “Yesterday we had a very hard day because we had problems with the setup during qualifying, but I knew that the car could be very fast. The stop was certainly the key how we won today. This year we don’t have the fastest car out there.”

“We pushed all the way to the last minute. We tried to make our way up the field when we could,” added Westphal. “It’s probably one of the more historic wins I’ve had in my career. It’s a really, really nice feeling to win and kiss the bricks.”

The win is the tenth for the Ferrari 458 in North American endurance racing, and the third this season. Ferrari now leads the GT-Daytona manufacturer championship standings.

“For me, the 60th Anniversary of Ferrari in North America is a big milestone,” said Westphal. “It is incredible to win here with Scuderia Corsa in this year. I want to say thank you to everyone on the Scuderia Corsa team. This is the most historic win of my career.”

“Scuderia Corsa gave me the perfect Ferrari,” said Balzan. “We had some difficulty in qualifying, but I knew that we could have a great car for the race. Indianapolis is a very historic circuit and I am proud to win here in a Ferrari.”

Christopher Haase and Bryce Miller matched their best finish of the season with a second-place finish in their No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS. Miller and Haase also finished second at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May.

Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating, victorious in the most recent race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, added a third manufacturer to the podium with a third-place finish in the No. 33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R. Bleekemolen crossed the line 6.772 seconds behind Haase.

Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler unofficially retain the points lead, finishing just 1.462 seconds off the podium. The No. 555 AIM Autosport Ferrari 458 Italia rebounded from a 10th-place at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park to finish fourth.

Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge

The new Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R and Stevenson Motorsports, driven by Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis, earned their third victory of the season.

Liddell drove the No. 6 Stevenson car  to the checkered flag, 3.494 seconds ahead of Trent Hindman in the No. 46 Trim-Tex/Cirroco Ozzimo BMW M3.

It was the fourth win in eight races for Stevenson Motorsports and the third straight for the team after Andy Lally and Matt Bell won at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park two weeks ago in the No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R.

Liddell and Davis also won two races ago at Watkins Glen International and in March at Sebring International Raceway.

“The car is a great car and the team has done a super job to have both team cars in contention for the last number of races,” Liddell said. “We worked really hard over the winter and in those early races did a huge amount of development to get it to the point where we are now.”

It was a tale of two races for Stevenson Motorsports. Bell started the team’s No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R from the pole and was in contention for much of the first part of the race. A mechanical issue followed by a three-car incident involving Lally, the No. 01 CKS Autosport Camaro Z/28.R of Lawson Aschenbach and the No. 46 entry, relegated Lally and Bell to a 19th-place finish.

The incident knocked out two of Liddell’s closest competitors, allowing the Scot to conserve fuel and tires en route to the win.

By finishing second, the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 team extended its lead in the GS-class standings, while Hindman also was able to extend his points lead in the driver standings. Co-driver John Edwards did not meet the minimum drive time required to score points at Kansas Speedway and thus does not share the lead in the driver standings with Hindman.

Shelby Blackstock and Joey Atterbury finished third in the No. 48 Starstruck/Trianon Hotels BMW M3.

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, July 26 2014
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