Grand-Am Rolex Series Visits Picturesque Barber Motorsports Park

Last weekend was my first trip to picturesque Barber Motorsports Park and I was looking forward to it for two reasons. One was because I have heard so much about it. The other was is it as pretty on TV as it is in person? The answer is yes. Television doesn’t do it justice

The multiuse park, which opened in 2003, features a 16-turn 2.3-mile track with lots of elevation changes. I thought I was going to play golf at the facility when I walked in, it is that well kept. The grass is perfect and when you see the Barber Auto Racing Museum, you wonder when they have time to race, you think it is a country club.

This was looking to be a good event for the Grand Am Rolex Series as the points chase was tightening up and after having a one day show at Daytona earlier this month, this was going to be a three day show. A less frantic weekend schedule was welcomed by many teams in the paddock. The extra time was needed as Team Penske was going to need the time to rebuild the car Romain Dumas crashed hard on Friday. Dumas hooked the curb in turn 13 and it tore the car up pretty well as the team had to work till 3:00 a.m. To finish repairing the car. Romain also injured his ankle and Penske honcho Tim Cindric had IndyCar driver Ryan Briscoe standing by if Romain could not go on race day. Thankfully for Romain he did and Briscoe’s services were not needed.

The No. 99 GAINSCO car and the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Teams were fighting it out for the pole, many complained of little grip with the exception of the 99 and 01 camps. The GAINSCO car and Alex Gurney made qualifying exciting with Gurney running into tire barrier with 1 minute left in practice and the crew had to rebuild the front end. However, Gurney’s teammate, Jon Fogarty put the red car on the pole for the Porsche 250.

The race came down to a 20 minute shoot out with Gurney holding off Ganassi driver, Scott Pruett and the Michael Shank entry of Michael Valiente getting into the mix at the end. “We didn’t want to see that last yellow,” Gurney admitted. “We had a great strategy that kept us out front and our car was good enough to win. So it was a great day. Scott drove really clean and it looked like he was a little quicker, so I was really happy about that. I’m really happy for everyone at GAINSCO and that we can fight it out these last four races.”

Even though Pruett said he was going for the win, he was happy to settle with second place. With all the problems they during the race, he felt it was like coming away with a win.

Team Penske driver, Timo Bernard said this another weekend he wants to forget. Bernard said, “With all the crew working so hard and we don’t give them the results they deserve, they will come we will figure this out and win one of these races.” He added, “The crew worked very hard to fix the car, but we could not get a good result to repay them for their hard work.”

This made the point standings tight and should make Watkins Glen exciting with only four races to go. Other notables such as the SunTrust team having problems early in the race, after winning at Daytona they put it in the sand trap and slip a little in the standings The problems continue for the Brumos Team, who after winning the 24 hour of Daytona have had problems it seems for the last five races. The Brumos Team cut down two tires, one while leading. Team Penske also had problems on the first lap when Romain Dumas made a great start then had an ‘off’ after turn one and tore the splitter and the left front corner.

In Acxiom GT competition, Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell scored their second victory of the season in the No. 57 BryanMark Financial/Stevenson Automotive Pontiac GXP.R.

Also, the prevailing rumor is that the Indy Racing League will have a race at Barber in 2010, if so, it will be a great place for IndyCar.

The other news of the weekend was Bob Stallings and the GAINSCO team will have a second car for NASCAR drivers, Jimmy Johnson and Marcos Ambrose who’ll run at Watkins Glen.

The next action will be the Crown Royal 200, Friday, Aug. 7 at Watkins Glen International, when the Grand-Am Rolex Series races in conjunction with the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series.

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