Starworks Motorsport scored back-to-back Rolex Sports Car Series victories, but this time it was the team’s No. 8 entry of Brendon Hartley and Scott Mayer that claimed top honors in Saturday’s VisitFlorida.com Sports Car 250 at Road America.
A decision to leave the No. 8 Riley-BMW out during the second and final full course caution with just under 1 hour to go proved to be pivotal, as Hartley took over the lead and stretched his gap over the competition in the closing stages of the 2-hour and 45-minute contest.
From there, it was clear sailing for the open-wheel turned sports car racing standout, who crossed the line 4.290 seconds ahead of the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette of Joao Barbosa for he and Wisconsin native Mayer’s first career GRAND-AM victories.
It was a redeeming race for the 23-year-old New Zealander, competing in his first season of U.S. racing, after throwing away a likely win at Circuit of The Americas in March after colliding with a lapped car in the closing stages.
This time, Hartley got the job done, and in impressive fashion.
“This is a really emotional win for me,” Hartley said. “After COTA, there were tears of disappointment and today was tears of joy… I’m not going to lie; I had some flashbacks.
“There were a few moments where I thought about that and I just got my head down and did the job. I think we had the two cars covered on pace and just brought it home.”
Barbosa and co-driver Christian Fittipaldi led home a double podium for Action Express, with the team’s No. 9 entry of Burt and Brian Frisselle coming home third after a late-race tangle with the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP of Alex Gurney while battling for the final podium spot.
While settling for an 8th place finish, Gurney and co-driver Jon Fogarty gained considerable ground in the DP title race, thanks to the retirement by the championship-leading No. 2 Starworks Riley-BMW.
Ryan Dalziel and Alex Popow, who kissed the bricks at Indy two weeks ago, suffered engine failure midway through the race. They now hold a narrow four-point margin over the GAINSCO duo heading into next weekend’s race at Kansas Speedway.
The No. 42 Team Sahlen Riley-BMW of Wayne Nonnamaker and Dane Cameron, who started on pole, led a race-high 41 laps but retired late in the second hour with drivetrain failure.
Both the No. 2 Starworks car and No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing entry of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, which finished fourth, were utilizing the new-gen 4.5-liter powerplant.
For the third time this season, GT class honors went to the Turner Motorsport pairing of Bill Auberlen and Paul Dalla Lana, in a similar battle of fuel mileage in the production-based ranks.
Auberlen passed the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche of Patrick Long for the lead with less than 16 minutes to go and managed to hold off the Porsche factory driver by 2.819 seconds at the line, before running out of fuel on his cool-down lap.
Park Place’s Long and Patrick Lindsey came home second, ahead of the No. 93 Turner BMW M3 of Michael Marsal and BMW factory driver Maxime Martin, which made it a double-podium for the Will Turner-owned squad.
After early problems for the pole-sitting No. 70 Mazda and an intense battle with the BGB Motorsports Porsche Cayman, SpeedSource’s VisitFlorida-backed Mazda6 of Joel Miller and Tristan Nunez came out on top in GX.
Miller took over the class lead with 20 minutes to go and managed to cross the line 4.635 seconds ahead of the No. 38 Porsche of Spencer Pumpelly for the closest finish in GX class history.
Of note, Riley chassis took wins in all three categories, also another first in Rolex Series competition.
RESULTS: VisitFlordia.com Sports Car 250Brendon Hartley, GRAND-AM, Scott Mayer, Sports Cars, Starworks Motorsport