ALTON, VirginiaA loose race car, flat tires and contact with another race car were a few of the things the Bell Motorsports team dealt with Sunday in the VIR 400 presented by SunTrust Rolex series race at Virginia International Raceway. Despite all the challenges, the team and drivers Christian Fittipaldi and Terry Borcheller recorded a seventh-place finish with their Kodak EasyShare DORAN JE4 Pontiac #54.
Fittipaldi qualified fourth, started the race and drove the longest stint, but he radioed in pretty early in the two-hour-and-45-minute race that the car was loose, especially in the slower-speed turns. Two flat tires dropped him back to the teens in the standings. He had contact with the Spirit of Daytona Racing Crawford Pontiac at one point too, and the rubber build-up under the car's louvers was so bad he felt sure something had broken in the bodywork.
He persevered through it all and turned the car over to Borcheller on lap 52 of 77 in 11th place, two laps down. Borcheller was just ready to leave the pits when there was a nasty crash involving two other Daytona Prototypes, and the attrition moved the Kodak team up to ninth place for the last restart.
There were only two other Daytona Prototypes ahead of Borcheller and on the same lap as he was for the restart: the Georgia Institute of Technology Crawford Pontiac No. 39 in eighth and the Southard Motorsports Fabcar BMW No. 7 in seventh. He passed them both promptly on the restart and then, with nothing else to gain and some rain on the course, he didn't take any chances and brought the car home in seventh place.
The race was televised live on SPEED.
The SunTrust team and drivers Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli won the event.
The series' next race is at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. next weekend.
For more information see www.feedstheneedracing.com, www.kodak.com/US/en/consumer/garr/, www.tborcheller.com, www.fittipaldionline.com, www.speedtv.com and www.restartcommunications.com.
Driver quotes follow:
Christian Fittipaldi (right after his stint): "It was loose big-time, especially in the slow-speed turns. We had two flat tires, which put us out of contention. For one of them I had to do almost a full lap with the tire flat on the rim. All in all compared to where we qualified, it's been a pretty depressing day so far.
"I had one or two offs. The grass on the grill is a combination of the offs plus picking up a lot of dirt that's on the track from other people's offs.
"I also had contact with the 09. He nailed me on the restart just to get by me, and then in the turn I was committed to my line and I couldn't back off and I nailed him from behind."
Terry Borcheller: "The car was loose for me too, but I didn't run a full stint like Christian did; he was on the tires longer so it was worse for him. But with the long caution, I didn't run as long on the tires as he did.
"I passed both the cars that were on our lap on the restart.
"Our Pontiac engine ran fine.
"We lost a little braking grip from what we had in practice; you couldn't brake as late as we could in practice. But the car was better in other areas.
"At the end it was raining in some spots and other parts of the track were dry. We didn't have anything to gain by taking a chance, so I didn't push it."