McDowell and Finlay Victorious in Rain-Shortened Grand-Am Cup 200 at Barber Motorsports Park

30.07.2006: McDowell and Finlay Victorious in Rain-Shortened Grand-Am Cup 200 at Barber Motorsports Park

With approximately 30 minutes remaining in Saturday's Grand-Am Cup 200 at Barber Motorsports Park, high winds, lightning and torrential rain showers descended upon the 2.3-mile, 16-turn Alabama circuit, forcing Grand-Am Cup Series officials to cancel the final portion of the 200-mile timed event, and handing the victory to No. 15 Playboy/Palms Casino Ford Mustang GT co-drivers Michael McDowell and Rob Finlay.

Overcoming a mid-race penalty for an improper restart that forced the No. 15 machine down pit road for an unscheduled stop, the duo scored their first Grand-Am Cup Series victory of the season. Finlay qualified the car eighth in this morning's qualifying session, running near the front throughout his opening stint.

"The Playboy/Palms Ford Mustang was phenomenal today," said Finlay. "The race itself was good but it was crazy with all those cars out there. I was able to stay out of trouble during my stint and get the car to Michael in good position. We're happy that we got the win and are looking forward to the next Cup race next weekend."

McDowell took over during a Lap 23 caution, and with many cars in the lead group staying out, was shuffled back in the running order. However, the strategy paid dividends, as McDowell quickly picked off positions while the leaders had to make green flag driver changes. When a full-course caution flew on Lap 50 to allow track officials time to two stopped machines off the track, McDowell was in second, behind No. 51 Stealth Racing Ford Mustang GT co-driver Stu Hayner. Hayner pulled down pit road to hand control to teammate Pete Halsmer, handing the lead to McDowell. A few moments later, black clouds and high winds brought about the red flag.

"Rob's opening stint was great," said McDowell. "He qualified the car well so we were able to start the race up front and kept it there the entire time. We saw that the weather was coming so we just stuck to the strategy and it paid off. We had a great car today, I had to serve a stop and go penalty early on but we managed to get our positions back and finish first."

Also benefiting from the timely caution period and subsequent weather were No. 59 Columbus Truck & Equipment Ford Mustang GT co-drivers Dean Martin and Roy Mason, who wound up second. It was the best finish of the season for either driver, topping a previous best result of sixth in Round 3 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Mason started the machine 18th on the grid and both he and Martin ran steadily at the front of the pack throughout the event.

"It's my first professional podium," said Mason. "I've won and been on the podium in various club series, but this is my first professional podium and it feels great. We kind of backed into it. We had a hard time getting the car to hook up, but the team made a great strategy call to come into the pits when we did. We also got help from the rain gods and we'll take it."

"It's nice to be back again on the podium," Martin said. "We've had a rough go and we're really just starting to get the car up to speed with our '05 Mustang. It's a home-built Rehagen car. It is a good result for us. Ray did a great job in the car and I had a lot of fun mixing it up with the Porsches and BMWs out there today."

Terry Borcheller and Jeff Segal finished third in the No. 90 Automatic Racing BMW M3. It is the fourth top-six finish for Borcheller in only five Grand-Am Cup Series starts in 2006, and the second podium finish of the year for Segal, who also finished third at Laguna Seca. Bill Auberlen and Chris Gleason finished fourth in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3, followed by teammates Boris Said and Anders Hainer in the No. 97 Under Armour BMW M3.

Auberlen and Gleason, who came into the race just one point behind Hainer in the Grand Sport class point standings, now lead the championship fight by just one marker over Hainer, 168-167.

STREET TUNER CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHT NARROWS AT BARBER AS PLUMB BROTHER CLAIM WIN

Brothers Hugh and Matt Plumb have finished on the Street Tuner (ST) podium four previous times in six races heading into Saturday's Grand-Am Cup 200 at Barber Motorsports Park, but Saturday afternoon, the No. 27 Southern Auto Auction/ Acura Certified Pre-Owned Acura RSX-S climbed the podium's top step for the first time this season, scoring a class victory in the rain-shortened Grand-Am Cup 200.

Hugh Plumb qualified the machine 14th on the ST grid, quickly working himself through the field during the race's opening stint. He handed the controls to brother, Matt, near the race's midpoint in sight of the leaders, and after the lead group was forced down pit road for driver changes, the No. 27 Acura found itself at the front of the class pack when the race was called.

"I just want to say that Matt and I have to dedicate this win to the team," Hugh said. "We've been on the podium five times this year and we've been close to the top step but we were not there until today. We've got a great team and Bill Fenton is a great guy. We made a great call coming in when we did. Having a great co-driver like my brother is all I can ask for."

"We needed it badly," said Matt. "It's kind of a bittersweet victory to win a race like this, but the team, Hugh and I deserved it. We've been close a few times before and had lots of bad luck, so in some ways this is payback for that. As far as the championship, the Cobalt team is extremely well put together and they're going to be right there, but we have a team that has more heart than anybody. It's really up in the air. There are probably three or four teams that could win the championship and it's going to come down to the last three tracks. I hope these tracks are Acura friendly."

The victory was a big boost for the No. 27 machine in the championship picture, as No. 01 Clearscada/GM Performance Division Chevrolet Cobalt drivers Eric Curran and Jamie Holtom--who came into the weekend with a 34-point lead in the championship standings--broke the rear axle mounting bracket, which relegated the duo to a 28th place class finish. Now, with only three races remaining on the 2006 schedule, Holtom and Curran lead No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW 330i co-drivers Will Turner and Don Salama by just nine points (201-199). Hugh and Matt Plumb are tied for fifth in points with 182.

Chuck Hemmingson and Kristian Skavnes finished second in the No. 111 Subaru/Leo's/ Phoenix Performance Subaru Legacy, the duo's best finish of the season. The No. 111 ICY Phoenix team has finished inside the top 10 in all three races it has competed in this year, with a previous best result of sixth at Lime Rock Park two races ago.

David Tuaty and Jason Potter finished third in the No. 12 Performance Motorsports/Racing Dynamics BMW Z4, followed by Salama and Turner in the No. 95 machine. Defending ST driver champion David Haskell rounded out the top five with co-driver Sylvain Tremblay in the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8.

The Grand-Am Cup Series returns to action next weekend at Le Circuit Trois-Rivieres in Quebec, Canada. The event will feature a pair of split-class races, with the ST machines taking the green flag on Saturday, August 5, followed by the GS class on Sunday.


- GRANDAM -
photos will be online on automobilsport.com under PHOTOS -  AMERICAN SERIES   by Charlie Roeber,

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30.07.2006 / MaP

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