Opportunity knocked for Brendon Hartley and the young New Zealander made the most of it on Saturday at Road America, joining Wisconsin driver Scott Mayer in winning the VISITFLORIDA.com Sports Car 250.
It was the first GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series victory for both drivers of the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport BMW/Riley. Hartley had shown flashes of brilliance through his rookie season – with the 23-year-old Formula One simulator development driver nearly winning at Circuit of The Americas before a late-race mistake.
“This was an emotional win for me,” Hartley said. “I’m not going to lie – I had a lot of flashbacks to COTA. But I knew we had it covered, so I just brought it home.”
The turn of events that put Hartley and Mayer – of Franklin, Wis. – in victory lane began with misfortune for Starworks teammates Ryan Dalziel and Alex Popow, who won the Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis in the No. 2 Soloson BMW/Riley. Dalziel lost his engine exiting the pits after a stop with one hour remaining and came to a stop at the exit of Turn 1 – bringing out the first caution of the race. Most of the remaining leaders pitted during a later caution – putting Hartley ahead to stay.
Hartley and Mayer completed 70 laps in the two-hour, 45-minute race on the 4.048-mile circuit, averaging 102.974 mph.
Action Express Racing finished second and third. Joao Barbosa finished 4.290 seconds behind Hartley in the No. 5 Corvette DP started by Christian Fittipaldi. Brothers Brian and Burt Frisselle took the final podium position in the No. 9 Corvette DP.
Polesitter Dane Cameron and co-driver Wayne Nonnamaker dominated much of the race in the No. 42 Team Sahlen’s BMW/Riley. Cameron broke an axle while leading on lap 54 – moments before the engine let go in Stephane Sarrazin’s No. 3 Corvette DP resulting in a spin to Wayne Nonnamaker in the No. 43 Team Sahlen’s BMW/Riley to bring out the final caution.
Max Angelelli took the lead in the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette DP started by Jordan Taylor when Cameron pulled off. Team owner Wayne Taylor was visibly upset when the final caution flag waved – knowing that Harley and the Action Express teammates did not need another pit stop.
Dalziel and Popow wound up 14th, trimming their Daytona Prototype points lead to four points over Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney (246-242), who finished eighth in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Corvette DP.
Both the GT and GX classes featured lead changes in the final minutes – and both winners came to a stop on the cooldown lap.
Bill Auberlen prevailed in a terrific battle with Patrick Long to join Paul Dalla Lana in winning GT in the No. 94 Turner Motorsport BMW M3, their third victory of the season. Long finished second in the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche GT3 started by Patrick Lindsey, followed by Michael Marsal and Maxime Martin in the No. 93 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 and Indianapolis winner Jeff Segal, who was joined by Ken Wilden in the No. 61 R. Ferri/AIM Motorsport Ferrari 458.
Andy Lally and John Potter finished fifth in the No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche GT3, extending their lead in the GT standings to seven points over Robin Liddell and John Edwards (255-248), who finished eighth in the No. 57 Stevenson Auto Group Chevrolet Camaro.
Joel Miller led the final four laps to take his fourth GX victory in the No. 00 Visit Florida Racing/SpeedSource Mazda 6, joined by three-time winner Tristan Nunez. Points leader Jim Norman and Spencer Pumpelly finished second in the No. 38 BGB Motorsports Porsche Cayman. Norman now leads Miller by 10 points, 297-287.
Auberlen ran out of fuel in Turn 5 after taking the checkered flag, while Miller came to a stop with a broken drive shaft.