Nastasi and James Take No. 5 Blackforest Motorsports Mustang to Second Straight Victory in Miami GS 400k
After starting from the rear of the field due to a post-qualifying technical infraction, No. 5 USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools Ford Mustang GT co-drivers Tom Nastasi and Ian James conquered a 39-car field and deteriorating weather conditions to win the Miami GS 400k at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
In a race featuring nine lead changes among eight drivers, James took the lead from James Gue in the No. 37 JBS Motorsports Ford Mustang GT with six laps remaining in the banked oval portion of the 2.3-mile road course as steady rains fell. James then held off Bill Auberlen in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 and cruised to the victory when the day's fifth and final full-course caution came with two laps remaining when David Russell went into the Turn 1 gravel trap in the No. 99 Automatic Racing BMW M3 and Michael Bavaro's No. 21 Bodymotion Racing Porsche 997 stopped on the back straight.
"Obviously, anytime you win one of these races it's an amazing feeling," James said. "I've done this before with Tom, and there's no better way to do it than with a great friend. I'm really happy I could come in and help him out. We'll be back next week and we're going to try and make it three. Anytime you win it's a privilege in this Grand-Am series, that's for sure."
It was a busy day for Nastasi, as he started the race in the No. 5 machine and took a 20-minute break after his stint before taking over in the No. 4 USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools Ford Mustang GT from polesitter Valerie Limoges, who led a race-high total of 35 laps. Owing to a different pit strategy, however, the No. 4 machine fell down the running order and Nastasi brought that car home in 14th place. Nastasi only earned points for his performance in the No. 5 car, as Grand-Am rules stipulate that a driver may drive more than one car but will only receive points for the car he drove first in a race.
"The win was great," Nastasi said. "That was hard coming from the back. I mean, I worked my butt off. After I got out, I waited about 20 minutes, and then I got in the (No.) 4 car. That was easy. Just the pit strategy didn't work out the way we wanted. We needed one more yellow and both cars would have been right there. It was a great day. I knew Ian would do it. I was praying for the rain. This win is for (Blackforest Motorsports owner) Brian Nott, who's not here. This is for him."
Nastasi and the No. 5 Blackforest Motorsports team are now two-for-two in 2007, as Nastasi co-drove to the victory in the KONI Challenge Series-opening Fresh From Florida 200 at Daytona in January with 2005 Grand (GS) champion David Empringham. However, Nastasi and the team do not lead the Grand Sport point standings, as post-race technical inspection revealed that the car had too much front camber. It was the same infraction that forced the No. 5 machine to the rear of the starting grid, and series officials docked the team and drivers 15 championship points and the team also forfeited all prize money.
As a result of the penalty on Nastasi, Auberlen
and co-driver Chris Gleason lead the GS driver standings with 62 points apiece,
nine more than No. 55 Supercuts/Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT co-drivers Joe
Foster and Scott Maxwell. Auberlen--who won the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series
Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami last month at Homestead-Miami
Speedway--led two laps before a late-race pit stop. He brought the car home
second, giving himself and Gleason a third consecutive podium result, as the duo
finished third in the season-opener at Daytona and the 2006 season finale at
Virginia International Raceway.
before a late-race pit stop. He brought the car home second, giving himself and Gleason a third consecutive podium result, as the duo finished third in the season-opener at Daytona and the 2006 season finale at Virginia International Raceway.
"Chris did a great job," Auberlen said. "He qualified right up front (sixth). We made our pit stop really early, it was our strategy call, but it puts you to the back. We had to come up through the field, and sure enough, I get hit in the back, it rips my bumper off, and we had to make two pit stops to fix it without going a lap down. I had to come up from the back again. The car was great. I think this was the best I've ever seen Chris drive, so he did a great job. Shoot, one more to go and we would have had a double win here in Homestead from the Daytona Prototype thing and the GS thing. That would have been great, but I had to really consider his points deal. It was getting very slippery, and I could see the leader right ahead of me. How hard do you push? I just didn't want to push us right out of this championship."
"We were third in Daytona and second here, so it's a good start to the season," Gleason added. "Bill came in on a red-eye last night and didn't get much sleep. Obviously, he did a terrific job and brought the car home under these conditions. It's terrific. That's why we call him the Rocket Man. He did a great job."
Steve Jenkins and Nick Ham--who led four laps--completed the podium with a third-place run in the No. 28 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3. It was Ham's first KONI Challenge Series start of the season, but like Auberlen, he now has a Rolex Series and a KONI Challenge trophy from 2007 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as he won the Rolex Series GT class in the Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami and leads the GT point standings.
Finishing fourth were Bret Seafuse and Gue, who led three laps late in the race, in the No. 37 JBS Motorsports Mustang. Ted Ballou and Andy Lally rounded out the top five in the No. 41 TRG Porsche 997, as Lally led five laps before fading back in the field towards the end of the race.Grey's Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey earned a career-best KONI Challenge Series result of sixth in the Miami GS 400k alongside co-driver Charles Espenlaub in the No. 156 Supercuts/Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT. Seventh was the No. 25 Fiorano/C-MAX Racing Porsche 997 of Dave Riddle and Kris Wilson, who led 18 laps. The No. 38 BGB Motorsports Porsche 997 of Craig Stanton and Stewart Tetreault finished eighth and Jack Roush Jr. and Dean Martin were ninth in the No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT. Foster--who led four laps--and Maxwell completed the top 10.