Thursday, April 22, 2010

Scion Does It Again At Long Beach Grand Prix

Image Credit: Dicken Wear (2010)

Scion Does It Again At Long Beach Grand Prix:

DG-Spec and Scion Win Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Robert Stout Drives Number 18 Car to World Challenge Touring Car Victory

In front of one of the largest crowds at any race in the world, the DG-Spec Scion road racing team showed they have what it takes for World Challenge gold. Robert Stout drove the number 18 Scion tC to a decisive victory through the historic streets of Long Beach. The win brings Scion their first in the Touring Car category.

The event began with positive signs during the first practice on Friday. Team owner and driver Dan Gardner was the fastest Touring Car, with Stout taking second position. Neither driver had ever driven the course before, showing just how fast the two can come up to speed. Things were looking good, despite Gardner and the 36 car getting drilled by a GT Porsche early in the session. Most of the damage from the incident proved to be cosmetic, and the team had it fixed in a jiffy.

The second and final practice session of the event would take place on Saturday morning, so teams had little time to make any preparations. The 18 and 36 cars took to the track, but on the first complete lap on the front straight of Shoreline, something clearly was wrong with the 36. Gardner looked in his mirrors and saw them filled with a thick cloud of smoke. He radioed in that he thought the car was on fire, but heard over the radio that it might be oil. As he pulled his finger away from the fire button, Gardner tried to assess the situation. Further down the straight, Gardner saw the oil pressure warning going off. As he limped the car down the straight, he shut the engine off, and coasted past Turn 1 into the runoff.

The team would find a severed oil cooler line, and it was time to find out if the motor could be salvaged. The motor shut-down had kept it from grenading, but other damage still may have occurred. The team did their due diligence, and all signs were positive. Unfortunately, when they finally started the motor back up, the gut-wrenching sound of rod knock dashed all hope for the engine.

The second practice did, however, yield some good news as Stout was now the fastest Touring Car, nipping the RealTime Honda Civic Si by two-tenths of a second.

Huge logistical challenges stood in the team’s way, as their rig was a mile away, and because the track was constantly hot, they couldn’t easily get their spare motor over to their pit in the convention center. But with the dedicated crew of Brad Allen, Sean Morris, John McNulty, David Fredrickson, and special addition Merritt Johnson, they figured out a way. A furniture dolly and a lot of pushing took care of the motor, and the great guys at CRP Racing loaned their engine hoist.

The crew’s blood, sweat, and tears took them into 4 in the morning, but they got it done, and the 36 car would be ready for Qualifying, which would take place just four hours later.

Bleary eyed and filled with caffeine, a few hours later the crew began staging the cars for Qualifying. The entire session had been shortened, as it was to be split, with the GT cars going the first 12 minutes, and the TC and GTS cars heading out for the second 12. As they went out on track, Gardner constantly watched his gauges, radioing back to the crew the status. Things were looking good, but the entire session was spent with an eagle eye on the dash, looking for anything that could cost the team another motor.

Gardner was working on a decent flier when he caught the Mazda RX-8 of Eric Meyer doing a cool down lap going into Turn 1. That would put an end to the flier, but the car looked to be in good shape…frustrating, but some good news was to come. When the results came in, Stout had barely gotten edged out by Nick Wittmer in the RealTime Civic Si. The difference was the same two-tenths from the second practice, but this time it had gone RealTime’s way. Still, the team now sat with the 18 and 36 cars, second and fourth on grid respectively.

Image Credit: Dicken Wear (2010)

The race was to take place that afternoon. The 18 car was looking good, but the 36 showed some minor signs of detonation. World-Class tuner Shawn Church of Church Automotive Testing sprung into action, analyzing the logs and emailing Gardner a tweaked map for the new motor. This was to be the final step of the motor swap.

As the race approached, both cars took their starting spots and prepared for the standing start. The light boxes extinguished and both Scions churned their front tires, boiling a bit, but launching hard forward. Stout mostly held his line, as Gardner made a move to the inside up against the wall. He passed a few cars and then situated on the back bumper of the 18 car, on the outside of Turn 1. GTS and TC cars were now intermingled and it looked like the cars would go 3 or 4 wide into the first turn. Gardner moved to the inside, and then moments later got rammed by Meyer’s Mazda, putting a hole in the Scion, and tearing off the RX-8s front bumper.

Stout stood his ground and followed Wittmer’s Civic through the mayhem, holding onto the second spot, as Gardner moved up into third. Coming back around and entering the hairpin, the RealTime Civic got a bad exit, allowing both Stout and Gardner to make a run on the leader. Stout motored by before start-finish, but Gardner would see Wittmer make his one move hard to the inside to thwart Gardner from getting around. As Gardner swung to the outside, the Civic made another move down the straight to block that lane, then weaved a bit, until bailing out to go track right in preparation for Turn 1.

Image Credit: Dicken Wear (2010)

Gardner stayed inside, late-braked, bounced of the apex and moved track right. On the way to the Fountain, Wittmer crashed into Gardner, causing the Scion to lose a mirror, but Gardner stood his ground and took the position. Stout and Gardner were now 1-2. The Civic started to slow, and the team would later learn heheh had flattened his tire after making contact with Gardner. As the Civic pulled into the pits, Meyer took over third and began hunting down Gardner. All the while, Stout started to pull away.

A call came in from the crew to the 36 car that race control thought it may again be leaking oil. Gardner noticed some strange behavior with the oil pressure and became concerned that they may have another motor problem. He watched the gauges relentlessly, all the while trying to keep the gap between his car and the Mazda.

Most of the rest of the race was spent keeping a close eye on GT cars as they pushed their way back up through the TC cars several times. Gardner kept an eye on the dash, and Stout just drove smart. Late in the race, Stout would report that the car was wandering on the straight, but he kept in all in check.

Unfortunately for Gardner, on Lap 15, as Turn 9 approached, he turned in a hair early, clipped the apex, and then felt the car go to an evil push condition. Gardner saw the wall at the exit fast approaching. He turned the wheel harder right, but still glanced the wall. The incident would unfortunately bend a lower control arm, forcing Gardner to retire. Stout, however, would hold onto the lead, taking the number 18 DG-Spec Scion tC across the finish line for the big win.

Image Credit: Dicken Wear (2010)

“It’s quite obviously a huge win for the team,” said Gardner. “We just won Long Beach, and that’s a major accomplishment. My hat’s off to Robert for a good, clean drive. I’m a bit disappointed in myself. It just goes to prove what all racers know…small errors on a street course have major consequences. It’s my first DNF that’s entirely my fault. It’s hard when you know you were sailing to a 1-2 finish, but you have to get over it, move on, and go kick some butt next time.”

Stout, at just 18 years old, became the youngest driver in World Challenge history to win a race. The win brings the team, Stout, and Scion their first TC victory.

“I’m on the top of the world,” Stout said. “I’m not sure I dreamed of winning a World Challenge race so soon, especially not Long Beach. Dan and the DG-Spec crew gave me a great car to drive, and I just put my head down to get the job done. Right now I’m still filled with excitement, but soon it will be time to put the game face on and get ready for Mosport. Anything can happen in racing, and I’m not going to take anything for granted.”

With the victory, Stout moves into first place in the season points standings with 350. Gardner holds his fourth place standing, and is just a single point out of third and 18 out of second. The team’s performance pushes Scion into the lead for the Manufacturers’ Points, ahead of second place VW and third place Honda.

Standings and results can be viewed at The race will be broadcast on the Versus Network on Saturday, May 1 at 4:30 p.m. Eastern. Twenty-four hours later the program can be viewed online at Rounds 1 and 2 of the series can now be viewed at

The team now readies for a double-header at Mosport and the Victoria Day SpeedFest, in Ontario, Canada. The event will take place May 21-23. Saturday’s race will begin at 2:50 p.m. Eastern, and Sunday’s race will begin at 12:45 p.m.
(HT: Story with permission from Dan Gardner | Edited by Dicken Wear/Ed Jenks)

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Jimmie and Jeff
The Winning Duo

The Artist at Work in Victory Lane

JTG Pit Wagon

AJ Allmendinger
The Red Bull Car

Marcos Ambrose

Michael McDowell's Ride (Image credite: Dicken Wear)

Marcos Ambrose Spotter, Al DiRusso and the Editor at PIR April, 2010

It's always good to see old friends and fellow Karters do go in mainstream Motorsports. And it was great to see AJ get his first pole at one of our favorite tracks. AJ Allmendinger described his first NASCAR Sprint Cup pole as "a small victory" - with the fervent hope that it leads to something bigger, as in a race win.

Allmendinger led a quartet of former open-wheel stars in Friday's qualifying session for Saturday's SUBWAY Fresh Fit 600™ at Phoenix International Raceway. With a lap at 134.675 mph (26.731 seconds), Allmendinger's No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford edged Scott Speed's No. 82 Toyota (134.373 mph) for the Coors Light Pole Award. (Ed Note: Both AJ and Scott raced Karts with us as did Sam Hornish, Jr before he moved onto Indy Cars).

Sam Hornish Jr. (134.198 mph) qualified a career-best third in his No. 77 Dodge, followed by Marcos Ambrose (133.814 mph) in his No. 47 Toyota. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fifth fastest at 133.640 mph.

"I knew we were going to be quick," Allmendinger said. "We were quick in practice, but you go out there and you just don't know how much grip is going to be on the racetrack. I knew I was going to have to get everything out of it to have a chance of beating (Speed).

"It's a small victory for us to get our first career pole together, and to start up front is really cool, but the big picture is (Saturday), and that's what we're focused on."

Speed was the 13th driver to make a qualifying attempt. Allmendinger went out 30th and had the benefit of a slightly cooler track.

"As soon as Turn 1 started getting shaded - that's when Scott ran his lap, when the shade had kind of come over - I knew the grip was going to be there, but it was a little surprising how gripped-up the racetrack got," Allmendinger said.

"It was still really hot out there, but it seems like, at a lot of these older racetracks, a couple of degrees, when it gets cooler, can really change the racetack a lot."

Speed was sporting a shaved head at Phoenix, a far cry from the blue-black dye job he had for the last two races, at Bristol and Martinsville.

"I had to shave all the black hair because that seemed to be bad luck," Speed said. "I also named our car. Her name is 'Rattlesnake.' I think it's kind of mean and sounds fast. We're in Phoenix, so it fits. I don't know which one of those has changed our luck around, but we'll continue doing all of them."

It was a game of numbers - two and four.

Capitalizing on a late caution that extended Saturday's SUBWAY Fresh Fit 600™ three laps past its scheduled distance of 375 laps, Ryan Newman and crew chief Tony Gibson snatched victory from Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Kyle Busch with a two-tire call under the final caution.

Both Busch and Johnson took four tires on Lap 373, under caution for Scott Riggs' blown tire in Turn 4 one lap earlier. Gordon, who took two tires and left pit road with the lead, spun his tires on the decisive restart on Lap 377, allowing Newman to surge into the top spot.

After two circuits under green at the flat one-mile track, Newman crossed the finish line 0.13 seconds ahead of Gordon to win his 14th NASCAR Sprint Cup race and his first since the 2008 Daytona 500 – ending a 77-race drought.

Johnson charged from seventh to third during the green-white-checkered-flag finish. Mark Martin, also on two tires for the final restart, ran fourth, one position ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya. Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano completed the top 10.

Johnson extended his lead in the series standings to 36 points over Kenseth in second and to 96 over third-place Greg Biffle, who finished 22nd Saturday.

"I've got to throw Gibson under the bus - he wanted to go four, and I said, 'Just give me two,'" Newman said. "I liked the track position. I'd rather block than have to boot. I was in a good position there, obviously.

"I had restarted on the bottom side earlier tonight and could not get going. On two tires, I was kind of impressed - but there were a lot of cars behind us with two tires. It was a good situation to be in. It was just the right time, right place."

Busch and Johnson had dominated the two long green-flag runs that preceded the two-lap dash to the finish. In fact, Busch, who tied Johnson for most laps led with 113, stayed out front from the time he passed Johnson on Lap 262 until Riggs' accident 110 laps later.

"I can't freaking believe this," Busch lamented on the radio to crew chief Dave Rogers when the ninth and final yellow flag flew. "What do you want to do?"

Busch and Rogers opted for four tires. Johnson made the same call for his No. 48 team.

"I was excited to see the caution come out, because it was an opportunity to win," Johnson said. "I decided - I made the call for four tires. It's the first time that I can remember in a long time that I actually said what I wanted for a pit stop, with the way Martinsville played out and Bristol and last night's (Nationwide) race (where four-tire calls proved successful). I knew with the green-white checkered there weren't a lot of laps, but I felt we might get a caution with everybody racing so hard.

"So I made the call for four and made the most of it. We got from seventh to third and just did what we could. So, not a bad night at all. Excited to see us stretch out the points a little bit and get another top-five finish here."

Racing for the first time since March 31 surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, Denny Hamlin completed the race in 30th place, two laps down.

Asked after the race if he was in pain, Hamlin replied, "More than I can tell you. I'm pretty sure I didn't do any damage or anything like that, but I'm absolutely exhausted right now."

Hamlin had Casey Mears standing by as a relief driver, but opted not to use him.

"I got a lot of encouragement from the team," said Hamlin, who fell three spots to 18th in the standings. "Through thick and thin, we're a team. I feel like they'd give their left leg for me and do everything they could do to make sure we were successful, and I felt like it was my duty and my job and that's what I'm hired to do, is to try to do the best I can and keep this team as good as we can."

Editor's Note: PIR has always been a fun track to go to for me since moving out West in 1997. When I was the President of the Arizona Sports Racing Association, we held many events at PIR. I also helped start a Kart Racing Group within ASRA after the Open Wheels Classes died off. It runs to this day in the Southwest at various tracks. As the President of the Professional Test Drivers Association of America (PTDAA), I have spent many days of private testing for OEs at PIR, and always find the staff there very helpful. A special thanks to Griffin Hickman and his staff at PIR in thee Media Center for all their help and understanding.