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)

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