Synergy Racing's Craig Stanton Takes Rolex Series GT Championship in Mexico City
MEXICO CITY, Mexico -- Synergy Racing driver Craig Stanton, of Long Beach, Calif., captured the Rolex Sports Car Series Championship of the Americas in the GT class with a third-place finish in the season finale at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.
Stanton started the Synergy Racing No. 80 Porsche GT3 Cup on the GT front row, and David Murry, of Atlanta, Ga., brought it to the checkered flag in third after some 'high-flying' excitement on the final lap of the race, giving Stanton the championship by a narrow one-point margin.
"I've been working for this since the Daytona test back in January," Stanton said. "It's been a long and stressful process to get here. Sam White (Synergy Racing GT coordinator) told me if we can win this, it will mean more to him than any of the other championships he's been involved with because of everything we overcame and how well our team gelled to make it happen.
"And he's right. We didn't have the big factory effort. We just had a lot of good people with a lot of heart. All of Synergy came together this season and really made this happen," continued Stanton.
The championship definitely did not come easy. After leading the point standings for the most of the season, Stanton entered the finale one point down to Pontiac drivers Lally and Bunting. The Synergy Racing drivers knew they had to finish ahead of the No. 65 Pontiac or the championship would be lost.
Stanton was able to maintain his position in the top three ahead of Bunting in the No. 65 car for his opening stint. He came into the pits on lap 51 of the 90-lap race to hand the controls of the No. 80 Porsche, as well as his championship fate, over to Murry.
"The team had an awesome pit stop," said Murry. "They gave me an 18-second cushion over Andy, which delayed him catching up with me."
But eventually Lally was able to catch up to Murry in the No. 80 Porsche, andfor the last 10 laps of the race, the Pontiac was all over the rear bumper the Synergy Porsche in the battle for the championship. Lap after lap Murry was able to hold off every maneuver Lally tried to pass him. But after taking the white flag, Murry knew the gloves would be off for the last lap.
The No. 65 Pontiac bumped the Synergy Porsche as Lally bullied his way past Murry to take over third place by jumping up onto the curbing. A few moments later, Murry dove low into a turn in an effort to reclaim the lead, but the No. 80 Porsche hit a high curb and went airborne. When it came down, it made contact with Lally's Pontiac, causing a spin. Murry was able to keep the Porsche under control, retake third place and run to the checkered flag and Stanton's championship.
"I knew he would be desperate on the final lap," said Murry. "Andy hit me first. If I hadn't given way, he would have taken me out. He got up onto the curb in the esses. I did the same thing and dropped down lowin the apex on him. I had him but the curb was higher than I anticipated.
"We came in here with the deck stacked against us," Murry continued. "The team really did a fantastic job."
"It came down to the last lap of last race. That's what Grand-Am wanted," remarked Stanton.
This was not the first time Murry helped Stanton come from behind in the points to capture the championship. Last season, Stanton entered the Grand-Am Cup Series finale four points behind. After starting the race, Stanton turned over his championship hopes to Murry who pulled through to give Stanton the championship in a tiebreaker.
"After two years of this, I don't know how much longer my heart can take racing with Craig," joked Murry after the race.
"I always do this to him. I start the race and then make him drive second and put everything on his shoulders," added Stanton. "David Murry is my hero."
Stanton will be awarded the GT champion's Rolex Daytona Cosmograph watch at the champions banquet in Orlando, Fla. later this month.
Rx.com drivers finish season with 13th-place finish Burt and Brian Frisselle, of Aventura, Fla., finished 13th overall in Synergy Racing's Rx.com No. 8 BMW Doran JE4. Early handling woes gave way to a late transmission problem after both brothers ran solidly in the top 10 for most of the race.
Burt started from seventh on the grid, and gained a spot early to run in sixth in the opening stages. But as the handling went away, Burt was unable to fend off the advances of several cars. He was able to keep the car in the top 10 before turning the controls over to younger brother Brian on a lap 43.
Brian returned to the track in 13th and quickly moved the Rx.com machine back up into the top 10 after the team made adjustments to address the car's handling woes. The bad luck that has stalked the young drivers this season unfortunately made the trip south of the border, though, as Brian lost first gear with just a handful of laps remaining.
"I am disappointed because we were looking to end the season on a high note, and we were well on our way to a solid top 10, but at least we got enough points to be in the Pacesetters next season and were able to get to the finish today," said Brian. "I didn't realize exactly what had happened initially. I thought I'd lost drive, but I tried the other gears, and I was able to just keep it going and get to the finish. But we'll use what we learned this weekend next time we race here, and hopefully we can get a strong result here."
Despite the result that didn't match up to their performance, Burt took the long view, knowing that the young brothers will race again, and will be eager to put to use the lessons they learned this season.
"This is one of the biggest crowds I have raced in front of and it was pretty exciting," said Burt. "We got a good start, but we were just off on the tire pressures and the car went away from me quickly. This isn't of course how we wanted to end the season, but at least we know what to expect the next time we race here. I have to say congratulations to Synergy Racing for the driver GT championship win--it was too bad how we ended our race today, but we certainly were cheering on David and Craig to take the championship with Craig and Porsche."
Nonnamaker takes inaugural Bob Akin Award with Synergy Will Nonnamaker, of North Canton, Ohio, joined Synergy Racing in the No. 81 Porsche GT3 Cup to capture the inaugural Bob Akin Award on Saturday. Nonnamaker, who typically races for Team Sahlen, entered the race with a 131-point lead in the standings for the first-annual sportsman award. However, when Team Sahlen opted to not make the trip south of the border for the season finale, Synergy Racing offered its competitor a spot in the No. 81 Porsche to finish his quest for the award.
After a steady run by Nonnamaker in first half of the race, he handed the controls over to Craig Stanton, who pulled double duty on Saturday in both the No. 80 and No. 81 Porsches. The No. 81 machine had some technical trouble during Stanton's stint, resulting in some unscheduled pit stops, but he was able to take it to the checkered flag seventh in the GT class.
Visit Synergy Racing