AUSTIN, Texas – September 20, 2014 – Doran Racing battled back to a ninth-place finish after its Nissan NISMO 370Z was hit by another car and plowed into a retaining wall rimming Turn 1 at the start of Friday’s IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race at the Circuit of the Americas.
The Lebanon, Ohio-based team’s perseverance was rewarded with the solid top-10 finish in a rather bizarre race in which the weather and tire strategy were key components. It was the entry’s seventh top-10 finish to date in a 14-race season that concludes Oct. 3-4 at Road Atlanta.
Despite heavy rain on some parts of the course multiple times throughout the 2.5-hour contest, there was only one full-course caution flag. It was displayed for a Nissan but it didn’t wave for the Doran one, as its driver, Brad Jaeger, safely got back to the pits for repairs. It took several stops but team owner Kevin Doran timed them so the car didn’t go down a lap despite the setback. Although the passenger-side door was dented, the car’s suspension was damaged and its alignment was compromised, it still made it to the finish.
The race’s only full-course caution waved from laps one to seven for Tim Bell, who flew over some slippery grass, through a gravel trap and then crashed hard into a wall off Turn 12 when a reported ABS issue left him without brakes. Luckily he wasn’t hurt, and the yellow flag that his accident generated actually helped give the Doran camp some time to regroup from its accident 11 turns earlier.
While Bell’s car was done for the day the Doran Nissan, which had started 11th, was back in 38th position overall and 19th in class for the restart on lap eight with two hours and one minute remaining.
Jaeger’s next task was to cautiously weave his way through the entire Street Tuner field as quickly as possible. The Charlottesville, Va.-based driver set the car’s fastest lap of the race on lap 13, 42 minutes into the race, with a 2:25.412 while he was passing the ST leader, Stevan McAleer.
Two laps later raindrops started to appear on the cars’ windshields. Dark clouds had been looming overhead all day, and a heavy downpour was reported about a quarter-mile away from the 3.427-mile, 20-turn road course.
By lap 18 Jaeger was 14th both overall and in class, and heavy rain was reported in Turns 8-9. Some teams elected to pit at that time, and by lap 21 Jaeger had made his way into the top 10, as he was tenth both overall and in class, 58.145 seconds behind the leader.
He passed Ray Mason on lap 22 to get ninth, and by lap 24 he was fifth due to other drivers’ pit stops. On lap 27 at the halfway point he was fourth, 50 seconds behind the leader and 12.470 seconds behind the third-place driver, Steve Phillips.
He came into the pits in fourth place on lap 28 with 1:19 gone and 1:11 remaining in the race. Co-driver B.J. Zacharias took over at that point and began his stint in 12th place on lap 29.
Zacharias, of Cincinnati, put the car back in the top 10 on lap 34, rising to ninth place when he passed Pierre Kleinubing with 52 minutes remaining.
Zacharias advanced to seventh when two more cars pitted on lap 41, but Jade Buford passed him on the following lap to push him back to eighth. Like Jaeger before him, Zacharias had to be very careful because the #14 remained on slick tires the entire race, while some of its rivals sported rain tires.
Zacharias was able to remain in eighth until the next-to-last lap of the race when David Levine got around him. He was 3.363 seconds behind Levine at the checkered.
Fox Sports 1 will show its coverage of the event at noon Eastern on Sunday, Sept. 28.
For more information on Doran Racing, see DoranRacing.com and the team’s Facebook page.
Driver post-race quotes follow:
Brad Jaeger: “I got caught up in the Turn 1 incident, but we did what we could. I got hit by a black Aston Martin. It bent the suspension and threw out the alignment, but with the long yellow we were able to make pit stops and we got the car sorted out as best we could. The team did an amazing job to get us back out without losing a lap. Then B.J. and I just kept our heads down and worked our way through the field.
“The weather made it very crazy. We had to be conservative in the areas where the track could have been hazardous and try to push when it was dry. There was a lot of risk involved. It was driving by the seat of your pants today. We were on slicks the entire time.
“I have to say Doran Racing did an amazing job today to keep the car on the lead lap. I also think the incident speaks very highly about the durability of the Nissan 370Z. It handled a hard hit and kept on going.
“I’m very proud of B.J. and the entire team. I think we all did a great job despite everything!”
B.J. Zacharias: “It looked like the Rebel Rock car got into Mantella’s Aston Martin, which turned into Brad.
“We pitted three times under the caution to go over the damage and fix what we could. The crew did a great job keeping us on the lead lap and making adjustments that made the car raceable.
“I’m really proud of Brad’s drive today. It showed a lot of heart, and there is a lot of that on this team.
“Professionalism isn’t always measured by wins and losses and podium finishes. Today this team battled hard.
“The car was still quick even though the alignment was off.
“In my stint everything ran well and we had the fastest GS car for a good portion of the stint. We then fought two issues. One, it started missing and we lost throttle response coming off the corners. Second, either the ball joint on the left front loosened up or something, because the car picked up a massive understeer.
“I’m really proud of the effort today. We finished a lot stronger than we started, and it took the whole team to get it there.”