SEBRING, Florida – March 15, 2014 ? It was a podium finish for Doran Racing in Friday’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race at Sebring International Raceway. Brad Jaeger and BJ Zacharias brought the team’s #14 Nissan NISMO 370Z RC home in third place after two and a half hours of torrid competition and an amazing pass on the last green-flag lap before the race ended under yellow.
The Lebanon, Ohio-based team’s other Nissan NISMO 370Z RC had a top-10 finish too, as the Tower Events #41 driven by John Farano and David Empringham finished ninth in the 59-car field despite being hit and spun by a BMW on lap 19 of the 55-lap race.
Jaeger, of Charlottesville, Va., qualified ninth but actually got to start eighth when another competitor’s car failed the post-qualifying technical inspection. Although many full-course cautions were predicted the event only had two of them and both occurred in the second half of the race, so Jaeger had no time outs for the 52 minutes he was in the cockpit.
He let Lucas Bize’s Mustang by at the start to avoid an accident but Jaeger was back in eighth by lap four when he passed another Mustang driven by Kurt Rezzetano. He set the fastest lap of his stint on that lap when he was timed in 2:18.014. Jaeger passed Bize working lap five to move into seventh place, and then stayed in that position until he passed Billy Johnson’s Mustang for sixth with 16 laps in the books. He was still in that position when he pitted under green for Zacharias to take over with 21 laps complete. The pit crew had problems changing one of the tires on that stop so it took a little longer than they would have liked, and Zacharias was in 19th position for the start of his stint.
Zacharias, of Cincinnati, wasted no time in getting to work. He was 14th by lap 24, 12th by lap 27 and still in 12th place on lap 31 at the race’s halfway point, still with no full-course cautions. He passed Brett Sandberg’s Porsche for 11th on lap 32 and ran in that spot for the next six laps.
With 57 minutes remaining in the race he moved into ninth place when Shelby Blackstock pitted due a broken left-rear suspension piece in his BMW, and Zacharias passed Matt Plumb’s Porsche. Three minutes later the race’s first full-course caution occurred on lap 40 for debris.
Team owner Kevin Doran brought Zacharias in under that yellow with 42 laps down and 44 minutes remaining in the race. That stop went without a hitch. The yellow was extended due to some stranded cars, but Zacharias was still in ninth place for the restart with 29 minutes left and 46 laps complete.
Some of the cars ahead of him made contact while jockeying for position on that restart. Zacharias darted through it all and suddenly found himself in fifth place. He turned that into fourth on the next lap by passing David Levine, who was in the same Mustang that Bize had been driving earlier. Zacharias set the fastest lap of the race for the #14 on lap 49 too with a 2:17.920.
He wasn’t done, however. With 49 laps down he also passed Kris Wilson’s Aston Martin for third, which was the move that ended up being the pass of the weekend for the team.
Instants later a Mazda driven by Marc Miller took a heavy hit into some tires by the Mobil 1 Bridge near the Chateau Elan Hotel, causing the second and final full-course caution on lap 50 with 20 minutes remaining in the race. Shortly thereafter a BMW driven by James Clay lost its brakes and hit another wall while trying to catch up to the field after a pit stop. With two crashed cars and many tires for the track crew to clean up the race ended under that yellow with 55 laps compete, and the Doran Racing Nissan 370Z #14 was on the podium.
(Reportedly Miller was treated and released from Heartland Medical Center in Sebring. Later he told his Facebook friends that he had broken ribs and a broken ankle, and that the accident was caused by a broken left-rear control arm. Clay walked away from his accident.)
A Camaro driven by Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell won the race, with the pole-winning BMW of Trent Hindman and John Edwards placing second.