Grip Racing grabs emotional Top-5 finish at the 2010 25 Hour of Thunderhill

Willows, CA - 12.05.10: For the newly formed team of Grip Racing/Wilson Motorsports, finishing this year's 25 Hours of Thunderhill was an especially emotional accomplishment.

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The #21 Lexus IS300 Campaign was in honor of the late Tim Nickel, a fellow racer and friend who recently lost his battle with cancer. Nickel was the owner of the white Lexus and made it very clear before he passed away that he wanted the car in the 25-hour this year. Grip Racing, in partnership with Wilson Motorsports, took the honor of entering the IS300 in the longest sports car race in the world.

Signing a roster of experienced/pro drivers was one of the most important items on the list. "The 25 is a brutal race and we wanted the car to finish, while hopefully getting a solid result," said Team Principal Mark McManus. "So we wanted guys with strong experience that would take care of the car and run as consistent laps as possible." Veteran 25-Hour drivers Johnny Kanavas, Scott Webb, Kai Goddard, Beau Borders, and John Klusendorf would pilot the #21 entry through 25 hours virtually unscathed.

The car arrived at Thunderhill with an entirely new setup for the race, untested on the 3-mile road course. After some testing and very few changes, all the drivers agreed that they had a good car on their hands.

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Testing led into a messy qualifying session with lots of traffic and a few full-course caution periods. The team ended up seventh of 10 in the E1 class after qualifying, not able to show the true speed of their Lexus but knowing they had a good endurance car.

Kanavas would take the first stint in the IS300, driving clean and consistent, moving the car through the field and up to third in the E1 class. "We had a clean start and stayed out of trouble," he said. "Many were racing hard right away, resulting in contact and off track excursions. Our car was good and we wanted to keep it that way."

Scott Webb followed and not long into his stint an Acura came in contact with the Lexus resulting in a broken right-front wheel and flat tire, forcing the #21 to pit for repairs. Webb would get back to the job at hand and run the Lexus through another consistent stint, handing the car over to Kai Goddard in fourth place. Like the two before him, Goddard would turn in very consistent lap times while keeping the car out of trouble.

After analyzing their tire wear, the crew called Goddard into the pits under a full-course yellow for a back-paddock stop where the crew of Bob Wilson, Brian Mezger, Justin Betesfandiar, Mark McManus and Shane Donley would change the brakes and adjust the front camber, gaining better tire wear over the long run. Borders took over for Goddard, followed by Klusendorf, who faced a short red flag period with about 15 hours to go.  

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Kanavas started the first rounds of double stints around 9:30pm on a wet and slippery racetrack followed again by Webb, Goddard, Borders, and Klusendorf.
"It was a delicate balance out there in the dark.  Cars were going off everywhere," Kai Goddard said. Finally able to switch back to dry weather tires, Borders hopped in and was able to pick up the pace again.

The Lexus IS300 kept on track and turning laps, until a front hub failure at the 23-hour mark with Klusendorf on board. The crew jumped on the right front hub repair, putting the car back on track with just under 1.5 hours to go.

The #21 took the checkered flag at 12 pm Sunday, sitting fifth in the E1 class and 34th overall (of 69), about 15 laps down from third and fourth place.  

When the car rolled into pit lane after the race there wasn't a dry eye on the team. The emotions of finishing a 25-hour race while honoring Tim Nickel, a great friend of the racing community, were overwhelming. Not only did the Lexus finish, but minus the late hub failure, the IS300 didn't skip a beat for 25 hours.

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"We are very proud of our result," said McManus. "Our new team worked hard while thinking outside the box and our drivers drove smart and clean. We managed to run for all 25 hours, making many pit stops, without one penalty! I know Tim was watching over us through the entire thing."

The effort would not have been possible without the support of sponsors: PIAA, Motul, Fresno Tap Recycling, Car Quest, Slicart Custom Apparel, Ground Control Suspension, South Bay Driveline, CRU-DataPort, SportTruckRV.com, the Jeff Andretti Coaching Group, and eprodius-media development.

Team Principal Mark McManus and his drivers conducted multiple interviews with RevItUpRadio.net before, during and after the race. The interviews will be broadcast throughout December at: www.RevItUpRadio.net

For Official Team Photos see >
> http://share.shutterfly.com/share/received/album.sfly?fid=5d0dcdfeaea4aa1e&startIndex=0&sid=8AcNmLJm4bN3eA

> http://www.flickr.com/photos/diaphanous999/sets/72157625553975274/

For official results see >
http://www.nasaproracing.com/results/norcal.html?mylaps=type,run,runid,1760018