Corvette Racing finished their 2000 season with their eighth podium finish of the year in Las Vegas. Justin Bell and Chris Kneifel brought their No. 4 C5-R home Third in Class and Ninth Overall at the Las Vegas Grand Prix. The race started on a very positive note: Ron Fellows set the fastest time Friday during the first qualifying session (1:14.864). Ron achieved this on a damp track, and looked like a sure bet to take the pole position on Saturday. However, the Vipers worked better on Saturday's dry track and qualified first (1:14.153), second, and third. The Corvette Racing crew worked late into the night making final adjustments for Sunday's American Le Mans race.
Sunday dawned windy, overcast, and cool. Denise Albright, wife of Corvette Racing team member Dave Albright, performed a wonderful rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner." Her performance drew a loud round of applause from the fans. The green flag fell at 12:07, and the two-hour and forty-five minute race was underway. The second-place Viper lost a cylinder shortly after the start, which forced its withdrawal from the race.
Meanwhile, Fellows passed the No. 92 Viper to take Second in GTS, and Bell was close behind the leaders in the No. 4 C5-R. After a caution flag, Fellows began falling back and finally pitted with a flat tire. After taking on fuel and tires, the No. 3 returned to the race with Pilgrim at the wheel. The No. 4 also pitted for tires, fuel, and driver change, with Kneifel replacing Bell. After his pit stop, Pilgrim was fighting a handling problem which caused him to spin the car in Turn 4. Shortly after the spin, he lost a tire and crashed at the start/finish line. Andy was unhurt and managed to drive the Corvette to the garage, where it was retired.
Meanwhile, Bell and Kneifel were working hard to make up for lost time due to a green flag pit stop to change tires. The stop put the No. 4 Corvette almost two laps behind the third-place GTS No. 08 Porsche Turbo. Slowly, the Corvette carved its way toward the Porsche. On the final lap, Justin Bell was able to overtake the Porsche at the start/finish line, putting Corvette on the podium again.
After the race Justin Bell said, "With 50 minutes to go, the team told me I needed to unlap myself--twice. I didn't believe them, but I did it and I am happy with the result." Chris Kneifel added, "To me, it is not only an honor to drive for Pratt & Miller and Corvette Racing, but it is an honor to be associated with this group of people. I would not trade places with anyone in racing right now!"
With eight podium finishes (two Firsts, three Seconds, and three Thirds), we couldn't agree more with Chris' sentiments. Everyone on the team has done an excellent job. Next year will be even better for Corvette Racing. Stand by!