Torrance, CA - Dan Gardner and the Jackson-Dawson team yesterday made history for Scion in the ranks of professional road racing. The tC sports coupe ran in the top ten for much of the race at Mid-Ohio in Grand-Am’s highly-competitive KONI Challenge Street Tuner class. This is a class where the top 20 cars are often less than a second apart for lap times. In the end, the team would finish an impressive 14th out of almost 50. The team briefly put the Scion at the head of the pack, as many of the leaders came in for a pit stop. What wasn’t so brief, however, was the fact that the car ran in the top 10 for much of the race, battling with season points leaders Eric Curran and Jamie Holtom in the Georgian Bay Cobalt SS.
"What can you say? Being the first at anything in racing is special," said driver and team manager, Gardner. "But being the first to actually achieve so much the first time out is beyond the ability of words to describe. Our Scion was rock solid reliable. It takes more than that to be successful at this high of a level, so that’s just the start. But then to prove to the world that Scion is ready, that Scion is here, that Scion is now…well that’s a feeling none of us will ever forget." When the clouds moved in, and the sky saturated with an eerie gray-black, the team got their rain tires ready, but they knew they couldn’t do a tire swap until the track got sufficiently wet. It wasn’t long before thunder was booming and lighting was illuminating the sky like old flash bulbs. Then the rain poured down, and the team finally had to bring the car in, lest they be helpless to fight against cars that had already done the tire change. When Stanton and the Scion got back on track, it wouldn’t be long before they found themselves battling it out amongst the top 10 at the front of the pack…this, after starting from 20th position when the green flag dropped. The team knew they would still have to do a driver change, which would be costly since the other teams had already completed theirs.
The strategy was to try to pit under yellow to give the team a fighting chance at not losing any positions. The yellow wouldn’t come though, and Stanton came in to hand the reigns over to Gardner. The driver change went off without a hitch, and Gardner zoomed out onto track. The team would manage to hold onto 14th as Gardner crossed the finish line, taking Scion into the pages of history. "To achieve this much at this level excites all of us here at Scion," said Steve Hatanaka, Scion auto shows and special events manager. "The rest of the world can’t help but take notice of what we already know…that Scion is a performance force that has to be taken seriously." Over the last six months, Chuck Wade and Marty Schwerter at Toyota Motorsports have been hard at work preparing the car along with Gardner. Central to the prep work and development has been Schwerter, who is no stranger to preparing the tC for road racing. Schwerter is the man responsible for putting together the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Pro Celebrity cars. The work and experience clearly paid off for the team, as they suffered not one hiccup during the entire race weekend.
"I had a chance to visit Toyota Motorsports recently," said BGB team manager, John Tecce. "Marty, Chuck and the gang do fantastic work. It’s exactly the kind of thing you need to field a successful entry in pro racing." Toyota Racing Development (TRD) made great contributions to the team as well with the support of the supercharger system along with a few other bits and pieces. The blower is what allows the tC to produce the power to be competitive at this level. "When we designed the supercharger, we knew it would give the tC a big shot in the arm powerwise, but we also needed it to be fantastically reliable," said Gary Boler, TRD business operations manager. "Proving our parts performance and durability in Grand-Am with the JD team is just further testament to the quality that goes into every part and accessory that leaves our door."
Drivers Gardner and Stanton, along with the entire team, put together a string of milestones for Scion which won’t soon be forgotten. They include:
- First Scion to compete in professional road racing
- First Scion to finish a pro race
- First Scion to climb into the top 10 during a pro race
- First Scion to lead a pro race
- First Scion to finish a pro race in top third of the field
The tC also managed to turn lap times during the middle of the race in the rain that were on par with the race-winning Subaru…all while have two less drive wheels to provide traction. "It’s a great car and a great program," said Stanton. "I’m happy I had the opportunity to drive for the team. Scion makes some great products, and the tC really is impressive. Any car that can be setup to compete at this level says great things about its general underpinnings." The race will be broadcast on SPEED in less than a week this coming Saturday, June 28 at 2 p.m. ET. For local listings please see www.speedtv.com. A photo and brief pre-race write up can be viewed at http://www.grand-am.com/koni/news/index.cfm?cid=17542. The team now heads to Watkins Glen for another Grand-Am KONI Challenge race on July 5. Information on Grand-Am and the series can be found at www.grand-am.com or www.konichallenge.com.