PHOENIX, AZ, APR. 21 — Thetford / Norcold Dyson Racing`s James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger came 1.6 seconds short of claiming their second consecutive Rolex Series victory in tonight`s wild and unpredictable Sun Automotive 200.
In an event marked by variable track conditions, the Anglo- American pairing held the lead for most of the evening. James Weaver led the field at the wet start and maintained a comfortable lead before pitting for slick Goodyears and service. The Englishman reassumed the lead and held it even after rain began to fall again. Pitting on lap 82 to hand the reigns to Leitzinger, the Dyson team returned to action without yielding he top spot.
Despite worsening rain and heavy wind, by lap 100 the 31 year- old Pennsylvanian had stretched his lead to more than 40 seconds over his closest competitor, Intersport Racing`s Oliver Gavin. Standing water had begun to gather in the infield turns 4 and 5, and race officials threw the event`s first full-course yellow to clear the track. Leitzinger seized this opportunity to pit for a quick splash of fuel. Unfortunately, the officials efforts required more than corner work, and the race was red- flagged for fifteen minutes. On the re-start Leitzinger shot off to a sizable lead, which he greatly increased when Gavin had to take avoiding action of a slower car. Another full-course caution arrived shortly thereafter and allowed Gavin to close the gap with less than ten laps remaining. And so the stage was set for yet another late race duel between the two. Leitzinger had dealt handily with Gavin in a similar situation in last month`s Nextel 250, but tonight his Riley and Scott Ford was suffering from handling problems on the slick surface. The #16 car spun on the turn leading onto the oval banking and this allowed the Lola driver to sneak by. Leitzinger regained control and gave a noble chase, slicing through traffic and devouring Gavin`s six second margin. Butch looked set to mount another challenge for the lead, but he ran out of time and the team settled for second.
The Thetford / Norcold Dyson Racing team`s next event is the Historic Six Hours at Watkins Glen, on May 20.