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Posted on Jan 3, 2013

Starworks Wins NAEC Rolex Series at Indy

Sebastien Bourdais, Alex Popow become first Rolex Sports Car Series winners at Indy; Peter Baron-led team seals North American Endurance Championship.

Starworks Motorsport rewrote the history books in more than one way Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Sebastien Bourdais and Alex Popow became the first winners of the Brickyard Grand Prix, taking the Peter Baron-led team to the inaugural North American Endurance Championship at the same time.

Following changeable conditions throughout the opening hour, which saw two downpours, including one just prior to the start of the three-hour enduro, both Starworks Riley-Fords came to life, aided by mishaps from a number of Daytona Prototype competitors.

After making a late-race stop for fuel-only, Bourdais charged to the lead with 31 minutes to go, displacing teammate Ryan Dalziel in the No. 8 Starworks entry in the top spot.

Starworks Motorsport scored the inaugural North American Endurance Championship and the $100,000 first place prize. (Photo: John Dagys)

The rapid Frenchman then held off Ricky Taylor’s SunTrust Corvette through two restarts, while a clash between the Porsches of Leh Keen and Joerg Bergmeister with five minutes to go forced the race to end under caution.

“The last restart was challenging with Ricky [Taylor] coming alongside,” Bourdais said. “He braked really, really late, and so did I. I nearly didn’t make the corner! It’s just great they we were able to put it together.”

Popow, who soldiered through the tricky early race conditions, also led the race at one point in what proved to be the Venezuelan’s breakout race in the Rolex Sports Car Series.

‘It’s my first race win in GRAND-AM and being here at Indy is so special,” Popow said. “I have to thank Peter, Ryan [Dalziel] and especially Sebastien today for a great job and an incredible drive. He was amazing. We had the best car and the best driver out there.”

The victory and NAEC title capped off an incredible season for Starworks, which finished second overall at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, took class victories at the Twelve Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans and currently lead the FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 points standings.

“What a great year our team’s having. I’m so proud of everybody,” said Baron, whose team took home the $100,000 first place NAEC prize. “We had a rough race with [the No. 2] guys at Watkins Glen and were sure they had a shot to win there… Sebastien drove a killer end of the stint and Alex has done a great job all year.

“We looked at the NAEC at the beginning of the year and thought, ‘There’s another championship they created for Ganassi.’ I just have to thank Alex and Enzo [Potolicchio] for everything they’ve done.”

Starworks appeared to be en route for a double podium finish, with Dalziel slipping back to third late in the running before contact with the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-BMW of Juan Pablo Montoya effectively ended the Scotsman’s day.

Montoya collided with the No. 8 Riley-Ford in the entrance to the infield, sending Dalziel into the gravel trap and resulting in a full-course caution. It dropped Dalziel and co-driver Enzo Potolicchio to a seventh place finish in class.

Dalziel and Potolicchio, who came into this race just three points out of the championship lead, now trail Ganassi’s Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas by 11 points.

“It was pretty black and white there,” Baron said of the late-race contact between Dalziel and Montoya. “I’ve sent emails and had phone calls to GRAND-AM saying Montoya is reckless in this series. He comes in and doesn’t give a [expletive] about anybody here. He showed that today.

“He went into the race and ruined our championship. The series needs to do something to take care of that. I’ve told him that was going to happen. It happened.”

Montoya, who was not handed a penalty for his alleged actions, came home fourth with co-driver Scott Dixon. NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray did not drive in the race.