370Z NISMO racks up more podium finishes at COTA

Doran Racing's two Nissan 370Zs started third and fourth in Friday's Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge (CTSCC) race, and they finished in the exact same spots – although they swapped places and saw a lot of drama under the hot Texas sun during the 150-minute contest at Circuit of the Americas Friday.

The Cincinnati-based team's #14 Nissan 370Z NISMO driven by Brad Jaeger and B.J. Zacharias posted its fifth podium finish in the last seven races with a third-place finish in Texas. The excellent showing also unofficially vaulted the entry, its drivers and Nissan to third place in the Grand Sport team, driver and manufacturer point standings, respectively.

Meanwhile, the team's #41 sister Nissan Z driven by Nic Hammann and Nick McMillen led a lap, set the third-fastest lap of the race, and duplicated its best finish of the season with a fourth-place finish.

The two biggest factors that affected the #14's race occurred with about 36 minutes to go in the 2.5-hour contest. Zacharias was sixth on lap 40 and moving up, just 0.033 behind Lawson Aschenbach in the #9 Stevenson Camaro Z28 and embroiled in a fierce battle for fifth.

Zacharias got his nose inside the Camaro and made a clean pass, pulling away on the long straightaway. Aschenbach broke late for the next turn and hit Zacharias, knocking the Z off track and putting Zacharias back to 11th with little time left in the race.

IMSA, the sanctioning body for CTSCC, called the #9 Camaro in for a drive through penalty for his avoidable contact of Zacharias, putting the Camaro out of contention for a podium finish.

Race leader Matt Plumb in the Rum Bum Porsche 911 snapped a fan belt on the following lap, moving everyone up a place as the field battled it out for the win. The breakdown was especially costly for the Rum Bum team, as they were a close second to the #6 Stevenson Camaro team of defending champs Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell in the series points battle. Plumb’s retirement left Liddell in the lead with only a little over 30 minutes remaining.

Meanwhile, a determined BJ Zacharias didn't let his frustration hinder his drive to the front. He was back inside the top 10 by lap 42, then rocketed past Wilkins, Pardo and Espenlaub on the very next lap to move into seventh. One lap later, Zacharias moved into fifth when he passed the Mustang GT 350R of Jade Buford, and BMW M3 pilot Trent Hindman dropped from fourth to 10th with a near spin.

Zacharias was now right behind teammate and GT Academy winner Nick McMillen. The 21-year old Oregonian overcame challenges of his own, including a long pit stop to claw his way back into the top five in an impressive drive.  Eleven laps from the finish, Zacharias pulled by his teammate for fourth position as the two 370Z ran consistently quick laps and heavier cars’ tires lost grip in the heat. Aschenbach finally pulled off to serve his drive through for spinning Zacharias, and the Doran cars ran third and fourth where they remained until the checkered flag.

"Once again Brad had another great opening stint,” said Zacharias. “Overall it was a good, solid performance by everyone, but it was also probably one of the hottest races I've ever done. I'm not sure but I think the spin was in Turn 15. We had gone side by side for a while, but then he (Aschenbach) just drove straight in the back of me. Towards the end I was making up some ground, but with about three laps to go I hit traffic in two or three of the worst places to hit traffic. I realized I wasn't going to close that gap, so at that point I just wanted to bring it home. With 20 laps remaining when we were back in P11, it wasn't looking that great, so it's all good.”

Hammann started the #41 Nissan in third place and pulled a nifty inside pass going to turn one officially led the first lap. The 2014 Nissan GT Academy champion from Elkhart Lake, Wis. also set the third-fastest lap of the race on lap four with a 2:25.163. From laps two through six Hammann was third and Jaeger was fourth in the #14. On lap five Jaeger passed Hammann and then they both passed the Mustang of Scott Maxwell, which put Jaeger in second and Hammann in third.

They ran in those positions and in that order until they made their pit stops for fuel, four fresh tires and the driver change under green working lap 21 with 52 minutes gone, right before the first of two full-course cautions waved after Nick Galante's Mustang got hit in the rear and stopped. The opening drivers both achieved their goals during their stints, as they turned their cars over to their co-drivers in good condition and very much in contention. Other contenders made their pit stops at that time, and Zacharias was fourth and McMillen was fifth for the restart on lap 26, about four minutes shy of the halfway point of the race.

"It was definitely one of the hottest races I've ever done,” said McMillen. “It was a little rough in the last laps, but we kept pushing. The car started to get a little loose, and I didn't realize fifth place was as close to me as he was. On the last restart I was able to make up some spots. B.J. got spun out, and some drivers were driving dirty. Above all, I wanted to stay out of trouble and finish. Since Brad and B.J. are running for the points, once B.J. got by me I just tried to run a good pace and maintain my position.”

Zacharias set the #14 car's fastest lap with a 2:25.410 while in fourth place. He was still in fourth place with an hour to go, and McMillen was eighth when the second and final yellow waved on lap 34 so the tow truck crew could free a BMW from a gravel trap.

Both team cars pitted for four tires and fuel two laps later under that full course yellow. Zacharias was back to ninth and McMillen in 11th for the restart on lap 37 and their subsequent drives to third and fourth, respectively, despite the intense heat and intense level of competition.

Friday's race will be shown on Fox Sports 1 at 1:30 p.m. ET on September 27.

Additional information is available on DoranRacing.com, the team's Facebook page, and the sanctioning body's website at imsa.com.

Check out GT Academy on Facebook at Facebook.com/GTAcademyNA

Check out NISMO USA on Facebook: Facebook.com/NISMO