GRAND AM NEWS: Pruett Brings Championship Lead, All-Time Victory Total to Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park
Photo by John Thawley DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 17, 2007) No driver has yet captured two Daytona Prototype driver championships in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve, but 2004 champion and all-time Daytona Prototype wins leader Scott Pruett has put himself in position to do just that entering this weekends Porsche 250 Presented By Bradley Arant at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.
Pruett, who teamed with Memo Rojas in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Racing Lexus Riley, captured his first win last weekend at Iowa Speedway since the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. The win which was Rojass first makes Pruett the all-time winningest driver in Daytona Prototype history with 14 triumphs, passing James Weaver.
Pruetts record-setting win stretched his championship points lead to 15 over 2005 co-champion Max Angelelli. Rojas who didnt drive with Pruett at the Rolex 24 is currently fifth in the championship. The No. 01 TELMEX Team is the only Rolex Series car to finish in the top 10 in every race this season in either class.
Angelelli remains in contention for his second Daytona Prototype title despite teaming with different co-drivers throughout the season. Angelelli drove the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley with Jan Magnussen along with team owner Wayne Taylor and NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon at the Rolex 24 for the first five races before Magnussens schedule forced the team to pass the car off to Jonathan Cochet for the next three races. Magnussen rejoined Angelelli for last weeks race at Iowa Speedway, where the duo recovered from a Magnussen spin on Lap 85 to finish seventh and keep Angelellis hold on second place in the championship.
No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley co-drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty werent able to capture a fourth consecutive Daytona Prototype win, but the podium finish at Iowa leaves the duo just seven points behind Angelelli in third place in the season championship. Gurney and Fogarty have four wins this season, the most overall in the Rolex Series.
The No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley of Colin Braun and Max Papis has yet to win in 2007, but Braun and then-teammate Jörg Bergmeister piloted the car to a win at Barber Motorsports Park one year ago. With top-five finishes in the past three races, Braun and Papis trail the No. 99 GAINSCO teammates by 13 points in the championship race.
Pruett and Rojas are not the only drivers who have been consistent this season. The duo of David Donahue and Darren Law has driven the No. 58 Red Bull Brumos Porsche Riley into top-10 finishes in each race since the Rolex 24. Those results have the duo in eighth place.
Its been feast or famine for defending Daytona Prototype champion Bergmeister and co-driver Patrick Long. The duo drove the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Ruby Tuesday Porsche Crawford to a win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, but that remains the teams only podium finish in 2007. Despite on-track misfortune and mechanical difficulties, the pair remains in the top-10 in the championship hunt and led two laps at Iowa Speedway before finishing 10th. Long has also had success at Barber, having started second a year ago before finishing third.
No. 19 Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Racing Z-Line Designs/Mission Residential/Make-A-Wish Lexus Riley drivers Rob Finlay and Michael Valiante scored their best result of the season with a runner-up finish at Iowa Speedway. The duo made an impressive late-race run, as Valiante challenged the No. 01 team car for the lead on the last lap before settling for second place.
The lead drivers of both Michael Shank Racing Lexus Rileys have quietly put themselves into position to climb the charts in the seasons remaining weeks. Ian James, driving the No. 6 Lexus Riley with teammate John Pew, currently sits 12th in the championship only 15 points out of eighth place. The No. 60 Lexus Riley driven by Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson finished fifth at Iowa Speedway and remain just one point behind James. Both Michael Shank Racing cars saw success last season at Barber Motorsports Park, with the No. 60 and No. 6 cars improving 10 and 14 positions respectively during last years race.
The No. 3 Southard Motorsports Preformed Line Products/TrueChoice Motorsports Lexus Riley saw its best finish of 2007 at Iowa Speedway, as NASCAR Nextel Cup star Mark Martin made his Daytona Prototype debut with the teams regular driver Shane Lewis. Starting from the tail, Martin passed several cars on the opening lap before handing the No. 3 to Lewis, who brought the car home eighth. Lewis regular co-driver, Randy Ruhlman, made the difficult decision to sacrifice his seat time to save the time on a second driver change and allow Lewis to finish the race. Lewis is currently the only driver listed for this weekends event.
JC France returns to Daytona Prototype action this weekend after a week away, reuniting with Hurley Haywood in the No. 59 Brumos Porsche Riley. Guy Cosmo replaced France last week at Iowa, helping Haywood to a 12th-place finish.
Others looking searching for a podium appearance at Barber are the Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami-winning No. 05 Luggage Express Team Sigalsport BMW/Riley and drivers Bill Auberlen and Matthew Alhadeff; the Rolex 24 At Daytona runner-up No. 11 SAMAX/CITGO Pontiac Riley and current drivers Patrick Carpentier and Kris Szekeres; No. 39 Cheever Racing Crown Royal Special Reserve Pontiac Fabcar of Christian Fittipaldi and Harrison Brix; No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley driven by Tracy Krohn and Nic Jönsson; No. 61 AIM Autosport Exchange Traded Gold Lexus Riley driven by brothers Brian and Burt Frisselle and Mark Wilkins; and the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports of Jim Matthews and Mark Goossens.
While the Daytona Prototype Championship race has begun taking shape, the Rolex Series GT championship remains up for grabs with just three races remaining. With the Championships top seven drivers separated by only 17 points, this weeks Porsche 250 will go a long way in determining who will wear the season-ending crown.
On the point this week is German Dirk Werner, co-driving the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Motorsports Marquis Jet/IPC/Recaro Porsche GT3 with Bryce Miller. The young Werner returned championship lead with a third-place finish at Iowa, where he led more laps than any other driver before falling back in the final 20 laps. Miller currently sits in sixth place, 12 points behind his teammate, as the duo has driven together in every race but the Rolex 24.
The hard charger of late has been defending Rolex GT champion Andy Lally. Lally and co-driver RJ Valentine in the No. 66 TRG CRG/Maxter/Rotax Porsche GT3 have won four of the past six races the U.S. Sports Car Invitational delivered by Luggage Express at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the Sahlens Six Hours of The Glen, the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and last weeks race during a hot and humid day at Iowa Speedway. Lally and Valentine are now only 10 points behind Werner, but just one point ahead of Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards in the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R. Lally, with then-teammate Marc Bunting, captured last years round at Barber Motorsports Park. A duplicate performance would go a long way in Lallys efforts to repeat as GT driving Champion.
Collins and Edwards saw their slim two-point lead melt away in the Iowa heat. After leading the first 93 laps of the 185-lap showdown, mechanical difficulties relegated the duo to a 14th-place finish. The No. 07 remains the only championship contenders without a win in 2007, and will try to end that slide this week at Barber, where saw Collins and Edwards claimed a podium spot in 2006.
One of the toughest decisions at Iowa Speedway paid off handsomely for SpeedSource owner/co-driver Sylvain Tremblay, who managed to stay just 17 points off the championship pace entering the Barber race. Rather than retire the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 after contact with another car on Lap 41, the team pushed the car back to the garage for repairs. While the move eliminated Tremblay and co-driver Nick Ham from race contention, Tremblay ran enough laps to finish ahead of Collins and Edwards and pick up valuable championship points.
While the No. 07 Pontiac GXP.R watched its championship lead disappear from pit lane, they could take solace in the fact that Banner Racing teammates Tim Lewis and Leighton Reese were stealing points from other top contenders with a runner-up finish at Iowa. The No. 06 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R drivers returned to the podium for the first time since a win at Lime Rock Park, and a late-race pass for second over Dirk Werner not only helped Collins and Edwards but propelled Reese and Lewis into the top 10 in the standings.
Lally and Valentines No. 66 isnt the only TRG Porsche looking for success at this weeks Porsche 250. Ross Smith and Dan DiLeo are scheduled to drive the No. 65 TRG Maxwell Paper Products Porsche GT3 alongside the No. 67 TRG AVIVA Porsche GT3 of Mark Greenberg and Spencer Pumpelly. Pumpelly, who teamed with Brian Sellers, climbed 11 places during the race to finish fourth at Iowa.
While the No. 70 experienced difficulties at Iowa, the No. 69 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 of Emil Assentato and Nick Longhi quietly climbed to a fifth-place finish. The pair heads to Birmingham searching for its first podium since Mexico City. Meanwhile, the No. 85 Farnbacher Loles of Dominik Farnbacher and Ian Baas qualified second before difficulties prevented them from finishing the Iowa race. Farnbacher, then driving with Leh Keen, finished second at Mexico City.
The No. 42 Team Sahlen HRPworld.com Corvette of Joe Sahlen and Will Nonnamaker ran its most successful race of the season at Iowa, finishing sixth. The team, along with the No. 43 Team Sahlen HRPworld.com Corvette driven by Joe and Wayne Nonnamaker, hope to carry that momentum from the Midwest to the South this week.
Making its return to GT competition this week at the Porsche 250 is the Playboy Racing/Unitech Team. The team entered both the No. 33 Playboy/Vonage/Palms Nissan 350Z and the No. 35 Playboy/Vonage/Palms Nissan 350Z with drivers Tommy Constantine, Mike Borkowski and David Murry.
Other GT class competition entered into the Porsche 250 Presented By Bradley Arant at Barber Motorsports Park is the No. 03 Georgian Bay Motorsports SCADA Pack Corvette of Eric Curran and Jamie Holtom; No. 17 Doncaster Racing MineStar/Tim Hortons Porsche GT3 of Greg Wilkins and Dave Lacey; No. 21 Matt Connolly Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R of Matt Connolly, Hal Prewitt and Shawn Price; No. 22 Alegra Motorsports Gatorade/TodayMD.com Porsche GT3 Cup of Carlos de Quesada and Jean-Francois Dumoulin; No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Corvette of Marc Bunting and Dominic Cicero; and the No. 96 RJR Racing Group Porsche GT3 of BJ Zacharias and Rene Robichaud.