GRAND AM NEWS: Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype, GT Teams Looking For Third Straight Wins at Daytona
Photo by John Rawley DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 3, 2007) A typical season of Grand-Am parity has not kept two Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve teams from winning multiple races, and both are hoping for their third consecutive victories in Daytona Prototype and GT competition in Thursdays Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway (SPEED, Live at 8 p.m. ET).
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing (Daytona Prototype) and TRG Porsche (GT) both won the third races in their particular divisions one race ago in the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and each is hoping for victory number four after struggling earlier this season in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. In addition to winning two straight races, drivers of both teams have also made their way into fourth-place championship ties.
Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty have taken the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley to new heights. After winning for the first time at Mexico City, they won their first endurance race in the Sahlens Six Hours of The Glen and dominated one week later at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Their Mid-Ohio race was nearly perfect as they set a track qualifying record, the races fast lap and led all but six laps of the 111-lap event. Both are eager to return to Daytona where they started their current seven-race streak starting from the front row after finishing a season-worst 22nd there in January after starting on the pole.
While Gurney and Fogarty have been strong all season, championship points leader Scott Pruett has done his part to keep the points lead in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley. The co-winner of the Rolex 24 with Juan Pablo Montoya and Salvador Duran, Pruett joined forces with Memo Rojas starting at Mexico City, and the duo has not finished worse than eighth since. Pruett who has finished in the top 10 in a dozen consecutive races dating back to last year is still looking for a record 14th overall victory, and with Rojas, is still to end a string of three straight runner-up finishes with the cars second victory of 2007. Pruett owns an 11-point lead over Max Angelelli (212-201), while Rojas currently holds sole possession of third in the standings.
Angelelli, in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley, has been close to winning multiple races this season as well. He won round four at Virginia International Raceway, and could have won the Sahlens Six Hour had two early restarts not cost him to serve drive-through penalties. That race was Angelellis first with Jonathan Cochet, who will continue to co-drive the car this weekend.
As he did for the Rolex 24 At Daytona, reigning NASCAR Nextel Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will return to the controls of the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley. Johnson is scheduled to drive the car with co-owner Jim Matthews and Marc Goossens, whom Johnson ironically competed against in the recent NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. The trio, along with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Jim Matthews, started third but finished 19th in class in the Rolex 24.
Defending Brumos Porsche 250 co-winner Colin Braun hopes he and Max Papis can take the No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley to its first victory of 2007. With two runner-up finishes and two poles, the pair is the highest in the championship point standings yet to win a Daytona Prototype race this season. Their No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley teammates, Tracy Krohn and Nic Jönsson, are also hoping to improve on their season-best finish of fifth, which came in the Sahlens Six Hour. The duo, along with by Boris Said in the Rolex 24, finished 13th in Daytona Prototypes.
One team that has been quiet yet consistent this season has been the No. 11 SAMAX/CITGO Pontiac Riley. Strong preparation has helped the team record four top-five finishes, including a season-best second in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. That effort was anchored by the teams lead driver, Patrick Carpentier, who will share the car Thursday with Kris Szekeres. The Michigan native joined the team at Mid-Ohio.
Brumos Racing ran well in the Rolex 24, and both cars will try to break a four-year win drought in the race their team sponsors. David Donohue and Darren Law nearly took second in the EMCO Gears Classic in the No. 58 Brumos Racing Brumos Porsche/Red Bull Porsche Riley before a late-race pit stop dropped the car to fifth. The duo also ran near the front in the Rolex 24 before contact midway through the event forced them out of contention for the win.
Hurley Haywood, who ranks near the top in all-time victories at Daytona, will try along with JC France to score their best finish of the season in the No. 59 Brumos Racing/Kendall Porsche Riley this week. The pair finished fourth in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
No. 23 Alex Job Racing Ruby Tuesday Porsche Crawford co-drivers Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Long return to Daytona after finishing 12th there in January, their worst 2007 finish in seven starts. Bergmeister won last years Brumos Porsche 250 with Braun, and he and Long won the U.S. Sports Car Invitational delivered by Luggage Express at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May.
Brian and Burt Frisselle and Mark Wilkins return to the site of their seasons best finish of fifth, which came in the Rolex 24. The trio also ran as high as fourth in the Sahlens Six Hour in the No. 61 AIM Autosport Barrick Gold/Exchange Traded Gold Lexus Riley.
Michael Shank Racing will again bring its No. 6 and No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Lexus Rileys to Daytona after scoring finishes of ninth (Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri Jr.) and 10th (Ian James and John Pew) at Mid-Ohio. Cheever Racing has made an engine switch from Porsche to Pontiac, and Christian Fittipaldi and Harrison Brix will drive the No. 39 Cheever Racing Crown Royal Special Reserve Pontiac Fabcar this weekend. Fittipaldi is hoping to expound on a 14th in class in Januarys Rolex 24.
Other teams entered to mix it up are the No. 05 Luggage Express Team Sigalsport BMW Riley with Bill Auberlen and Matt Alhadeff, who won at Homestead-Miami Speedway; No. 3 Southard Motorsports Preformed Line Products/TrueChoice Motorsports Lexus Riley with Shane Lewis and Randy Ruhlman; No. 16 Howard Motorsports Thetford/Norcold Porsche Crawford with Chris and Rob Dyson; and the No. 19 Team Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Racing Z-Lines/Mission Residential Lexus Riley with Michael Valiante and Rob Finlay.