Grand-Am 2007 - UPON FINAL REVIEW
GET BACK (January 28) - After compiling 668 laps, Rolex Series interlopers Salvador Duran and Juan Pablo Montoya join series regular and 2004 DP driving champ Scott Pruett to drive their No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Telmex/Target Lexus-Riley to a Rolex 24 At Daytona first-place finish. It's the latest of Pruett's seven class (5) or overall (2) wins in the grinding race.
Trailing the victors on the same lap a little over a minute behind were a second-place Patrick Carpentier, Ryan Dalziel, Milka Duno and Darren Manning in the No. 11 SAMAX CITGO Pontiac-Riley. In third, two laps down to the winner was the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac-Riley of Max Angelelli, Jeff Gordon, Jan Magnussen and Wayne Taylor.
Worth a mention given a historically significant "What If?" was fourth-place finisher Brumos Racing's No. 59 Kendall Porsche-Riley with drivers Hurley Haywood, JC France, Joao Barbosa, Roberto Moreno and, officially, David Donohue (in a tit-for-tat swap, Haywood was also "officially" in the No. 58 Red Bull sister car, which finished 40th overall after completing only 126-laps).
Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates' back-to-back Rolex 24 titles was one of only four "entrants" to have done so in the race's history. Al Holbert did it in 1986-1987; Brumos in 1973-1975 (canceled due to a gas shortage, there was no 1974 race); and, John Wyer in 1970-1971. Oddities: (Carroll) Shelby American won Daytona's 12-hour 1965 and 1966 24-hour race versions; Luigi Chinetti Sr. won the 3-hour 1963 and 1964 12-hour races. No "entrant" has won it three times, though it's a safe bet CGRwFS will give it a full-on try for the "46th" Rolex 24 on Jan. 26-27.
The 2007 24 would be the only race coming out of which Duran and JPM would be in the Rolex Series points lead. Such would be a different story for Pruett.
A GRIPPING FIRST TIME (March 3) - It's said one may or may not fondly remember "the first time" but Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney so liked it after scoring their first in Mexico City - rebounding from a 40th-place Rolex 24 finish - that they would just keep on doing it. By season's end the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings No. 99 Pontiac-Riley racked up so many record-level numbers that some motorsports journalists were downright challenged in keeping 'em all straight.
But that is now; this was then: In a caution-free race Gurney and the No. 99 pressured a grip-less Max Papis and his Krohn Racing No. 75 Pontiac-Riley (Colin Braun, lead-off driver) into a late race spin-and-finish-second (sorry it wasn't a catchy as Danny Sullivan's "spin and win" but, well, Papis didn't). In third were Max Angelelli, Jan Magnussen and their SunTrust Pontiac-Riley.
Finishing fourth with Memo Rojas (their first race together), Pruett maintains the points lead. At the time, though, Fogarty and Gurney were, like, so far out of the points they didn't have a chance. Right?
BUSCHWHACKED (March 4) - Ganassi/Sabates' three winning Rolex 24 drivers headed for Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez en Mexico DF, in which Pruett and Juan Pablo Montoya would literally tangle during Sunday's Busch (er, Nationwide?) Series race. Salvador Duran watched as his two Rolex 24 teammates fought each other for Sunday's race lead leaving at least one grizzled, seasoned NASCAR veteran in tears and most of the CGRwFS hierarchy stunned. Most everyone knows the rest of the story.
DELIVERING THE LUGGAGE (March 24) - The No. 05 Luggage Express Team Sigalsport BMW Riley Daytona Prototype, driven by Matthew Alhadeff and Bill Auberlen, scored its first win at Homestead-Miami Speedway's Miami Grand Prix the day after car sponsor Luggage Express announced it'd also become presenting sponsor for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca's May 18-20 U.S. Sports Car Invitational.
If you're unaware of Luggage Express' purpose in the world, it takes control of a traveler's baggage, reportedly removing an airport baggage check-in hurdle as well as assuring the baggage gets to where it's needed in timely fashion. Assuming it actually works, there are at least a couple of golfers, one banker and, for sure, a motorsports journalist who need to take advantage of this service. Isn't capitalism wonderful? If one commercial entity can't do a deed, another enterprise will fill the void. In the former East Germany they'd just form a baggage-handler firing squad. Only problem was they inevitably formed more than one squad and, apparently, soon exhausted the baggage-handler supply.
Back to the race: SunTrust's No. 10 Pontiac-Riley, with Max Angelelli and Jan Magnussen driving, finished second, while Rolex Series DP points leader Scott Pruett and his co-driver, Memo Rojas, finish third in the Telmex machine.
NEW SHOES (March 29) - Between five and seven cars spent a combined four days at Homestead-Miami and Daytona International speedways testing the new Pirelli Grand Am P-Zero tire - 10-months before the first competition event in which they'd roll for real. The tire produced favorable remarks from most of the seven Rolex Series' teams while Rolex Series officials were a little more cautionary, deciding safety and durability dictated the tire needed to be beefed up a little. Bottom line: it was fast.
ANOTHER ROAD TAKEN (April 24) - Bob Snodgrass, Brumos Racing's guiding leader for decades, had a commanding presence in Grand Am and elsewhere, too. R.I.P., Sir.
WAYNE'S NEWEST WORLD (April 29) - SunTrust's Max Angelelli and Jan Magnussen scored Wayne Taylor Racing's first win under the No. 10 Pontiac Riley's new owner/manager, Wayne Taylor, who by the end of the season would understand just why team managers tend to spontaneously babble. Despite Snodgrass' absence, the Brumos Racing nonetheless raced, doing what it thought would best honor their fallen leader. In near-fairy-tale fashion the No. 58 Red Bull Porsche-Riley of David Donohue and Darren Law took third place. Meanwhile, after starting from the pole and after holding the lead for a combined 40 of the race's 77 laps, the No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac-Riley of Colin Braun and 2004 Rolex Series DP champ Max Papis finished second.
After four races Angelelli takes the Rolex Series DP driver points lead from Scott Pruett, who with co-driver Memo Rojas finished eighth.
RUBYTUEGOES DISTANCE (May 20) -- Using a fuel-deprivation strategy the Rolex Series' fifth race of the 2007 season produced a fifth different winning combination, Alex Job Racing's No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Porsche-Crawford took the trophy home from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca's Road & Track 250. Drivers Patrick Long and 2006 Rolex Series DP champ Jorg Bergmeister were followed by second-place Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas' CGRwFS No. 01 Telmex Lexus-Riley. Michael Shank Racing's No. 60 Lexus-Riley with Ozz Negri and Mark Patterson once again blew some minds when that team filled out the podium.
Having less than a month to enjoy his Daytona Prototype championship points lead, Max Angelelli's 15th-place race finish (with Jan Magnussen) in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac-Riley dropped the Italian-born driver (who lives in Monte Carlo, can you imagine?) back to second place in the championship race and returned Pruett back to the top with a whopping five-point margin (148-143). Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney are seventh in points.
KYLE WINS THE GLEN (June 9) - Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney (remember them?) all but drive away from the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen field even though spotting it an unscheduled pit stop. Winning by a lazy seven seconds after a Lap 151 caution-flag restart, the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings No. 99 Pontiac-Riley led 91 of the race's 167 laps. Sensing a possible lynching, the driving duo momentarily deflected enmity by pointing the Fickle Finger of Fate directly at team engineer Kyle Brannan, saying something along the lines of "He did it!"
Though Fogarty and Gurney Little did we know but The Glen finish also provided the only glimpse of the final 2007 DP driving championship points standings as Telmex's Scott Pruett (and Memo Rojas) finished second; SunTrust's Max Angelelli (with an assist from Jonathan Cochet) finished third.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: THE STALLINGSNATORS (June 23) - In the seventh of a string of front-row starts that wouldn't abate in 2007, The Stallingsnators' No. 99 GAINSCO Pontiac-Riley went to twisty-curvy, technically demanding Mid-Ohio and bested its Glen race-winning margin by, oh, about 450-percent.
Anyone want to guess who finished second? Possessing tenacity akin to a bloodhound on a scent trail, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas followed with their No. 01 Telmex Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus-Riley.
Pruett retained the points lead, increasing it to 11 points over a second-place Max Angelelli, in the SunTrust Pontiac-Riley with Jonathan Cochet finished fourth. Pruett co-driver Rojas takes third place in points, followed by Fogarty and Gurney in fourth.
In a move that would prove prophetic for co-driver Max Papis, at Mid-Ohio Colin Braun was shifted to "closing duty" for the Krohn Racing No. 75 Pontiac-Riley and raised the hackles and voices of a few drivers after the latter reportedly bulled his way to a third-place finish (perhaps developing necessary skills for his 2008 NASCAR debut?).
If one should especially want to spend a long, post-race evening seeing an engine get dismantled, one needs only to win - by a lot and a lot. (Think about that twist of the English language.)
NEAR MISS (June 23) - Eddie Cheever's Crown Royal team started showing some serious potential as the Rolex Series season entered its second half at Mid-Ohio's EMCO Gears Classic.
In one of the 2007 season's best understatements, No. 39 Royal Crown Porsche-FABCAR driver Christian Fittipaldi two days earlier said, "I was a little surprised by the 99." Um, two words came immediately to mind, Christian: "The Glen."
The real Mid-O "surprise" came when the Brazilian-born driver put the Cheever car on the front row for the EMCO Gears Classic. As if that feat wasn't sufficient, the Cheever car nabbed the outside pole after the Royal Crown crew virtually rebuilt the car following a Thursday practice-session hydroplane ("aquaplane" for those of you from the U.K.) shunt that turned Fittipaldi into a hardly guided missile, nonetheless nuking the No. 05 Luggage Express Team Sigalsport BMW Riley, as well as itself.
MCQUEEN'S "DAYTONA" (July 5) -- After being busted up in a January 2006 Test Days test accident, Chadley McQueen literally got the green flag for the 26th Brumos Porsche 250. McQueen held the flag in hand, giving the Rolex Series field the "go" as it approached the starter's stand. A few months later McQueen climbed into a vintage Porsche during the annual HSR fall show at DIS. Busted up more than once, McQueen takes a licking and just keeps on ticking - though slightly rougher so each time.
Oh, that's right, a Rolex Series race occurred, huh? Here you go: Gainsco/Stallingsnators, first place (pole, too); Max The Axe (with Cochet, again) second after the SunTrust car started 18th; while Braun and Papis finished third after starting on the second row's outside.
Okay, okay, here's more: Adding an early stop-and-go penalty that, in the minds of Grand Am officials, was caused by an anger induced driver bummed over an even earlier mediocre pit stop that alone had dropped pole-sitter Jon Fogarty to eighth place. As a result the field had one slightly irritated driver behind the No. 99's wheel by Lap-14. This time, though, Fogarty properly channeled his energy into getting back up front. By the time he turned the No. 99 over to Alex Gurney, the race was more than half-finished and Gurney needed to gain one more spot to win The Stallingsnators' third-consecutive DP race. He did.
The Brumos 250 fan bonus was that, for the first time in 2007, a championship fight heretofore largely limited to Scott Pruett (6th in his No. 01 Ganassi/Sabates Lexus-Riley) and Max Angelelli (No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac-Riley) all-of-a-sudden started including mentions of The Stallingsnators - just 17-points behind Pruett's 237 points and 13-points behind Angelelli's second-place standing (233 points) after the Brumos 250 checkered flag flew.
ANOTHER ROAD TAKEN (July 10) - As much as Bob Snodgrass was noticeable in Grand Am, Dr. Bruce Kennedy wasn't. Such didn't mean he wasn't important to the series or the people in it. R.I.P., Doctor.
IOWOE (July 14) - Iowa Speedway's nine-turn, 1.3-mile road course used a bunch of the track's ¾-mile banked oval on which stock cars ordinarily complete but the No. 01 Ganassi/Sabates Telmex car of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas would navigate it best among the Rolex Series DPs, taking a series-record 14th win for Pruett after he dominated the race's latter stage -- 105-laps on the point.
In one of the season's biggest surprises, second was captured by Michael Valiante and Rob Finlay in the No. 19 Ganassi/Sabates Z-Lines Lexus-Riley sister car and provided the Ganassi/Sabates organization's first 1-2 Rolex Series finish.
Generally considered a "gentleman" driver, Finlay still compiled a personal-best series weekend, first qualifying the car fifth-fastest on the grid and then handing it over in very good shape to the very quick Valiante. The big surprise, though, was that Finlay was having shoulder problems of such magnitude that they should've interfered with his effort and only worsened his condition, delaying recovery from its eventual late-season repair well into 2008 and causing the motorsports enthusiast a lot of much treasured seat time. You have to believe Finlay still wouldn't have it any other way.
Coming off three straight races whereupon the team would finish first even though combating the unexpected, Iowa would be different as the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Pontiac-Riley placed third, presenting little or no threat to either of the Ganassi/Sabates cars and finishing more than 15-seconds behind the No. 19 Finlay/Valiante car even after Fogarty led 81 laps earlier in the race.
Max Angelelli and Jan Magnussen's 7th-place finish in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac-Riley increased Pruett's championship points lead by 15 over a still-second Angelelli (272-257) and 22-points over third-place Fogarty and Gurney.
With details saved for a historical review of another kind, it was at this race when Rolex Series officials started, shall we say, "scrutinizing" slightly more than the usual in an attempt to answer other teams' complaints of "How're they (The Stallingsnators) doing it?"
Despite a dense crowd, excellent paddock amenities and layout, Iowa Speedway's 1.3-mile track wasn't a big hit among the teams, some pointing out safety concerns that officials insisted could've been overcome for a 2008 race. Still, essentially for the same objections that eventually knocked Phoenix International Raceway off the Rolex Series schedule, so too went Iowa. Embarrassingly so to some, though.
THE STALLINGSNATORS RETURN (July 22) - Again finding their dominating front-running legs, the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Pontiac-Riley dominated the race. Jon Fogarty qualified on-pole for the Bradley Arant Porsche 250 at Barber Motor Sports Park and co-driver Alex Gurney later brought it home in the same place. About the only team that seemed to have anything at all for The Stallingsnators was the second-place finishing No. 75 of Krohn Racing Pontiac-Riley of drivers Colin Braun and Nic Jonsson. Like The Glen, the No. 99 was kept just six seconds in front of the No. 75. Or, would it be that the No. 99 preferred to keep whoever just six-seconds behind?
Max Angelelli, this time sharing his SunTrust ride with Memo Gidley, finished more than 40-seconds behind in third. A championship points first-place apparently slowly but inexorably slipping from his grasp, Angelelli is beginning to look like little more than the 2005 Rolex Series DP Champion.
AFTERMAX (July 22) - For Barber, Papis was moved to the Krohn Racing No. 76 Pontiac-Riley and, whatever the reason, Colin Braun would be joined by a similarly transferred Nic Jonsson, who's a heckuva racer, too. Jonsson's what some might call a "mudder." Those in horse racing know the term, usually associated with a horse that does particularly well on wet tracks and has nothing to do with a summer camp. Jonsson did just that in heavy rains at the 2005 Glen 6-hour, pulling laps others wouldn't or couldn't touch. Hans Stuck is the same way. It isn't hard to imagine Stuck grinning ear-to-ear, letting rip a "crazy-scientist" laugh every now and again while ice-skating around a 150-mph dry-track-turn at 149 mph in the wet. One wonders if the otherwise generally calm and quiet Jonsson might actually do the same when in the wet. He darn sure drives like it.
"OUR LONG BEACH" (Aug. 3) - The women of Montreal are nothing less than, well, very cosmopolitan, having a sophistication of style and dress matched by few others anywhere else on earth. They, alone, are worthy of one's return to Montreal. And the food . . . magnifique! Really, it's a big city that can absorb an event like a race weekend without much of a problem. Grab your passport and plan a trip there for the 2008 race. (If you don't know what to do, drop me a line and we'll work on it.)
Okay, okay, so who wins? Wayne Taylor's SunTrust No. 10, with Max Angelelli and Jan Magnussen at the wheel. Gee, just when you're starting to feel sorry for Angelelli he ups and wins. Marc Goossens and Jim Matthews creep up to finish second - giving everyone a heads-up on what was to come - followed in third by Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney in the Gainsco/Bob Stallings No. 99 Pontiac-Riley.
By sealing his second victory, Angelelli also closed to within two points of driving championship-leader Scott Pruett, who with Memo Rojas finished fifth. Third in the points and drawing within seven points were the guys in the red No. 99.
The stands were full enough for one series observer to proclaim Montreal "Our Long Beach." Others chose to think of it as "Our Montreal" because, if nothing else, LBGP president Jim "Crash" Michaelian wasn't running the show.
ROYAL BROUHAHA (Aug. 10) - Staring history square in the face but falling a little short at Montreal, the Gainsco/Bob Stallings No. 99 guys evidently were on a mission of redemption, if nothing else, and hit the Crown Royal 200 At The Glen running quite literally, in the process setting a qualifying and record-breaking pole position time (a Rolex Series record seventh-consecutive such pole position) at the two-day show. Jon Fogarty (33 lead laps) and Alex Gurney (48) all but ran away with the show, too, leading a combined 81 of the race's 82 total laps. The other lap leader? The No. 39 Crown Royal FABCAR-Pontiac driven by Christian Fittipaldi. Following on the heels of an even better Montreal Showing, these guys in the 39-car were getting faster and faster the deeper they went into the 2007 season.
What didn't get enough TV time in the minds of others was the end-of-race conflagration between Krohn Racing (evidently, the whole of it) and a second-place finishing Max Angelelli, who again teamed with Memo Gidley in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac-Riley from Wayne Taylor Racing. Earlier, Gidley had handed off to Angelelli who closed the Crown Royal race dodging and banging doors with the respective Green Machines of Tracy Krohn (76) and Colin Braun (75). Indeed, there'd be as many different caution flags as there were race leaders and, afterward, one yellow-flag cause - seen as Braun by Angelelli and Grand Am officials - would be handed a one-race suspension.
Finishing in third-place with Memo Rojas - after the CGRwFS team would all but rebuild the No. 01 car following their co-driver's Thursday off during practice - Scott Pruett fell and Angelelli rose to meet at a first-place championship points tie between the two. Gaining three points to close the gap and despite their car's swiftness, with only two remaining races Fogarty and Gurney felt like they were doing hardly little more than running with dream-like leaden feet.
ANOTHER PATH TAKEN (Aug. 13) - It's pretty safe to say that CGRwFS' Travis Bickel wouldn't have preferred to unalterably change his path at age 38, but as a result he subsequently gave more than 80 people a chance to change their paths for the better. In a very tangible way, Bickel will walk the Earth for years to come. R.I. P., Mr. Bickel.
ON BEING CAUTIOUS (Aug 25) - The blue No. 58 Red Bull Porsche-Riley was in the right place at the right time as the end of Infineon Raceway's Armed Forces Grand-Am 250 was within sight. Though hounded by Gurney in the Gainsco/Bob Stallings No. 99 Pontiac-Riley, Donohue had comfortably held the race point for more than 20 laps and with only seven remaining laps in an otherwise caution-free race and was on the verge of producing his team's first - and co-driver Darren Law's first-ever - DP victory since the 2003 season. On Lap 94, Donohue knew he was all but toast as he took the yellow so that Tracy Krohn's stranded car might be taken to a safer place. With Alex Gurney hounding him on the restart, Donohue getting passed soon thereafter was almost anticlimactic.
The Stallingsnators won the race, Donohue and Law stepped just a little higher into previously rarified air with a second while Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas kept up the excellent fight by finishing third.
Fogarty and Gurney head to the season finale at Salt Lake City with a tenuous points lead.
CHASING IT (Sept. 15) - Only three points separated the Rolex Series DP driving championship contenders when the show arrived for the season's final race at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney had a one-point lead over Scott Pruett; three points over Max Angelelli.
By race end the cars of each would either be chewed or burned up and causing a spate of finger-pointing that wouldn't change a thing: Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty would come out on top as Rolex Series Daytona Prototype driving champions.
Almost overlooked were race-winners Marc Goossens, Jim Matthews and Ryan Hunter-Reay. As though possessed, Goossens kept his No. 91 Riley-Matthews "factory" Pontiac-Riley ahead of the second-place No. 11 SAMAX Pontiac-Riley driven by Tomas Enge, who co-drove the race with Kris Szekeres and Ryan Dalziel. Finishing in third was the No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley of Colin Braun and Nic Jonsson.
And that was that for the 2007 Rolex Series' Daytona Prototype battle.
Excepting one thing: average the top-three drivers' finishes (in class, on which the points championship is based) and you get: Pruett, 3.86; Fogarty/Gurney, 4.64; Angelelli, 4.86.
DC Williams, written exclusively for Motorsport.com.