Birmingham: Penultimate round preview

Close Battle Expected As Rolex Series Heads to Alabama for Porsche 250 Presented by Bradley Arant DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (October 5, 2004) -- Considering that half of the races run in the 2004 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series have been won...

Close Battle Expected As Rolex Series Heads to Alabama for Porsche 250 Presented by Bradley Arant

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (October 5, 2004) -- Considering that half of the races run in the 2004 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series have been won by less than three seconds, it seems reasonable to expect yet another close battle in Sunday's Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. (SPEED Channel, Live, 1:00 p.m. ET).

The No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley of Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor won last Sunday's VIR 400 presented by SunTrust by a Rolex Series record 0.87 seconds over Scott Pruett and Max Papis in the No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley. In the Grand Prix of Miami in February, No. 2 CITGO Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford co-drivers Andy Wallace and Milka Duno beat the No. 81 Rx.com/G&W Motorsports of Cort Wagner and Kelly Collins to the stripe by a scant 1.9 seconds in a preview of what turned out to be a season of tight finishes.

In Round 3 at Phoenix International Raceway, Angelelli and Taylor took their first Rolex Series win of the season, topping Pruett and Papis by just 2.757 seconds. Pruett and Papis found themselves on the opposite end of a close finish with a 2.7 second triumph over Wallace and Duno in August's EMCO Gears Mid-Ohio Road Racing Classic, while Wallace and Duno came out the winners by 2.731 seconds over Angelelli and Taylor in the Miami 250 last month.

Given the fact that the No. 01, No. 2 and No. 10 cars have been regular participants in the close finishes, it only stands to reason that those drivers also represent the top six in the Daytona Prototype driver standings and will lead the charge at this weekend's penultimate round of the 2004 season at the state-of-the-art Barber circuit.

Papis and Pruett currently share the lead in the driver standings by five points (297-292) over Taylor, with Wallace just 13 points back. Angelelli is fifth with 269 points, two points better than Duno in sixth place. Those six drivers are also the only ones still alive in the Daytona Prototype points war heading into this weekend's race, but that won't keep the rest of the field from joining in this weekend's battle.

2003 Daytona Prototype champion Terry Borcheller and his No. 54 Kodak EasyShare Bell Motorsports Pontiac Doran co-driver Christian Fittipaldi are eager to return to victory circle for the first time since they won the '04 season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. What may work to the team's advantage is Borcheller's previous experience at the challenging, 2.3-mile, 16-turn facility, as he enters the race as a defending champion, while the aforementioned drivers have not yet raced at Barber.

Another driver looking to return to victory lane this weekend will be Rolex Series veteran Didier Theys, who last tasted victory champagne in August's Sahlen's 200 at The Glen with No. 27 Doran-Lista Racing Lexus Doran co-driver Jan Magnussen. Theys will share the driver's seat in the No. 27 this weekend with Italian Andrea Montermini.

Among those teams that haven't yet won in 2004, a few teams stand out as candidates for a breakthrough this weekend. The No. 4 Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford pairing of Elliott Forbes-Robinson and Butch Leitzinger enter the Porsche 250 on the strength of back-to-back top-four finishes, including a season-best result of third in the Miami 250 in mid-September. Their recent performance may be an indicator that a victory is in the offing.

The No. 02 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing duo of Luis Diaz and Jimmy Morales have finished inside the top five in each of their last two starts and a pair of third-place performances earlier in the season proves that they know how to find their way to the podium. They would love nothing more than to make it to the top step this weekend.

The No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Lexus Doran of Oswaldo Negri Jr. and Burt Frisselle and the No. 81 Rx.com/G&W Motorsports BMW Doran of Cort Wagner, Brent Martini and Kelly Collins are also likely contenders, providing that their teams have the cars ready to go. Negri and Wagner were involved in a frightening crash last weekend in the VIR 400 presented by SunTrust, and while the drivers walked away without injury, the cars needed significant work to be ready for the Porsche 250.

The No. 58 Red Bull Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar driver pairing of Darren Law and David Donohue knows what it's like to come back from a big crash, as the No. 58 took a big hit during the Miami 250 in September. However, Donohue and Law were back in action last weekend at VIR and ran near the front for quite some time. Perhaps they will drive their Porsche-powered car to victory in the Porsche 250.

Further bolstering this weekend's Daytona Prototype field will be the No. 7 Southard Motorsports BMW Fabcar of Shane Lewis and Vic Rice, the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Pontiac Crawford of Stephan Gregoire and Doug Goad, the No. 39 The Spark of Georgia Tech Pontiac Crawford of Larry Huang and Chris Hall and the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar of Hurley Haywood and JC France.

After missing out on a victory celebration in the Miami 250, BMW returned to its winning ways last weekend in the GT category with class points leader Bill Auberlen and co-driver Justin Marks driving their No. 21 Prototype Technology Group BMW M3 to the GT victory in the VIR 400. It was Auberlen's seventh class victory of the season, and led a 1-2 sweep of the GT class for PTG as Boris Said and Joey Hand finished second in the No. 22 BMW M3.

PTG also claimed the top spot in qualifying as 18-year-old Tom Milner put the team's new No. 16 BMW M3 on the GT class pole position. Clearly, all of the BMWs rate among the favorites to take the GT class win, but they're not going to get it without a challenge from the Porsches.

Likely candidates for a Porsche triumph include The Racer's Group owner/driver Kevin Buckler, who won the GT class in the Miami 250 along with co-driver Tom Nastasi and will share the cockpit of the No. 67 Porsche GT3 RS with Robert Nearn. Likewise, the No. 66 The Racer's Group Porsche GT3 RS trio of Chris Gleason, RJ Valentine and Ian James should also be a factor providing that their car is ready. James was also involved in the VIR incident with Negri and Wagner. Another Porsche to watch this weekend will be the No. 60 Gunnar Racing GT3 RS, which will be shared by Gunnar Jeannette and Marino Franchitti, the brother of Indy Racing League IndyCar Series star Dario Franchitti.

Speaking of Porsches, the Super Grand Sport (SGS) class will feature a host of Porsches battling it out at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend. Leading the way will be the three-car assault from TPC Racing. Owner/driver Michael Levitas and his co-driver Randy Pobst have driven the No. 36 Porsche GT3 Cup to SGS class victory in each of the past two races.

Andy Lally and Marc Bunting share the points lead and the cockpit of the No. 38 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup and have finished on the class podium in nine of 10 starts this season, including a victory in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen in June. The No. 37 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup of John Littlechild and Bill Adam has also visited victory lane this season.

Wayne Nonnamaker is another SGS class winner this season, having taken wins in the Paul Revere 250 presented by Brumos Porsche and the EMCO Gears Mid-Ohio Road Racing Classic, and he leads a three-car entry for ORISON-Planet Earth Motorsports. Nonnamaker is expected to drive the team's No. 42 Porsche GT3 Cup, with his father, Joe, and brother, Will, sharing the team's No. 41 Porsche GT3 Cup. Brett and Sam Shanaman are slated to drive the No. 43 ORISON-Planet Earth Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup.

Not to be overlooked in the SGS field are Gene Sigal--who finished on the podium in the Miami 250--driving the No. 04 Grease Monkey Racing Porsche GT3 Cup, and Cory Friedman and Leh Keen, who drove the No. 14 Autometrics Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup to a third-place class result last weekend at VIR.

Also on the docket for this weekend is Round 9 of 10 of the 2004 Grand-Am Cup Series, the Grand-Am Cup 250, which takes the green flag at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, October 9. Borcheller--who competes in both Rolex Series and Grand-Am Cup Series events--leads the Grand Sport (GS) points chase by seven points over Craig Stanton (214-207), while co-drivers Will Turner and Don Salama hold an 18-point advantage over the driving tandem of Sylvain Tremblay and David Haskell (239-221) heading into this weekend's race.

The weekend schedule gets underway on Friday, October 8 with a Rolex GT and SGS class practice session beginning at 9:20 a.m. CT. At 9:50 a.m., the Daytona Prototypes join the GT and SGS cars on track until 10:50 a.m, followed by a Daytona Prototype only session from 10:50 to 11:20 a.m. The Grand-Am Cup Series gets its first look at Barber Motorsports Park on Friday afternoon from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m., followed by another Rolex Series practice session fro 2:10 to 2:55 p.m. The Grand-Am Cup Series winds down the day's activities on Friday with a practice session from 3:40 to 4:35 p.m.

On Saturday, the Grand-Am Cup cars takes to the track at 9:00 a.m. CT for a 50-minute practice session, followed by an hour-long Rolex Series session from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. At 11:10 a.m., the Grand-Am Cup Series ST class starts its 15-minute qualifying session, with Grand-Am Cup GS qualifying slated for 11:35 to 11:50 a.m. At 12:50 p.m., the Rolex Series GT and SGS cars get the green flag for 15 minutes of qualifying, followed by the Daytona Prototype qualifying session from 1:15 to 1:30 p.m.

The Grand-Am Cup 250 takes center stage at 2:00 p.m. CT on Saturday. The scheduled distance of the race is 250 miles (109 laps) and is subject to a three-hour time limit, and the race will be televised on SPEED Channel at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, October 24.

Sunday's schedule will see the Rolex Series machines make their final pre-race adjustments in a 15-minute practice session from 9:40 a.m. to 9:55 a.m.CT., followed by Round 11 of the 12-race 2004 Rolex Sports Car Series, the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant, which is scheduled to start at 12:00 p.m. CT.

The Porsche 250 is also scheduled for 250 miles (109 laps), with a time limit of two hours and 45 minutes and will air live on SPEED Channel beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET. Live Timing & Scoring data is available via Zippo Live Timing as well as a live audio webcast will be available on the official web site of the Grand American Road Racing Association, www.grandamerican.com.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Milka Duno , Shane Lewis , Chris Hall , Jan Magnussen , Boris Said , Didier Theys , Stephan Gregoire , Max Papis , Christian Fittipaldi , Dario Franchitti , Scott Pruett , Bill Auberlen , Joey Hand , Randy Pobst , Elliott Forbes-Robinson , Kelly Collins , Luis Diaz , Kevin Buckler , Wayne Nonnamaker , Ian James , David Haskell , Andy Lally , Terry Borcheller , Hurley Haywood , David Donohue , JC France , Gunnar Jeannette , Max Angelelli , Tom Nastasi , Sylvain Tremblay , Marino Franchitti , Andrea Montermini , Justin Marks , Will Turner , Chris Gleason , Michael Levitas , Don Salama , Jimmy Morales , Craig Stanton , Cory Friedman , Brent Martini , Sam Shanaman , John Littlechild , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Marc Bunting , Vic Rice , Robert Nearn , Chip Ganassi , Gene Sigal , Lehman Keen , Michael Shank , Cort Wagner , Bill Adam
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Michael Shank Racing