Champions Week: Max Papis & Scott Pruett
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (December 24, 2004) -- When the vaunted Chip Ganassi Racing empire announced that Scott Pruett and Max Papis would drive its No. 01 CompUSA-sponsored Lexus Riley for the 2004 season, it became immediately clear to all onlookers that this was a driver pairing designed with the specific goal of winning the Daytona Prototype title.
Here were two drivers with deep sports car racing roots and impeccable credentials. Pruett was just coming off a season in which he thoroughly dominated the competition en route to the Trans-Am Series championship--his sixth career championship.
Papis--although he didn't have an auto racing championship on his résumé--came highly-regarded as well, with Champ Car race wins to go with a previous sports car racing career that was still fresh in the minds of many. Their driving talent combined with the incredible resources at their disposal within the Ganassi operation clearly rated the Papis and Pruett duo among the favorites entering the season.
They flexed their muscle straightaway, with Pruett putting the No. 01 on the pole position for the world-renowned Rolex 24 At Daytona. It was the first of a Rolex Series single season-record 11 pole positions from 12 events.
However, while they rose to the occasion almost every time on qualifying day, there was still a bit of a learning when it came to race day--at least in the early stages of the season. After opening the season with a sixth-place class finish at Daytona and a seventh-place run at Miami, the duo paid their first visit to the podium in Phoenix with a second-place performance.
They finally delivered on the promise in Round 4 at Mont-Tremblant by taking their first victory of the season, and that triumph gave them a points lead that they would never relinquish. They would go on to record three more victories, in the Paul Revere 250 presented by Brumos Porsche at Daytona in early July, the EMCO Gears Mid-Ohio Road Racing Classic in August, and the season-ending Lexus Grand American 400k at California Speedway with which they clinched their Daytona Prototype title.
As a testament to the level of competition in the Daytona Prototype category, however, Pruett and Papis scored the fewest class victories for a champion in the Rolex Series' top class since Didier Theys also had four wins en route to his SRP title in 2001. Indeed, the Ganassi duo had their hands full throughout the season, particularly against the likes of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley duo of Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli in addition to Andy Wallace and Milka Duno in the No. 2 CITGO Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford. In fact, Papis and Pruett entered the season finale with just a three-point advantage in the points race over Taylor with Wallace still very much in contention for the title as well.
But when the chips were down, Pruett and Papis responded the way champions do, they went out and won the race. Few would have expected anything less.