Nancy Knapp Schilke
Dalziel & Potolicchio surprise winners at Mid-Ohio season finale.
Ganassi Racing & Brumos Racing celebrate 2011 championships!
The Grand-Am Rolex Series season finale was definitely packed with action at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in both the Daytona Prototype class and the GT class. On the final restart, Ryan Dalziel took the lead for the victory in the Starworks Motorsport Ford Riley he shared with Enzo Potolicchio. Second place was Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas who claimed the DP championship just past the 30 minute mark of the 2 hour and 45 minute race. Third went to GAINSCO Bob Stallings Racing’s Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty.
This is absolutely huge for Starworks.
Dalziel and Pruett both tasted the win as the duo traded off the lead several times. Pruett snuck past Dalziel who later replied back in a move that was surprising before taking the checkered flag by .416 seconds. “This is absolutely huge for Starworks. We’ve been through some rough years, but Peter (Baron) keeps brining me back,” said Dalziel.
“This victory was more emotional for me than winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona last year. Today was one of those days when it all comes together. At the end, I was driving my butt off to stay ahead of Scott. I said in my head, ‘I’m going to win or wreck.’ I’m also excited to win for Ford,” he added.
Rookie Potolicchio landed his first DP victory and said, “It was an amazing race, and it’s unbelievable – I can’t believe I’m up here. It’s all my teammate (Dalziel). I felt good with my job, I kept a good pace. Then Ryan drove an amazing race.”
Celebrating was the Chip Ganassi Racing team as they clinched the 2011 Rolex championship. It was the third one for Rojas and Pruett as co-drivers. Pruett now has four as he won the title previously with Luis Diaz. It was the fifth championship for the team. Even though the season’s final race win slipped out of their hands when Dalziel made his bold move over Pruett in the No. 01 TELMEX BMW/Riley, Pruett was smiling as he said, “It’s been an incredible year for us. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve been focused as a team to get our car to the front as much as possible. All my championships are great. I never thought I’d still be winning championships at this point in my career.”
Fogarty had the lead early in the race but they got caught out on a full course caution and ended up in fifth place but still he and Gurney fought back in their Chevrolet Riley. “It was an interesting race with the different strategies, and we had a car capable of winning, but it just didn’t go our way 100% of the time today,” Fogarty said. “I’m still proud of the guys, and Alex did an awesome job. He had some issues with the car, something came apart in rear suspension, and he definitely had to fight the last half hour of that race.”
The GT battle was the most intense on the final lap as the front runners were nose-to-tail and looking for the right opportunity. It was the pole winning team from Stevenson Motorsports who took the victory in their Camaro. Robin Liddell and Ronnie Bremer handed Chevrolet not only today’s win but their first GT manufacturers’ title.
“When I was sitting there in fourth, I thought that was the best we were going to do. But we made some small changes on our last pit stop, and that gave us enough to have the car to win. Near the end I was aggressive in the right places and managed to get by the Mazdas one by one. It was really hard from the driver’s seat, but I’m happy to get the title for Chevrolet, that was real important for us,” said Liddell.
Taking second was the SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 in the hands of Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal. Third went to the other Mazda team of James Gue and Dane Cameron for Dempsey Racing.
The big winner in GT today finished fourth in the race. Brumos Racing elected to leave the Daytona Prototype class to take on the GT class with a Porsche GT3 Cup and as they crossed the finish line, Andrew Davis and Leh Keen became the champions by a mere two points over Jordan Taylor and Bill Lester, who departed the race earlier. That left Sylvain Tremblay and Jonathan Bomarito in the captain’s seat as they were holding the points lead but as the clock ticked off the minutes, Keen’s crew was able to get him in and out of the pits faster than Bomarito.
"My stint was very eventful. Coming from the back to the front was a lot of fun. Our strategy helped, but once I was up front, I was able to drive away. It was great to lead a few laps after our disappointment in qualifying,” said Davis.
“At the beginning of the year, Brumos Racing team manager Hurley Haywood sat us down and told us we were going to race to win races and championships. Winning the championship in our first year shows what Brumos is made of. This championship feels better than my first, doing it the way we did it and how it all unfolded, bringing Brumos back to GT. At first we wanted just to get a podium. Then we kept winning and winning,” said Keen.