CONTROVERSIAL CALL COSTS NEGRI, LEXUS SHOT AT LAGUNA WIN TORRANCE, Calif. (May 7, 2006) -- With less than thirty laps to go in the Road & Track 250, it appeared that Oswaldo Negri was on the way to his first Daytona Prototype victory and Lexus'...
CONTROVERSIAL CALL COSTS NEGRI, LEXUS SHOT AT LAGUNA WIN
TORRANCE, Calif. (May 7, 2006) -- With less than thirty laps to go in the Road & Track 250, it appeared that Oswaldo Negri was on the way to his first Daytona Prototype victory and Lexus' fourth of the season only to see a controversial officials' call drop him from the lead all the way back to 19th-place at Laguna Seca Raceway Sunday.
The controversial call came on Lap 60 when Negri's Michael Shank Racing #60 Flight Options Lexus-Riley was leading the race and heading down the front straight when a full-course caution was called. The pace car began to roll as Negri was heading full speed into Turn One. After the pace car came out behind the Brazilian, Grand Am officials declared that he was to blame for the pace car not catching him as he led the field and penalized the team by sending it to the back of the pack and out of contention for the victory. Despite the penalty, Negri climbed back up to finish 11th.
The incident was just one of many that saw the pace car lead 35 of the 88 laps in a race that was shortened from a scheduled 112 laps due to the two-hour, 45-minute time limit. Unfortunately, two of the other incidents also affected Lexus-powered cars and cost each a top-10 finish and, in the case of Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz, a potential victory as well.
Pruett and Diaz' shot at a win was lost on Lap 41 when the #5 car made contact with Pruett in his #01 CompUSA Lexus-Riley while Pruett was running in third-place. The contact sent the Lexus-powered car off-course and dropped him to 25th-place. Down, but not out, Pruett rallied to record an eventual 10th-place showing -- the top finish by a Lexus-powered car today. The duo remain in third-place overall in points.
The #6 Mears Motor Coach Lexus-Riley driven by Mike Borkowski and Antoine Bessette also had a top-10 run going before he, too, was knocked off track by the #5 entry. Borkowski eventually recovered for a 13th-place finish. The race was the debut performance in Rolex Sports Car Series action for the impressive Canadian Bessette, a graduate of the Toyota Atlantic Championship.
The Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series returns to action next weekend at Phoenix International Raceway for the Gainsco Grand Prix on Saturday race. Next weekend's activities also will include the series third of five full points-paying qualifying races to be run on Friday and also will set the grid for Saturday's feature race.
OSWALDO NEGRI, #60 Flight Options Lexus-Riley: "I don't understand it at all. It completely ruined our race and a chance at a win today. The car was perfect, the crew did a great job, and I know we would have been strong at the end, but I guess it just wasn't our day today."
MARK PATTERSON, #60 Flight Options Lexus-Riley: "It's a shame to be officiated out of a win like that. Clearly Oz was in control of the race, so to have all this work taken away is very disappointing."
MICHAEL SHANK, MSR team owner: ""It's really disappointing. Both cars were obviously very competitive today, and to have it all thrown away by a tough call by the officials is very frustrating."
SCOTT PRUETT, #01 CompUSA Lexus-Riley: "We struggled a little from the start this weekend to be honest. But getting hit and spun around halfway through the race never helps. There was a lot of contact out there today all around, and unfortunately we were the victims in a big one that sent us back to 25th after we were running in third. It's frustrating because we kept fighting and clawing our way back into the race. Points-wise we came out okay, but this could have been our day. Laguna's always been one of my favorite circuits. It's just a classic road racing layout. This was a great event-- it's just too bad we couldn't repeat our win from last year."
LUIS DIAZ, #01 CompUSA Lexus-Riley: "I think we, as a team, struggled to find the setup this weekend, and although it might not have shown today in the race, we still had our work cut out for us. The championship is the most important thing, and we'll stay focused on that. Coming home 10th today after what we endured is what I'm thinking about. Scott gave it his all, and we'll be strong in Phoenix next Saturday night."
MIKE BORKOWSKI, #6 Mears Motor Coach Lexus-Riley: "I guess Valiante wasn't happy just sending the Ganassi car into the gravel trap, and wanted to do the same to me. Maybe he just didn't like that I'd passed him, I don't know, but he just crashed right into me. And poor Oz (Negri) was right behind us and he had to go off track to make sure I didn't hit him."
ANTOINE BESSETTE, #6 Mears Motor Coach Lexus-Riley: "This is fun. You have to be very careful out there because you are running very close with the other cars, but you can't mistake that for a chance to pass just because you are close. You really have to set up a pass to do it cleanly in the traffic. It was also different for me because I had to keep in mind saving the car a little bit for Mike (Borkowski), so it was a different challenge than running in formula cars, and I really can't wait to race again soon."