Laguna Seca: Toyota Lexus race report

PRUETT/DIAZ GIVE LEXUS SECOND STRAIGHT ROLEX SERIES WIN TORRANCE, Calif. (May 1, 2005) -- Scott Pruett took the lead with 50 minutes to go and never relinquished the top spot as he and co-driver Luis Diaz won the Road and Track 250 at Laguna...

PRUETT/DIAZ GIVE LEXUS SECOND STRAIGHT ROLEX SERIES WIN

TORRANCE, Calif. (May 1, 2005) -- Scott Pruett took the lead with 50 minutes to go and never relinquished the top spot as he and co-driver Luis Diaz won the Road and Track 250 at Laguna Seca to give Lexus its second consecutive Rolex Sports Car Series victory Sunday.

After qualifying third, Diaz ran solidly in the top five before turning the car over to Pruett on Lap 26. After falling back to eighth during the pit stop, the reigning series champion then maneuvered through the field before finally passing Butch Leitzinger for the lead on Lap 69 of the 97-lap race on the way to the victory.

The win was the second of the season and the sixth in 17 Rolex Series races for the #01 CompUSA Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley. In addition, it was Lexus' seventh win in a season and a half of Grand American competition.

The #60 MatlinPatterson Asset Management Lexus-Riley of Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson started from the pole position and held the lead for the first five laps before getting caught up in slower traffic, which shuffled the Michael Shank Racing entry back to sixth. An inopportune yellow dropped the car a lap down, but Patterson and Negri fought their way back on to the lead lap on the way to a ninth-place finish.

It was a roller-coaster day for Doran Racing's Matteo Bobbi and Fabrizio Gollin in the #77 Crown Royal Special Reserve Lexus Doran. After a solid eighth-place showing in qualifying, Bobbi moved the car into the top five. The outlook for the day turned sour on Lap 46, though, when contact was made with the #10 car driven by Max Angelelli. Race officials ruled that the contact between the two cars was avoidable by both drivers and each was given a drive-through penalty, effectively taking the #77 out of contention on the way to an 11th-place finish.

Things didn't go as well for the remaining two Lexus-powered entries. Stefan Johansson qualified the New Century Mortgage Lexus Riley fourth and moved up to second on Lap 6, but a punctured tire resulted in an un-scheduled pit stop on Lap 17 and dropped the Johansson/Cort Wagner mount a lap down. They would eventually place 17th. The DLGL Lexus Riley entry of Chris Bingham and Hugo Guenette rounded out the Lexus contingent with a 20th-place finish.

After four consecutive sprint races, the Rolex Sports Car Series and the Lexus Daytona Prototype program will return to action May 21 for the 6 Hours of Mont Tremblant in Quebec, Canada. Live SPEED coverage will begin at 11 a.m. EDT.

Quotes:

Scott Pruett, #01 CompUSA Lexus Riley: "It was just an awesome day for the CompUSA team and Lexus. To get two straight wins in this series is an accomplishment in itself. I just hate it for the fans though. I was hoping for a green-white-checkered for all the people that showed up to see a great race today. This one had it all. A little bit of everything. Hopefully it was as fun to watch as it was to drive in. Luis did a fantastic job again today, getting the car to me in one piece and working his way through traffic. You had to be aggressive out there, but also be aware of going three and four-wide at times. I guess the cream of the crop rises to the top, and that's how it unfolded."

Luis Diaz, #01 CompUSA Lexus Riley: "The entire team put together a great race. Scott fought hard all day and we were able to do it again in California (after winning the most recent event at the California Speedway). It's my job to get things going and turn the car over to Scott to close it out, and I think we combined to do that today."

Oswaldo Negri, #60 MatlinPatterson Lexus Riley: "Mark did a great job when he took the car over, and I am really happy for him here today. Of course, the Michael Shank Racing guys did another outstanding job and it was great to be working with the Lexus guys again, so I am pretty pleased. Our hope this weekend was to finish the race in the top 10, and to have got the pole yesterday was very special, so overall it was a good weekend for all of us."

Mark Patterson, #60 MatlinPatterson Lexus Riley: "What a thrill! It was so competitive out there and everybody was just driving 'elbows up' fighting for every inch of track and it was pretty much full contact. But it was a great race and the dedication of this Michael Shank Racing team is just amazing and to get a top 10 in our first start is really something else, because we saw how easy it was to get into trouble with other cars, so to get out of here with the race car in one piece and get a solid finish - it was a good weekend for us."

Stefan Johansson, #02 New Century Mortgage Lexus Riley: "We had another rough day for some reason. The car was fast and performing quite well. The tire that was going down early in the race really hurt us though. I'm not sure what happened exactly, but the guys did a good job on pit stops all day and we gave it our best shot."

Cort Wagner, #02 New Century Mortgage Lexus Riley: "Mechanical gremlins got to us again. I guess you can say it's another victory left behind for us. We were very strong all weekend and Stefan got us in a great position to contend from the start. This New Century team will not get down though. We'll continue to fight and we'll get the results. It's just a matter of time."

-toyota-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Chris Bingham , Hugo Guénette , Fabrizio Gollin , Stefan Johansson , Butch Leitzinger , Scott Pruett , Luis Diaz , Matteo Bobbi , Max Angelelli , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Mark Patterson , Michael Shank , Cort Wagner
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Doran Racing , Michael Shank Racing