Lexus season preview

LEXUS BOLSTERS CHAMPIONSHIP LINE-UP FOR RUN AT TITLE REPEAT IN '07 TORRANCE, Calif. (Jan. 5, 2007) -- After winning the 2006 Grand-Am Daytona Prototype Manufacturer's Championship with just two teams and three cars, Lexus has bolstered its...

LEXUS BOLSTERS CHAMPIONSHIP LINE-UP FOR RUN AT TITLE REPEAT IN '07

TORRANCE, Calif. (Jan. 5, 2007) -- After winning the 2006 Grand-Am Daytona Prototype Manufacturer's Championship with just two teams and three cars, Lexus has bolstered its line-up to include four teams and five cars for the 2007 campaign as the manufacturer looks to repeat its title.

Returning for 2007 are Chip Ganassi Racing, the 2006 team champion, and Michael Shank Racing, which clinched the Manufacturer's Championship for Lexus with its first victory in the 2006 finale at Salt Lake City. Both teams have been with Lexus since the manufacturer entered Daytona Prototype competition in 2004.

Ganassi Racing will field one full-time entry and a second entry for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. With a pair of team championships in the past three seasons, to go along with 13 victories and a triumph at the prestigious Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2006, the team has established itself as one of the top teams in the series. Once again, veteran driver Scott Pruett will lead the way. Pruett is the all-time Daytona Prototype win leader with 12. Arguably the finest sports car racer of his generation, the northern California native has won six championships and two runner-up finishes in eight seasons of sports car competition since 1985 including a runner-up finish a year ago. He'll be joined this season by Mexican open-wheel ace Memo Rojas in the #01 Telmex Lexus-Riley. Rojas will make his series debut at Daytona.

Michael Shank Racing will return with two entries once again this season. Oswaldo Negri and 2006 Jim Trueman Award winner Mark Patterson will be back in the #60 Flight Options Lexus-Riley. The duo won the final race of 2006 and will look to build upon that this season. Patterson placed sixth overall last season, while Negri finished eighth after missing one event. They'll be joined by a pair of newcomers in the #6 Lexus Riley as Henri Zogaib and Ian James join the operation. While both are relative newcomers to the Daytona Prototype ranks, each has experience in the sports car ranks with James an accomplished pilot in both the U.S and Europe.

Two new teams join the ranks this season as Southard Racing moves over from the BMW camp, while AIM Autosport will campaign a full season after getting their feet wet with one race in 2006.

The Ohio-based Southard team earned a pair of podium finishes last season and will look to earn its first win in 2007 with team stalwart Shane Lewis joined by former Trans-Am runner-up Randy Ruhlman in their #3 Preformed Line Products Lexus-Riley. Lewis, a former bull-rider, is in his fifth season with the team and was in the car for both of the team's third-place finishes last season.

AIM Autosport has established itself as one of the top young talent evaluators in the sport after enjoying success in a variety of open-wheel ladder series including Star Mazda and Formula BMW. Program graduate Mark Wilkins makes the move up the ladder with the team and will co-drive with brothers Burt and Brian Frisselle, who will alternate in the car on a race-by-race basis. The Frisselles showed well in a brief stint with Michael Shank Racing to close out 2006. AIM is one of the few Canadian-based teams in major American motorsports today.

Lexus earned seven victories including last season's Rolex 24 on the way to its first-ever Manufacturer's Championship in 2006. Overall, the luxury automaker has registered 15 wins and 21 pole positions in 40 Grand-Am Daytona Prototype events over the past three seasons. Lexus will focus its motorsports efforts exclusively on the Rolex Sports Car Series in 2007.

-credit: lexus/toyota

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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Shane Lewis , Scott Pruett , Randy Ruhlman , Ian James , Memo Rojas , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Chip Ganassi , Mark Wilkins , Mark Patterson , Brian Frisselle , Henri Zogaib , Michael Shank
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing , Michael Shank Racing