Mexico City: Finlay Motorsports preview

THE REALLY BIG SHOW Finlay Motorsports will expand to a 2-car Daytona Prototype team for the Grand American Mexico City series finale, and Michael McDowell will compete in both the Rolex Series and Champ Car events Fast Facts * The...

THE REALLY BIG SHOW

Finlay Motorsports will expand to a 2-car Daytona Prototype team for the Grand American Mexico City series finale, and Michael McDowell will compete in both the Rolex Series and Champ Car events

Fast Facts

* The Finlay Motorsports logo will appear on three different cars in Mexico City, two Daytona Prototypes and a Champ Car.

* Michael McDowell will drive in both the Rolex Series event on Saturday and the Champ Car race on Sunday; this is the first time a driver has competed in both a major sports car and open-wheel race in the same weekend since Mario Andretti did it in 1975.

* Finlay Motorsports drivers will race two different Daytona Prototypes in Mexico City; the team's regular #19 car will be co-driven by McDowell and Memo Gidley, while the #05 car fielded by Essex Racing will be driven by Rob Finlay, making his debut as a Prototype driver, and rising Canadian star Michael Valiante.

* Jose Guillermo "Memo"Gidley was born in La Paz, and is a citizen of both Mexico and the U.S. He spent most of his childhood in Mexico, where he still has family and friends.

With a well-deserved reputation for putting on a fast, competitive, thoroughly professional show during Grand American Rolex Series events, Finlay Motorsports will add a new dimension in Mexico City and put on a really BIG show as well.

The team will expand to a 2-car effort for Saturday's Rolex Series race, and, on Sunday, team driver Michael McDowell will make a little history by running in the Champ Car race.

The familiar driving duo of McDowell and co-driver Memo Gidley will race the Finlay Motorsports #19 Air Force Reserve / Make-A-Wish Foundation / Commercial Defeasance Dinan-powered Riley that so far in 2005 has scored five top-5 and four top-10 finishes, as well as a 2nd-place result that saw McDowell, a 20 year-old phenom from Phoenix, become the youngest driver ever to stand on the podium at a Daytona Prototype event.

Joining them on the grid for the start of Saturday's 250-mile, 90-lap, 2 ¾-hour Rolex Sports Car Series 250 will a new driver pairing; team owner/driver Rob Finlay, making his first-ever start in a Daytona Prototype, and Michael Valiante, the Canadian open-wheel racing star who raced in the Champ Car event here in 2004 with Walker Racing. Valiante has co-driven with Finlay Motorsports in three events so far this year and will join the team as a full-time driver in 2006. The Finlay/Valiante duo will be racing the #5 Ford-powered Crawford fielded by the Essex Racing team.

The Finlay/Valiante/Crawford/Ford combination is particularly significant as it provides the team with a real-world test run for Finlay Motorsports' new mechanical package for the 2006 Rolex Series season. While driver assignments have yet to be determined, the team has announced that it will field a 2-car team of Ford-powered Crawford prototypes with powerplants provided by Roush & Yates Engines.

"I'm really excited about running my first Daytona Prototype race, and happy to be sharing the car with a talented driver like Michael Valiante and working with a terrific team owner like Mike Gue from Essex," says Finlay. "Our mission in Mexico City is to learn as much as possible about the Ford-Crawford since that's the car Finlay Motorsports will be running next year, and to finish well in the race, both for our own satisfaction and to help Essex Racing retain their position in the Hoosier Pacesetter program for 2006."

Once the Saturday Rolex Series event is completed, McDowell will switch gears -- both figuratively and literally -- and focus on competing in his second-ever Champ Car event, driving the #31 Rocketsports Racing/ Commercial Defeasance/Make-A-Wish Ford-powered Lola in Sunday's Gran Premio de Mexico. McDowell made his debut as a Champ Car driver two weeks ago in Surfer's Paradise, Australia, finishing 12th after an unscheduled pit stop to replace the nose when the front wing was knocked off by debris from an accident involving another car.

"To do two major races in two completely different kinds of cars on the same weekend is both a huge challenge and a tremendous opportunity," says McDowell. "Particularly since the way the schedule is set up, there are several times during the weekend that I'll be getting out of one car and immediately getting into the other. A lot of people were involved in helping me develop the skills that could be an asset to two top teams in two top series, and I'll be doing my very best this weekend to make sure that they all agree this was a good idea."

In racing both sports cars and open-wheel cars during the same season, McDowell, 20, from Phoenix, Arizona, will be joining the ranks of such multi-talented legends as Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt. In racing both during the same weekend at the same track, one has to go back 30 years and more to find an example.

According to motorsports historians, on April 4-5, 1959 at Daytona, A.J. Foyt, Jim and Dick Rathman and Len Sutton all participated in both a 100-mile USAC Champ Car race and a 1,000km sports car race; and on July 13-14, 1974 at Watkins Glen, Sam Posey and David Hobbs co-drove in an 8-hour sports car endurance race, then ran the F5000 open-wheel race. Mario Andretti did the same double in 1975.

"We're running new cars, new drivers and racing in two different series in front of several hundred thousand fans at a track only one of us has ever seen before," says Finlay Motorsports team manager Steve Cameron. "So there's definitely a lot going on this weekend, but it's all very positive and designed to accelerate us down the road to where we want to be for 2006. One of the big strengths of this team is that everybody is a seasoned professional, and when it comes to the crunch, they all know how to dig in and make it happen. "

On track activities begin with a Rolex series practice session from 8:30 am to 9:30 am Friday morning. The 15-minute qualifying for the Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes takes place from 5:30 pm to 5:45 pm Friday afternoon. The 250-mile/2 ¾-hour Rolex Sports Car Series 250 is scheduled to take the green flag at 3:00 pm Saturday afternoon. The race will be broadcast live on the SPEED Channel beginning at 4:00 pm ET.

The Champ Cars take to the track for the first time at 10:15 am Friday morning for a 1 hour and 15-minute practice session. Final qualifying takes place from 12:45 pm to 1:45 pm Saturday afternoon, and the Gran Premio Telemex-Tecate Presented by BanaMex takes the green flag at 2:45 pm Sunday afternoon. The race will be broadcast live on the SPEED Channel beginning at 3:30 pm ET.

-fm-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Memo Gidley , Michael Valiante , Dan Gurney , Mario Andretti , Michael McDowell , David Hobbs , Sam Posey , Rob Finlay , A.J. Foyt , Steve Cameron