Raphael Matos, Ian James, and John Pew scored a surprising victory Saturday in the SunRichGourmet.com 1000 at Miller Motorsports Park. Matos, this year's Indy Lights champion, took the lead from Alex Gurney during the race's sixth an final caution period and led the remaining 27 laps. He crossed the finish line 29.398 seconds ahead of SunTrust Racing's Max Angelelli, handing the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley its first ever Rolex Series win. And he did it all with no dash, no radio, no telemetry in the car.
"The car was very strong at the end of the race and that's why I was able to pull a gap (on Angelelli," said Matos. "This is a happy moment for everyone and a great way to finish the season."
"I can't describe the feeling," added Pew. "It should have happened a long time ago. I thought a win was possible but it took longer than we thought."
With two second place finishes and a win in the last three races of the season, Angelelli and his teammate, Michael Valiante, gave the SunTrust Racing some much needed momentum heading into the off-season. Traditionally one of the strongest teams in the Rolex Series, the SunTrust squad struggled in 2008, especially after its transporter burned to the ground while returning from the race at Laguna Seca in May.
Last year's Rolex Series champions, Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney, came home third in the Gainsco Racing Pontiac Riley. The No. 59 Brumos Porsche Riley shared by Joao Barbosa and J.C. France finished fourth, followed by Ricardo Zonta and Nic Jonsson in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola.
Rounding out the top-10 were the AIM Autosport Ford Riley, Bob Stallings/Riley-Mathews Pontiac Riley, Alex Job Racing Porsche Riley, Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley, and No. 58 Brumos Porsche Riley.
Ganassi Racing's Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas captured the Daytona Prototype drivers' championship and the Ganassi team won its third team championship in the last five years. Pruett now has eight major sports car racing championships to his credit, breaking a record held by the late Peter Gregg. Pruett's titles include a Daytona Prototype championship in 2004, International Motorsports Association GTO titles in 1986 and 1988, an IMSA GT Endurance title in 1986, and Trans-Am championships in 1987, 1994, and 2003.
"We hoped to finish a little higher today, but we were turned around late in race, but we did what we had to do," stated Pruett. "After three straight seasons finishing second in this championship, it's great to be back on top. The record is great, but I'll look back on that more at the end of my career. Right now, it's all about winning this championship and all the guys that have worked so hard. Nobody puts together a better effort than Chip Ganassi."
Not to be outdone, Rojas became the first Mexican driver to win a major championship in the United States. "It's been a great season, from winning the Rolex 24 all the way to wrapping up the championship today. It's just been a privilege to drive for the Chip Ganassi Racing team with such great support from Lexus, Telmex, and of course, my teammate, Scott. It's also a great honor to become the first driver from my country to win a major racing championship - and this is really for all the people back in Mexico."
Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards, driving the No. 7 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R, won the GT class for the fourth time this year, finishing one lap ahead of Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell in the Stevenson Motorsport Pontiac GXP.R. Andy Lally, Patrick Long, and Tim George, Jr. came home third in the No. 67 Racer's Group Porsche. Davis and Liddell ended up nine points behind Collins and Edwards in the championship. The Mazda SpeedSource duo of Nick Ham and Sylvain Tremblay finished third in the championship.
"This is exactly the way that Paul and I wanted to do it," explained Collins. "We didn't want to do it any other way. We wanted to win this championship. This is ours. We had the most wins. It was fantastic. This is absolutely textbook - just the way we wanted to do it."