Miller Motorsports Park Thursday summary

First Day of Practice For Discount Tire Sunchaser TOOELE, Utah (August 31, 2006) -- Defending Daytona Prototype co-champion Max Angelelli clocked a lap time of 2:38.561 (101.851 mph) around the 4.486-mile, 24-turn Miller Motorsports Park in...

First Day of Practice For Discount Tire Sunchaser

TOOELE, Utah (August 31, 2006) -- Defending Daytona Prototype co-champion Max Angelelli clocked a lap time of 2:38.561 (101.851 mph) around the 4.486-mile, 24-turn Miller Motorsports Park in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley during the first of three practice sessions Thursday to lead the opening practice day for Saturday's nine-hour Discount Tire Sunchaser, the final round of the 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve (SPEED, Live, Part 1 -- 2:00 p.m. ET, Park 2 -- 8:30 p.m. ET).

Angelelli is sharing the No. 10 machine this weekend with his 2005 championship-winning co-driver Wayne Taylor and rising star Ryan Hunter-Reay. Angelelli comes into the weekend still alive in the 2006 Daytona Prototype driver championship picture, currently 23 points behind leader No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley co-driver Jorg Bergmeister (437-414).

"I think it's probably going to be the fastest tomorrow and that's what I'm shooting for," Angelelli said. "We're looking good, but obviously the other guys are not standing by and I'm sure they will be fast."

German Mike Rockenfeller was second-quickest in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford with a time of 2:38.707 (101.757 mph). Rockenfeller will have two new teammates sharing the driving duties with him this weekend as Ralf Kelleners and Terry Borcheller both make their debut in the No. 23 machine this weekend.

"We didn't have the opportunity to test here, so we had to go through our complete setup routine and we are pretty close," said Rockenfeller. "We don't have the torque to match our competitors so we need to be better under braking and through the corners. We have only ever run the car in the dark at Daytona. With the lighting there it is very near day light, this place gets dark! With lights coming at you from different directions it is going to be important to maintain your concentration for the last hour."

Third-fastest was Brazilian Oswaldo Negri Jr. in the No. 60 Flight Options/Net APP Lexus Riley for Michael Shank Racing with a lap at 2:39.027 (101.553 mph), also in the morning session. Negri and co-driver Mark Patterson--who comes into the weekend with a healthy lead in the Jim Trueman Award standings--have finished inside the top-10 in seven races this year.

"The car was great right off the truck and having tested here really prepared us for that," said Negri. "We've only been making little changes to the car so far, and Mark did a great job today even when he was running on old tires, so we are pretty optimistic about the race. The last few laps we ran tonight, though, I think it is too dangerous out there in the dark on this track. If someone drops a wheel and blows up a dust cloud, it's just impossible to see through it, very dangerous."

Scott Pruett was fourth-fastest in the No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley he is sharing with regular co-driver Luis Diaz and IndyCar Series competitor--and Rolex 24 At Daytona winner--Scott Dixon with a lap time of 2:39.208 (101.437 mph). Pruett and Diaz have 418 championship markers apiece on the strength of a series-leading five victories this season, and along with Angelelli and Bergmeister, are still mathematically eligible to win this year's Daytona Prototype crown. Canada's Michael Valiante rounded out the top five in the No. 5 Make-A-Wish/Z-Line Designs/Finlay Motorsports Ford Crawford with a lap time of 2:39.571 (101.206 mph).

In the GT class, No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3 co-driver Wolf Henzler was quickest with a time of 2:54.738 (92.422 mph). Henzler and Tafel Racing teammate Robin Liddell were victorious last weekend at Infineon Raceway, and trail class points leaders Marc Bunting and Andy Lally--co-drivers of the No. 65 TRG Pontiac GTO.R--in the standings by a mere eight points (474-466) coming into this weekend.

"For the championship, we are eight points behind and in the end we are going to do the race like every other race," Henzler said. "However it comes out in the end, we'll take it. We'll try hard to win the race and see what comes out. It's very hard to drive in the night because there's absolutely no light. In some corners, you can't see the track because there is no curb."

Lally was second-fastest in the No. 65 machine--also coming in the second session--with a time of 2:55.836 (91.845 mph). Lally and Bunting--the 2004 SGS class co-champions--have four victories this season, and will be joined this weekend by Spencer Pumpelly.

"We have been going through our pre-race program according schedule," Lally said. "The team is also trying to get Spencer Pumpelly comfortable in the car. We tested here so there are no real surprises, except for how dark it is when the sun goes down. It is tough to tell the track from the gravel in some sections. A lot of cars were bringing dirt onto the track, so survival come night fall will be key."

No. 64 TRG/iRise Pontiac GTO.R co-driver Paul Edwards was third-fastest on the day with a lap time of 2:56.204 (91.653 mph). Edwards and co-driver Kelly Collins have scored eight podium finishes in 2006, including three victories.

"We had a good day during the daylight," Edwards said. "We were able to stay toward the top of the timing chart and get Kris Wilson some time behind the wheel. The dust on the track combined with what will also probably be a lot of tire pickup by night fall is going to make it hazardous out there at night. It is going to be important to try get your work done on the track before 8:00 p.m. and ride out the dark hour."

Ian James put the No. 74 Rembrandt Charms Porsche GT3 he is co-driving with Eric Lux fourth on Thursday's speed chart with a time of 2:57.716 (90.873 mph), followed by Tommy Kendall in the No. 05 Sigalsport Pontiac GTO.R, who logged a lap at 2:58.444 (90.502 mph).

The Rolex Series machines will take to the track again Friday morning at 10:00 a.m. local time for another practice session, with qualifying for the nine-hour Discount Tire Sunchaser scheduled for the afternoon. The green flag drops on the season finale on Saturday at 12 p.m. local time.

-credit: MillerMotorPark.com

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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Paul Edwards , Ralf Kelleners , Scott Dixon , Scott Pruett , Wayne Taylor , Robin Liddell , Michael Valiante , Kelly Collins , Luis Diaz , Ian James , Jörg Bergmeister , Max Angelelli , Spencer Pumpelly , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Marc Bunting , Chip Ganassi , Mike Rockenfeller , Mark Patterson , Wolf Henzler , Eric Lux , Kris Wilson , Michael Shank , Tommy Kendall
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing , Michael Shank Racing