Phoenix: Daytona Prototype race report

Fittipaldi & Bergmeister Tie Rolex Series Record by Becoming Sixth-Different Overall Winners in 2005 at Racetickets.com 250 PHOENIX (September 10, 2005) -- In a Saturday night fight under the lights at Phoenix International Raceway, No. 66 Krohn...

Fittipaldi & Bergmeister Tie Rolex Series Record by Becoming Sixth-Different Overall Winners in 2005 at Racetickets.com 250

PHOENIX (September 10, 2005) -- In a Saturday night fight under the lights at Phoenix International Raceway, No. 66 Krohn Racing/TRG Pontiac Riley driver Christian Fittipaldi struck the knockout blow when he charged past the No. 6 Mears Motor Coach Pontiac Riley of Oswaldo Negri Jr. in Turn 1 with 23 laps remaining to score a victory for himself and co-driver Jorg Bergmeister in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series Racetickets.com 250 (SPEED Channel--Sunday, 4 p.m. ET).

Fittipaldi and Bergmeister became the sixth different set of co-drivers to claim an overall win, tying the Rolex Series record for most different winners in a single season established last year. The duo also capped a successful weekend at Phoenix for the TRG team, which won Friday's Phoenix GT 250 with No. 64 TRG Pontiac GTO.R co-drivers Jan Magnussen and Paul Edwards, making TRG the first team to sweep all classes in a Rolex Series weekend.

"I have to admit everyone was pretty aggressive on the restarts," Fittipaldi said. "I had to be a bit more cautious, and I gave up a couple positions because of it. There were a bunch of people who thought they were going to win the race on the first lap. A bunch of them spun and lost their noses. After a couple laps, the car came together. Everyone was having a hard time out there, but at least our car was quick. With about 10 laps to go, we had a big lead, so I backed off completely. The team did a great job, and I'm really happy."

On a night where almost every car had at least some scrapes, Bergmeister slipped into an early hole when the car lost its nose following contact with Wayne Taylor's No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley on the opening lap. The ensuing pit stop dropped Bergmeister to 17th in the running order, and he spent the rest of his stint making up lost ground.

"In the first corner, I thought the race was over when I lost the nose of the car," Bergmeister said. "I had a little contact with Wayne (Taylor), I tried to go around him on the outside and he closed the door. I had to brake, and he turned in and ripped off my nose. We dropped down in the field, and we put the nose back on under caution. The guys did an awesome job putting it back on the car, and we didn't lose a lap. From that point on, I just tried to work my way back up to the front, and give it to Christian."

Bergmeister turned the car over to Fittipaldi on Lap 61, and Fittipaldi found his way to the front for the first time on Laps 75 and 76 prior to his decisive pass on Lap 124. It was the second overall Rolex Series victory for both Bergmeister and Fittipaldi, as Bergmeister previously claimed an overall triumph in the 2003 Rolex 24 At Daytona and Fittipaldi did the same in the twice-around-the-clock classic one year later.

While Bergmeister and Fittipaldi won the race, Daytona Prototype points co-leaders Taylor and Max Angelelli may have taken a significant step towards winning their first Rolex Series championship with a second-place performance. Aside from Taylor's opening lap dustup with Bergmeister, he and Angelelli managed to stay out of trouble throughout the Racetickets.com 250 en route to a second-place finish.

The same could not be said for their closest competitors in the title chase, as the night came to a premature end for No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley co-drivers Luis Diaz and Scott Pruett. Diaz led a race-high 48 laps before giving way to Pruett on a Lap 62 pit stop.

Pruett also led for 10 laps, but disaster struck the team in Turn 1 on a Lap 79 restart, when the defending Daytona Prototype co-champion was hit from behind by Michael McDowell's No. 19 Make A Wish/Air Force Reserve/Commercial Defeasance BMW Riley. The contact damaged the No. 01 car beyond repair, relegating Diaz and Pruett to a 16th-place result.

The No. 01 team's misfortune, coupled with Angelelli and Taylor's second-place result, gives the No. 10 duo a healthy, 36-point advantage in the Daytona Prototype championship standings with just three races remaining. It was the fifth consecutive podium result for Angelelli and Taylor and their eighth in 11 season starts.

"I think the plan was to come away from the race with maximum points against the No. 01 car," Taylor said. "The championship at this stage is down to us and that car. It is really disappointing that they had to go out of the championship the way they did. I'm not crying about it, but it's a tough break for them when these things happen. We kept our nose clean and got second-place points."

"Because we are getting closer to the end of the season, it didn't make sense to take any risks, especially when I had cars around me," Angelelli added. "We had to think about the championship. When I saw the No. 01 crash in the wall, it made no sense for me to fight with anyone."

No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford co-drivers Elliott Forbes-Robinson and Butch Leitzinger finished third in an eventful race for the Howard-Boss Motorsports teammates. Forbes-Robinson had to take evasive action in Turn 1 on the opening lap when polesitter Terry Borcheller spun his No. 54 Kodak EasyShare Pontiac Doran following contact with Mike Borkowski in the No. 6 Pontiac Riley, dropping him well down the order.

Forbes-Robinson gave way to Leitzinger on Lap 20, who battled his way back to the front and took the lead on Lap 77. However, Leitzinger's hopes of winning were dashed when Negri made contact with the left rear corner of the No. 4 machine in Turn 9 on Lap 107. The contact forced Leitzinger to spin and lose the lead, but Leitzinger persevered for the sixth podium result of the season for himself and Forbes-Robinson.

Cort Wagner and Stefan Johansson overcame plenty of obstacles of their own to record their fourth top-five result of the season with a fourth place showing in their No. 02 New Century Mortgage Lexus Riley for Chip Ganassi Racing. Borkowski and Negri, who combined to lead 29 laps, finished fifth despite each driver being penalized one minute during their stints for avoidable contact.

NOTEBOOK

Several drivers were assessed penalties for avoidable contact in the Racetickets.com 250. In addition to the fifth-place finishing Oswaldo Negri Jr. and Mike Borkowski, who were each given one-minute penalties for their roles in two different incidents, Michael McDowell also received a one-minute penalty for his contact with the car of Scott Pruett. No. 3 PAP-Parts/OZEXE BMW Riley driver Shane Lewis also served a one-minute penalty for contact with the No. 54 car of Ralf Kelleners between Turns 10 and 11 on Lap 88-- Although attendance figures were not released, Phoenix International Raceway officials confirmed that the Racetickets.com 250 was the track's best-attended Rolex Series race ever. The Rolex Series has been racing at PIR annually since the series' inception in 2000.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Shane Lewis , Paul Edwards , Stefan Johansson , Jan Magnussen , Butch Leitzinger , Ralf Kelleners , Christian Fittipaldi , Scott Pruett , Wayne Taylor , Luis Diaz , Michael McDowell , Max Angelelli , Mike Borkowski , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Cort Wagner
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing