Pruett & Diaz Retake Points Lead with GAINSCO Grand Prix Victory PHOENIX (May 13, 2006) -- No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley co-drivers Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz climbed back atop the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series ...
Pruett & Diaz Retake Points Lead with GAINSCO Grand Prix Victory
PHOENIX (May 13, 2006) -- No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley co-drivers Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz climbed back atop the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve Daytona Prototype championship standings with a victory under the lights at Phoenix International Raceway in the GAINSCO Grand Prix (SPEED, May 14, 3:00 p.m. ET).
Pruett claimed the lead on Lap 95, as Max Angelelli--who had won the race off pit road as all the leaders pitted on the previous lap--was forced to return to pit lane after the right front wheel was not properly attached. The No. 01 machine was not seriously challenged from that point onward, and Pruett went on to record a 9.026-second victory over Ryan Dalziel in the No. 89 Playboy/Vonage/Palms Casino Pontiac Riley. It was a Rolex Series-record 10th career Daytona Prototype victory for Pruett.
"Luis and the whole CompUSA team did a great job this weekend," Pruett said. "The competition was tough, and the track was challenging. I would like to thank Grand-Am for making the early decision to split the two classes for restarts. I believe this helped increase the level of racing action throughout the race and lowered the numbers of yellows."
With their third victory of the season, Pruett and Diaz--who led a race-high 50 laps in the GAINSCO Grand Prix--now lead No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley driver Jorg Bergmeister by seven points, 263-256, in the Daytona Prototype driver standings, with No. 19 Playboy/Uniden Racing Ford Crawford driver Michael McDowell just one point behind Bergmeister. Pruett and Diaz previously won the Mexico City 250 and the Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach, and the GAINSCO Grand Prix victory comes at halfway point in the 2006 season for the Daytona Prototype class.
"I was able to make clean passes and keep the car out of trouble early," Diaz said. "The CompUSA guys did a great job keeping the car running really good all day. Even though it's still relatively early in the season, the championship is always on my mind, and it's awesome to get a win to put us back in the lead."
Despite mechanical problems midway through the race, Dalziel managed to work his way forward in the closing stages. He was running fourth with 11 laps remaining, when second-place running Adrian Fernandez in the No. 12 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Pontiac Riley and third-place Michael McDowell in the No. 19 Playboy/Uniden Racing Ford Crawford made contact in Turn 9 and slid off course. That opened the door for Dalziel to take over second and score career-best Rolex Series results for himself and co-driver Alex Figge.
"When Alex handed the car over to me, it was running great," said Dalziel. "We hit a little bit of bad luck in the middle of the race when we lost a cylinder. There were so many things that went against us during the race, but we've been fast out there pretty much all season that this is the finish that the team deserves."
"At the start, it was very slippery and everybody was bunched up," said Figge. "I made some mistakes in traffic and made some good moves in traffic, and I thought I handed it over to Ryan in respectable position. Ryan did a great job finishing. We've had some speed this year, but a couple times, it didn't pan out. Tonight, Ryan really did a fantastic job."
Shane Lewis and Craig Stanton matched the best-ever result for the No. 3 Southard Motorsports BMW Riley with a third-place performance in the GAINSCO Grand Prix. Lewis and the No. 3 team also finished third in the Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach earlier this year with Bill Auberlen as Lewis' co-driver. Stanton, meanwhile, earned his best overall result in Rolex Series competition since 2003. Lewis and Stanton also won the "SunTrust Improve Your Position Award" for their charge from 13th on the grid.
Angelelli, whose only lap led came on Lap 94, and No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley co-driver Jan Magnussen--who led a total of 15 laps--wound up fourth. The performance was the third-straight top-four performance for Angelelli and the No. 10 team, following a second-place run in the VIR 400 last month and a victory in the Road & Track 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last weekend.
Fernandez and co-driver Mario Haberfeld completed the top five in the No. 12 machine. Haberfeld started from the pole position and led the first seven laps, and the team was in position for its first Rolex Series feature race podium until the late incident with McDowell.
McDowell and No. 19 co-driver Guy Cosmo came home sixth, followed by Bergmeister and Colin Braun in the No. 76 machine. Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty--who led 21 laps--finished eighth in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley, with Michael Valiante and Rob Finlay ninth in the No. 5 Make A Wish/Z-Line Designs/Finlay Motorsports Ford Crawford for Essex Racing. Christian Fittipaldi and Stefan Johansson completed the top 10 in the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve/Cheever Racing Porsche Crawford.
PONTIAC GTO.Rs COMPLETE GT PODIUM SWEEP AT PHOENIX
Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins won their third GT class race of the season in the No. 64 TRG/iRise Pontiac GTO.R Saturday night at Phoenix International Raceway and TRG teammates Andy Lally and Marc Bunting finished second in the No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R scored their fifth podium finishes to give TRG a 1-2 finish in the GAINSCO Grand Prix.
The victory by Edwards and Collins marks the 12th consecutive Rolex Series race that at least one TRG Pontiac GTO.R finished on the GT class podium, and a third place class finish by Boris Said and Ross Thompson in the No. 98 Pacific Coast Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R was the first-ever GT-podium sweep for the Pontiac GTO.R.
Collins took control of the No. 64 machine during the race's second caution period and never relinquished the lead, but held off a hard-charging Lally to win by a margin of just 0.310 seconds. Edwards started the machine fifth, but moved to the front of the class pack by the time his opening stint was over.
"This Phoenix track is a great track for the GTOs because it really fits our car," said Edwards. "It was a tough day because of problems with the power steering and air conditioning. It's good for momentum, because we've had some tough runs the past couple weekends. It's good to be back."
The No. 64 duo won back-to-back races at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City and Homestead-Miami Speedway earlier in the season, and coupled with a runner-up result at Virginia International Raceway and a fourth-place run last weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, have now logged top-four finishes in each of the last five races.
"Paul did a fantastic job at the beginning of the race," said Collins. "We didn't need the later caution periods because it allowed Boris and Andy to change tires and get back on us. Late in the race, we got lucky in some traffic and we ended up winning the race."
With the second-place finish, Lally and Bunting extended their lead in the GT point standings. The No. 65 duo is now eight points ahead of Robin Liddell and Wolf Henzler (247-239), who finished fourth at PIR in the No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3 for Tafel Racing. Collins and Edwards are tied for fifth with 229 points.
"We went down a lap early but other than that, everything was pretty smooth," said Bunting. "It is good to maintain our points lead and survive the heat. It was a good weekend all around."
Bunting started the No. 65 machine on the outside of the front row and briefly had the lead during his stint. After falling back to fourth in the order nearing the race's first caution period, the team found itself a lap down as the overall race leader was between the No. 64 and No. 65 cars. However, a later caution flag shuffled the machine back onto the lead lap, and Lally was right on Collins' bumper when the checkered flag waved.
"Marc started in second place and held the lead for a little bit, and he handed me over a good car," said Lally. "As soon as I pulled out I knew we had a good car. We were running just a little better lap times, but they would stretch us out at some points on the track. It is good to extend the points lead."
The podium finish by Said and Thompson in the No. 98 machine came in the car's second race in Rolex Series GT competition. Henzler and Liddell were fourth, followed Matthew Alhadeff and Bill Auberlen in the No. 05 enVista/GRW.com.mx/Motul BMW M3 for Sigalsport. It was the fourth straight top-seven finish for the No. 05 duo, and the fifth-place run from 13th on the starting grid gave the No. 05 team the GT-class "SunTrust Improve Your Position Award."
For the second straight race, the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford had its race spoiled by mechanical problems. In the GAINSCO Grand Prix, Mike Rockenfeller started the machine 19th on the grid and ran as high as fourth before the race's first caution period. When the German came down pit road, crew members went to work at the rear of the No. 23 car to replace the alternator. After a lengthy stop, Patrick Long headed back out on the track, but was forced to come back down pit road with leaking fluid. The No. 23 machine wound up 20th in the Daytona Prototype class... At the halfway point in the 2006 Rolex Series season, Lexus leads the Daytona Prototype engine manufacturer standings by seven points, 278-271, over Porsche. Pontiac, which has won the engine manufacturer title in each of the past two years, moved into third place with 258 points, two points ahead of Ford. In the Daytona Prototype chassis constructor standings, Riley--which swept the top five positions in the GAINSCO Grand Prix--leads Crawford by a count of 297 to 283. Pontiac leads the GT manufacturer championship by 16 points, 271-255, over Porsche... No. 5 Make A Wish/Z-Line Designs/Finlay Motorsports Ford Crawford driver Rob Finlay, who finished ninth with co-driver Michael Valiante, was honored as the top finisher in the GAINSCO Grand Prix among Daytona Prototype drivers competing for the Jim Trueman Award. No. 65 TRG/iRise/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R driver Marc Bunting was similarly honored for his second-place performance in the GT class, as he was the highest finishing driver in competition for the Bob Akin Award.