Phoenix: Toyota Lexus DP race report

DOMINATING PERFORMANCE GOES FOR NAUGHT FOR LEXUS AT PHOENIX TORRANCE, Calif. (Sept. 12, 2005) -- After dominating the first half of the race, the ...

DOMINATING PERFORMANCE GOES FOR NAUGHT FOR LEXUS AT PHOENIX

TORRANCE, Calif. (Sept. 12, 2005) -- After dominating the first half of the race, the #01 CompUSA Lexus-Riley of Luis Diaz and Scott Pruett saw it all go for naught when Pruett was hit by another car and knocked into the wall on a re-start just past the midway of Saturday night's Phoenix 250. The car that caused the incident was penalized by Grand American officials, but the hard contact with the wall resulted in heavy rear-end damage for the #01 and the CompUSA team was forced to retire in 16th place.

Prior to the incident, Diaz registered a spectacular drive. After taking the lead on Lap 15, the second-year driver pulled out a 17-second lead and lapped all but the top eight cars before a string of yellows bunched the field. Instead of cutting into the championship lead with a potential victory, Pruett and Diaz lost 17 points. They remain in second place, but now trail by 36 points with just three races remaining.

"This is just so costly for us," said Diaz. "I can't believe it. This was a real crucial race for us in the championship and we had no control over what happened to us tonight."

The #02 New Century Mortgage Lexus-Riley driven by Cort Wagner and Stefan Johansson suffered their share of ups and downs as well at Phoenix. After starting eighth, Wagner maneuvered into the top-five in the first 40 laps. Their run to the front was de-railed shortly afterward as the car was spun around while passing lapped traffic, dropping them back into eighth-place.Down, but not out, Wagner handed the car off to Johansson on Lap 61 and the Swede put on an impressive show as he moved into the top three late in the race. A late "push" condition dropped them back to an eventual fourth-place finish. The result moved the squad into a tie for fifth-place in the championship.

"This place is like Bristol for sports cars," said Wagner after the incident-filled event. "It's exactly what I predicted would happen-- lots of on-track tempers and not enough room to vent. I think we all know what happens when Bristol hosts the NASCAR races. This might as well be our version of Bristol."

The Daytona Prototypes return to Watkins Glen for the Crown Royal 250, Saturday, September 24, to be run in conjunction with the IRL's Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix weekend. The race will be televised live on SPEED at 3:00 pm ET.

-toyota-

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