History-Making Rolex Series Season Set To Close with a Flourish in Lexus Grand American Champions Week DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (October 26, 2004) -- Just a few miles from Tinseltown, the drivers and teams of the Grand American Rolex Sports Car...
History-Making Rolex Series Season Set To Close with a Flourish in Lexus Grand American Champions Week
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (October 26, 2004) -- Just a few miles from Tinseltown, the drivers and teams of the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series enter Lexus Grand American Champions Weekend at California Speedway looking to put a "Hollywood ending" on the most competitive season in series history in Sunday's Lexus Grand American 400k (SPEED Channel, Live, 4 p.m. ET).
After more than 56 hours and 4,700 miles of close and competitive racing, the season-long war for Rolex Series driver, team, manufacturer and constructor championships will come down to 89 laps (249.2 miles/400 km) or two hours and 45 minutes of wheel-to-wheel action around the 2.8-mile, 21-turn California Speedway road circuit.
Daytona Prototype driver championship co-leaders Scott Pruett and Max Papis, who share the team championship-leading No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley, have led the standings since their maiden triumph in the 6 Heures du Circuit Mont-Tremblant in May. The duo has two additional victories--in June's Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen and the EMCO Gears Mid-Ohio Road Racing Classic--to go with the win in Canada, and another win on Sunday would sew up the driver and team titles, as well as the chassis constructor championship for Riley Technologies.
However, if Papis and Pruett are to win the race--or the championship--they will need to outperform another Riley team in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley operation of car owner/driver Wayne Taylor and co-driver Max Angelelli. While Angelelli is not likely to win the championship after missing the Mid-Ohio race earlier this year, and because he shares a car with Taylor--who will finish ahead of Angelelli in points as soon as Taylor drives a lap under green-flag conditions in the race--Taylor enters the Lexus Grand American Champions Weekend just three points (327-324) in arrears of Papis and Pruett.
Taylor and Angelelli have also won three races this season and are riding a streak of four straight podium finishes, including a victory in the VIR 400 presented by SunTrust earlier this month. Should they win this weekend, Taylor will take the 2004 Daytona Prototype driver's crown as well as the team title for SunTrust Racing.
While the "win and you're in" championship scenario applies for Pruett and Papis as well as Taylor, No. 2 CITGO Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford driver Andy Wallace will need some help from the frontrunners if he is to take the Daytona Prototype driver title away. Wallace enters the race trailing Pruett and Papis by 18 points and would need the co-points leaders to finish 15th or lower in the Daytona Prototype class and Taylor and Angelelli to finish 12th or lower in class in order to take the championship with a win for himself and co-driver Milka Duno.
Duno--who stands 35 points adrift of the co-points leaders--has been effectively eliminated from the title chase, and will be eliminated officially as soon as Wallace drives a lap under green flag conditions in Sunday's race. Nevertheless, both Wallace and Duno would gladly accept their third race-winner's trophies this weekend.
Likewise, the No. 54 Kodak EasyShare Bell Motorsports Pontiac Doran pairing of 2003 Daytona Prototype champion Terry Borcheller and Christian Fittipaldi would love to "bookend" their 2004 season with a win in the season finale. Almost nine months ago, Borcheller, Fittipaldi, Forest Barber and Andy Pilgrim opened the year with a triumph in the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona, and became the first set of co-drivers to win races in a record-setting season.
In total, a Rolex Sports Car Series record six different teams have won races in 2004. The No. 27 Doran-Lista Racing Lexus Doran duo of Jan Magnussen and 2002 California Speedway overall race winner Didier Theys established the record by becoming the fifth different team to win thanks to a triumph in the Sahlen's 200 at The Glen. Earlier this month, No. 4 Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford co-drivers Butch Leitzinger and Elliott Forbes-Robinson--who will celebrate his 61st birthday on Sunday's race day in California--extended the record to six different teams in their Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant victory at Barber Motorsports Park. They too would like nothing more than to earn another victory to close out the season.
However, there are also a host of teams and drivers that haven't yet won in 2004 and are looking to this weekend for a breakthrough. The No. 02 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Lexus Riley driving tandem of Luis Diaz and Jimmy Morales have been close on more than one occasion this year, as have Oswaldo Negri Jr. and Burt Frisselle in the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Lexus Doran and Southern Californians Brent Martini and Cort Wagner in the No. 81 Rx.com/G&W Motorsports BMW Doran.
Others to watch will include the No. 7 Southard Motorsports BMW Fabcar of Vic Rice and Shane Lewis; the intriguing duo of 2003 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and his IndyCar teammate Darren Manning, who will co-drive a third CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley (No. 8); the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Racing Pontiac Crawford of Doug Goad and Stephan Gregoire; the No. 18 Chase Competition Engineering Chevrolet Chase of Johnny Miller and Hugo Guenette; the new No. 31 Margraf Racing Pontiac Riley to be shared by 2003 California overall winner Mike Borkowski and newcomer George Nolte; the defending race champion No. 58 Red Bull Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar of David Donohue and Darren Law and the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar of Hurley Haywood and JC France.
For all intent and purposes, the title fight for the GT driver's championship will come down between a pair of former co-drivers, Bill Auberlen and Boris Said. Auberlen has eight class victories in the No. 21 Prototype Technology Group BMW M3, the last four of which came with rookie co-driver Justin Marks. Largely as a result, Auberlen holds a seven-point advantage (348-341) over Said, who closes out the 2004 season sharing the No. 22 PTG BMW M3 with Joey Hand after running the first five races as a co-driver with Auberlen. All four drivers will also be working to wrap-up the GT manufacturers championship for BMW.
While the No. 21 and 22 BMWs clearly rate among the class favorites, one must also not discount the fleet of Porsches from The Racer's Group, including the No. 66 Porsche GT3 RS of RJ Valentine, Chris Gleason and Ian James and the No. 67 Porsche GT3 RS of team owner/driver Kevin Buckler and his co-driver, Patrick Flanagan. The Scuderia Ferrari of Washington Maserati Light GTs have also shown impressive speed of late making the No. 33 SFoW Maserati of Emil Assentato and Stephen Earle, the No. 34 of Jeff Segal and Kurt Buchwald and the No. 35 of Rusty West ones to watch as well.
In Super Grand Sport (SGS), TPC Racing has virtually owned the class throughout the season, with No. 38 TPC Porsche GT3 Cup co-drivers Marc Bunting and Andy Lally sitting in the catbird seat for the class championship on the strength of two class victories and a 16-point lead over team owner/driver Michael Levitas, who shares the No. 36 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup with Randy Pobst. Likewise, John Littlechild and Bill Adam could factor into the SGS outcome in the No. 37 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup, as could Gene Sigal and Harrison Brix in the No. 04 Grease Monkey Racing Porsche GT3 Cup and Wayne, Will and Joe Nonnamaker in the No. 41 ORISON-Planet Earth Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup.
In addition to the Rolex Sports Car Series, the 2004 Grand-Am Cup Series will also draw to a close with this weekend's Lexus Grand American 250 on Saturday, October 30. Heading into the final race, No. 11 Powell Motorsport Cadillac CTS-V driver Borcheller leads No. 43 TheRaceSite.com Racing Porsche 996 driver Craig Stanton in the Grand Sport (GS) class driver standings, 246-242, while No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW 330i co-drivers Will Turner and Don Salama share the Sport Touring (ST) points lead over the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 duo of David Haskell and Sylvain Tremblay, 264-256.
The weekend schedule gets underway on Friday, October 29 with Rolex Sports Car Series GT and SGS practice from 9:20 to 9:40 a.m. PT. >From 9:40 to 10:40 a.m., the Daytona Prototypes join their Rolex Series brethren on track, before a Daytona Prototype only practice session from 10:40 to 11:20 a.m. The Grand-Am Cup Series sees its first activity beginning at 1:00 p.m. on Friday with a one-hour practice session, followed by another Rolex Series practice from 2:10 to 2:55 p.m. The Grand-Am Cup Series winds down Friday's activities with a practice session from 3:40 to 4:35 p.m.
On Saturday, October 30, the Grand-Am Cup cars are first on-track for practice from 9:00 to 9:50 a.m. PT, followed by an hour-long Rolex Series practice session beginning at 10:00 a.m. At 11:15 a.m., the Grand-Am Cup Series ST class takes the green flag for a 15-minute qualifying session, followed by Grand-Am Cup GS qualifying from 11:40 to 11:55 a.m. At 12:55 p.m., the Rolex Series GT and SGS machines begin their final, 15-minute qualifying session of the season, followed by the Daytona Prototype qualifying from 1:20 to 1:35 p.m. At 2:00 p.m., the 2004 Grand-Am Cup Series season finale, the Lexus Grand American 250, takes the green flag.
The race's scheduled distance is 250 miles (89 laps) and is subject to a three-hour time limit. SPEED Channel will provide tape-delayed television coverage of the race on Sunday, November 7 at 5:00 p.m. ET.
Sunday's race day activities get underway at 10:00 a.m. PT with a final, 15-minute practice session for the Rolex Sports Car Series, followed by the Lexus Grand American 400k, which gets underway at 1:00 p.m. The race will be televised live on SPEED Channel beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET.
Live timing & scoring data from every on-track session will be available through Zippo Live Timing on the official web site of the Grand American Road Racing Association, www.grandamerican.com. The site will also feature live audio webcasts of Saturday's Lexus Grand American 250 and Sunday's Lexus Grand American 400k.