GRAND-AM HONORS ROLEX SERIES, KONI CHALLENGE CHAMPS
AT ROLEX CHAMPIONSHIP BANQUET AT SEMINOLE HARD ROCK
Racing Legends Bell, Haywood Join Festivities
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 14, 2009) - Top competitors in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 and Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge were honored Monday evening at the Rolex Champions Banquet presented by SunTrust at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla.
Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty, Leh Keen, Dirk Werner, Ken Wilden and Christian Miller were recognized as the 2009 driving champions, while Mark Patterson, Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Josh Hurley were among the winners of other major awards.
The banquet marked the first time champions in both the Rolex Series and KONI Challenge were recognized at the same function. Racing legends Derek Bell and five-time Rolex 24 winner Hurley Haywood were among the surprise award presenters at the affair.
"It is just amazing to look out and see 500 members of our Grand-Am family here, and I look out and realize it's been 10 years," said Grand-Am President Roger Edmondson. "This is the first time we've had the awards for both of our series at the same time. I've said it before, but it seems truer every year - this is the best road racing on the planet, and we're going to take it to heights no one imagined back in the dark ages."
The driving champions in both Rolex Series classes received Rolex Daytona Chronograph watches, presented by Chuck Kalb on behalf of Rolex Watch USA. GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing earned a $10,000 championship award from Bosch, while Farnbacher Loles Racing earned $5,000 from Bosch.
Gurney and Fogarty shared their second Daytona Prototype championship with seven podium finishes in 12 races for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing. They also won the 2007 title for the team.
"Winning one race in this series is a lifetime achievement award," GAINSCO team owner Bob Stallings said. "It's very difficult running against owners like Wayne Taylor, Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi, Mike Shank and Brumos. I'm humbled to be up here for the second time as team champion."
The championship came down to the last race of the season, Saturday's Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway, with only 10 points separating Gurney and Fogarty from 2008 co-champions Scott Pruett and Rojas. Max Angelelli - the 2005 champion - and Brian Frisselle entered the finale only eight points out of the lead.
"As I savor the championship, it's pretty sweet," Fogarty said. "But without the hard work and effort of the competition, I would have no appetite for this."
Gurney echoed his teammate.
"I would like to thank the competition for making it so hard for us," Gurney said. "We didn't believe at times we would win this championship, but Bob Stallings had no doubts that we would come out on top - and he was right."
Ford won the Daytona Prototype Manufacturer Championship, scoring podium finishes in 11 of 12 races, and Jamie Allison accepted on behalf of the company. Riley Technologies repeated as winners of the Daytona Prototype Constructor Championship, winning eight times. Bill Riley accepted the trophy for the sixth straight year.
The No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley and co-drivers Pruett and Rojas took second in the standings with eight podium finishes. Finishing third was the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara team of Angelelli and Frisselle.
Patterson became the first two-time winner of the Jim Trueman Award as the top sportsman driver in the Daytona Prototype class. Making the presentation was Haywood.
The Daytona Prototype SunTrust Improve Your Position was accepted by Haywood and Joao Barbosa for the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley. Haywood stepped in at the last minute to co-drive with Barbosa for the Grand Prix of Miami, and the duo went on to win the two-and-a-half hour race.
Penske Racing drivers Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas shared the MESCO Building for the Future Rookie of the Year Award. They scored eight top-10 finishes in the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley and finished fourth in the championship.
The Acxiom GT championship was awarded to Farnbacher Loles Racing teammates Werner and Keen. The pair had four victories and finished third in Saturday's finale. The No. 87 Porsche GT3 also won the team championship, with team co-owner Greg Loles accepting the award on behalf of the team. Porsche won the GT Class Manufacturer Award, with President and CEO Paul Ritchey accepting on behalf of Porsche Motorsports North America.
"The cornerstone for us and for any team is execution and preparation," Loles said. "At the end of the day, the key is execution. The banquet was extra special to us, with so much recognition for our drivers and team."
Keen was also presented with the Bob Akin Award by Bell as the top sportsman driver in the GT class.
"It was really special to see Leh step up and become a big-time driver," Loles said. "That validated everyone's work. This year, he and Dirk - along with the rest of the team - did a phenomenal job."
Finishing second was 2008 champion Kelly Collins, driver of the No. 07 Team Drinkin' Mate Pontiac GXP.R. Collins and regular co-driver Paul Edwards scored their only victory of 2009 in Saturday's race. Taking third was Andrew Davis, driver of the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports/BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R, who shared three victories this year with Robin Liddell.
The 2009 Pirelli P-Zero Club award is a season-long competition for teams to earn points for not only on-track performance but promotional and publicity activity to support the series. AIM Autosport was the winner in the Daytona Prototype class and was awarded $50,000, while TRG won in the GT Class, receiving a $25,000 bonus for its No. 66 Porsche GT3.
TRG's No. 65 TRG/Riegel Autosport Porsche GT3 earned the $10,000 SunTrust Improve Your Position Award, accepted by TRG owner Kevin Buckler.
The No. 58 Brumos Porsche team was voted the winner of the 2009 Rolex Moment of the Year in fan balloting for winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona, which was the closest contested finish of a major international 24-hour race ever.
In the KONI Challenge, Wilden, driver of the No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT, was recognized as the Grand Sport (GS) champion, while Miller, driver of the Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si, received top accolades in the Street Tuner (ST) class. The season finale for the series was held Oct. 4 at Virginia International Raceway.
James Gue and Bret Seafuse of No. 37 JBS Motorsports Ford Mustang GT were second in the GS points standings, while Matt Bell - driver of the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 - placed third. Kristian Skavnes and Andrew Aquilante in the No. 111 Subaru Road Racing Team Subaru Legacy were second in ST, with Compass360's Randy Pobst third.
The SunTrust Improve Your Position awards were received by Will Turner of Turner Motorsport (GS) and Andrew Carbonell of Freedom Autosport (ST). Ford garnered the manufacturer award for the GS class, while Honda topped the ST class.
Josh Hurley, driver of the No. 171 APR Motorsport Volkswagen GTI, received the MESCO Building for the Future Rookie of the Year Award.
The 2010 Rolex Series schedule was announced Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, while the 2010 KONI Challenge schedule will be announced in the near future.
The next activity for the Rolex Series will be testing in December at Daytona International Speedway. The 2010 season officially gets underway with Jan. 8-10 "Roar Before the Rolex 24" Test Days at Daytona, leading up to the 48th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Jan. 30-31.