Sears Point: Penultimate round preview

Bergmeister Heads West Looking to Clinch 2006 Daytona Prototype Title in Sonoma 250 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 22, 2006) -- Under a number of different scenarios, German racer Jorg Bergmeister can wrap up the 2006 Daytona Prototype driver ...

Bergmeister Heads West Looking to Clinch 2006 Daytona Prototype Title in Sonoma 250

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 22, 2006) -- Under a number of different scenarios, German racer Jorg Bergmeister can wrap up the 2006 Daytona Prototype driver championship in Saturday's Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve Sonoma 250 (SPEED, Sunday, August 27, 3:00 p.m. ET).

Bergmeister owns three victories and has not finished worse than ninth in any of his 12 feature race starts this season, which gives him a cushy, 29-point lead over No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley driver Max Angelelli heading into this weekend's penultimate race. He will co-drive the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley with Sweden's Nic Jonsson for the Sonoma 250, and will clinch the title if he leaves California's wine country with a points lead of 36 points or more.

That said, Bergmeister had his worst feature race result of the season two weeks ago in the Crown Royal 200 at The Glen with a ninth-place run, and his primary challengers for the championship--Angelelli and No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley co-drivers Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz--both gained ground on Bergmeister. With their victory, Pruett and Diaz pulled to within 32 markers of Bergmeister and trail Angelelli by just three points owing to Angelelli's second-place performance.

A similar performance this weekend might not dislodge Bergmeister from his perch atop the standings, but it could create a nervous situation for Bergmeister and the Krohn team heading into the season-ending nine-hour Discount Tire Sunchaser at Miller Motorsports Park on September 2.

Certainly, Angelelli and his No. 10 co-driver, Jan Magnussen, are capable of winning on any weekend, and Angelelli has not finished worse than fourth in a feature race since Round 4 at Long Beach. Angelelli and Magnussen were victorious in the last Rolex Series visit to California--May's Road & Track 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca--and a sweep of the Northern Californian events would definitely keep Angelelli's title hopes alive.

Likewise, California has been very good to Pruett, Diaz and the Chip Ganassi Racing team. Until Angelelli and Magnussen won at Laguna Seca, Pruett and the No. 01 team had won every Daytona Prototype race in the Golden State since joining the series in 2004, a run of four straight that began with the 2004 season finale at California Speedway and ended following a victory in the Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach in April. Pruett and Diaz would love to start a new California winning streak this weekend, especially considering that the Sonoma 250 qualifies as a "home" race for Pruett, who resides in Auburn, Calif.

The inaugural Sonoma 250 is even closer to home for No. 19 Playboy/Uniden Racing Ford Crawford driver Memo Gidley, who hails from nearby Novato, Calif. Gidley and co-driver Michael McDowell are still looking for their first feature race victory of the season, and McDowell remains in mathematical contention for the Daytona Prototype championship. However, McDowell will be eliminated as soon as Bergmeister competes under green flag conditions on Saturday afternoon.

No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley driver Jon Fogarty is also local to Infineon Raceway as he makes his home in Portola Valley, Calif. Fogarty and co-driver Alex Gurney are searching for their first Rolex Series victory but have come tantalizingly close, including the Crown Royal 200 at The Glen earlier this month when Gurney started from the pole position and led throughout his stint before a mishap during the team's lone pit stop ruined their bid.

No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford co-drivers Mike Rockenfeller and Patrick Long head into the Sonoma 250 riding a streak of three-consecutive podium results in Rolex Series competition. They will be looking for their third feature victory of the season this weekend.

Adrian Fernandez and Mario Haberfeld, who co-drive the No. 12 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Pontiac Riley, are also looking to add another feature victory to their 2006 total in the Sonoma 250. Fernandez and Haberfeld won the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in June.

There are several other teams that haven't yet won in 2006 but could score a breakthrough victory in the Sonoma 250. Likely candidates include Ryan Dalziel and Alex Figge in the No. 89 Vonage/Playboy/Palms Casino Pontiac Riley, 2003 Daytona Prototype champion Terry Borcheller and San Jose resident Harrison Brix co-driving the No. 77 Kodak/Amp'd Mobile Ford Doran, road racing ace Boris Said and car owner Tracy Krohn sharing the No. 75 Krohn Racing Ford Riley, Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri Jr. in the No. 60 Flight Options/Net App Lexus Riley, David Donohue and Darren Law co-driving the No. 58 Brumos/Red Bull Porsche Riley, Christian Fittipaldi and Eddie Cheever Jr. in the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve/Cheever Racing Porsche Crawford, Brian Frisselle and Mike Borkowski sharing the No. 6 Playboy/Michael Shank Racing/Mears Motor Coach Lexus Riley, Rob Finlay and Michael Valiante in the No. 5 Make A Wish/Z-Line Designs/Finlay Motorsports Ford Crawford, Andy Wallace and Butch Leitzinger co-driving the No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford, and Shane Lewis and Craig Stanton in the No. 3 Southard Motorsports BMW Riley.

Completing a robust, 25-car entry list are Brian Tuttle and Jonathan Cochet in the No. 7 Tuttle Team Racing Pontiac Riley, Spencer Pumpelly and Patrick Huisman co-driving the No. 8 Synergy Racing Porsche Doran, three-time Rolex Series race winner Milka Duno and Canadian open-wheel ace Patrick Carpentier in the No. 11 CITGO Racing by SAMAX Pontiac Riley, Matthew Alhadeff and two-time Rolex Series GT champion Bill Auberlen in the No. 30 4M/Motul/enVista BMW Riley, Greg Pickett and 1996 Indy Racing League champion Scott Sharp co-driving the No. 31 XCYTO Energy Drink Pontiac Riley, Randy Ruhlman and Canadian road racing expert Ron Fellows in the No. 40 Preformed Line Products/Key Bank Pontiac Riley, multi-time Trans-Am champion Paul Gentilozzi and co-driver Tomy Drissi in the No. 50 Rocketsports Racing Ford Crawford, and sports car legend Hurley Haywood and JC France in the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley.

The GT class returns to action at the Sonoma 250 after nearly a month-long break. Andy Lally and Marc Bunting continue to lead the driver standings in their No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R and have earned class victories in each of the last two events. Lally and Bunting are entered alongside RJ Valentine, and the trio looks to bring home another victory in a home race for the Petaluma-based TRG team.

TRG will field a total of three entries in the Sonoma 250, including the No. 64 TRG/iRise Pontiac GTO.R for Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards, who have three class victories on the season. Emil Assentato and Lonnie Pechnik will co-pilot the third TRG entry, the No. 66 FXDD Porsche GT3.

Trailing Bunting and Lally by just 11 points in the GT driver standings are No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3 co-drivers Wolf Henzler and Robin Liddell, who have finished on the class podium in their last five Rolex Series starts. Henzler and Liddell lead a three-car brigade for the Atlanta-based Tafel Racing team, which also fields the No. 73 NEC Porsche GT3 for Andrew Davis and team owner Jim Tafel, and No. 74 Rembrandt Charms Porsche GT3 for co-drivers Eric Lux and Ian James.

TRG and Tafel Racing have won the majority of the GT races in 2006 and head to Sonoma as the favorites. However, the No. 98 Ironclad/Wine Country Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R bears close watching, as Burt Frisselle will share the machine with multi-time Trans-Am and IMSA champion Tommy Kendall, who is returning to the cockpit for the first time since 2004.

The three-day Sonoma 250 weekend gets underway with Rolex Series practice on Thursday, August 24, followed by practice and qualifying on Friday, August 25. The Sonoma 250, Round 13 of the 14-race 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve, takes the green flag shortly after 3:00 p.m. PT (6:00 p.m. ET) on Saturday, August 26. The scheduled distance is 100 laps (250 miles), and the race is subject to a two-hour and 45-minute time limit.

SPEED will carry tape-delayed coverage of the Sonoma 250 beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 27. Live coverage from throughout the weekend, including live timing & scoring data from all sessions and audio webcasts, is available on the official web site of the Grand American Road Racing Association, www.grandamerican.com.

Sonoma 250 Fast Facts

Who: Grand American Road Racing Association

What: Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve

Where: Infineon Raceway; Sonoma, Calif.

When: Sonoma 250
Saturday, August 26 at 3 p.m. PT

TV: Sonoma 250
Tape Delayed on SPEED, Sunday, August 27 at 3 p.m. ET

Schedule of Events:

Thursday, August 24
2:00 p.m. -- 4:00 p.m. Rolex Series Practice

Friday, August 25
9:00 a.m. -- 9:45 a.m. Rolex Series Practice
1:15 p.m. -- 2:00 p.m. Rolex Series Practice
4:45 p.m. Rolex Series Qualifying

Saturday, August 26
8:45 a.m. -- 9:15 a.m. Rolex Series Practice
3:00 p.m. START -- Sonoma 250 (250 miles/100 laps/2

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing , Michael Shank Racing