Sears Point: Race report

Pruett & Diaz Score Record-Tying Fifth Race Win With Sonoma 250 Victory at Infineon Raceway SONOMA, Calif. (August 26, 2006) -- No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley co-drivers Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz scored their Daytona...

Pruett & Diaz Score Record-Tying Fifth Race Win With Sonoma 250 Victory at Infineon Raceway

SONOMA, Calif. (August 26, 2006) -- No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley co-drivers Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz scored their Daytona Prototype record-tying fifth victory of the season Saturday afternoon in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve Sonoma 250 at Infineon Raceway (SPEED, August 27 at 3 p.m. ET), keeping their 2006 championship hopes alive with only one race remaining on the season schedule.

Pruett, a resident of nearby Auburn, Calif., took control of the No. 01 machine during a Lap 22 caution in 15th place and charged to the front, eventually inheriting the lead on Lap 74 during a stretch of green flag pit stops. The No. 01 car was forced down pit road on late in the race for a splash of fuel, but the Ganassi crew made quick work of the stop, sending Pruett out just ahead of Andy Wallace in the No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford. Pruett held off the Englishman after a late-race caution to score a wildly popular victory in front of his hometown crowd.

The victory at Infineon Raceway is the fifth victory of the season for the No. 01 machine, tying the record set in 2005 by defending Daytona Prototype champions Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley. The win also marks the 12th overall victory in Pruett's Rolex Series career, tying him with Wallace's co-driver, Butch Leitzinger, for second-most all-time with 12.

"We got put behind a little bit early on in the race," said Pruett. "The guys did a great job on the pit stop, sending me out there in front. It feels great to get this win in front of the home crowd. There's nothing like winning on your home court. All these things together make this sweet. We dug deep to pull a strategy that would give us the best chance to win."

Diaz qualified fourth, but started third when the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley of Daytona Prototype points leader Jorg Bergmeister was forced to start from pit road due to an engine change after the morning warm-up session. Diaz survived an early race incident when Tracy Krohn in the No. 75 Krohn Racing Ford Riley dove to the inside of the No. 01 machine in Turn 7, sending both machines spinning. Diaz recovered and turned the car to Pruett on the subsequent full-course caution.

"It was a very hard stint for me," said Diaz. "We got hit from behind in Turn 7 and had to come back from that. This team is the best in the world and Scott is the best teammate I could ask for. Everyone on this CompUSA Chip Ganassi team did a great job the whole day and this is a great win."

With the finish--coupled with a ninth-place finish by Bergmeister and co-driver Nic Jonsson in the No. 76 machine--Diaz and Pruett head to the season-ending Discount Tire Sunchaser at Miller Motorsports Park just 19 points in arrears of Bergmeister in the driver standings (437-418). In the Daytona Prototype team standings, the No. 01 machine moved to the top of the standings with the victory, holding a slim, four-point lead over the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley.

Leitzinger and Wallace finished second in the No. 4 machine, earning the best result of the season for the Howard-Boss Motorsports team. The team has battled through numerous problems throughout the season, improving on their previous best results of fourth in Mexico City and Long Beach.

"It's about time," said Leitzinger. "The start of the race was great. There was a train of about six or seven cars running nose to tail and on almost one lap, three of the cars had problems, which sent us closer to the front with nothing I did. The crew did a great pit stop and put us out ahead of the (No.) 10 car. Andy just drove the wheels off of it and it was very exciting to watch."

"Nobody really knows when there are going to be yellows," said Wallace. "It plays out however it wants to play out. Butch did a fantastic job. He says that he didn't do anything, but he avoided all the trouble. I couldn't catch Scott at the end there. He and Luis drove a great race. After the year we've had, it feels great to get on the podium."

The No. 12 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Pontiac Riley of co-drivers Adrian Fernandez and Mario Haberfeld finished third, the best finish for the car since its victory in June's EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Haberfeld qualified the machine sixth and handed control to Fernandez during the race's first caution period. The Mexican completed the final stint in the No.12 machine for the team's second podium finish of the season.

"I think it's great," said Haberfeld. "The team deserved this for a long time. We've been struggling a while, and we could've won more races if things went our way. The Lowe's car was good all weekend. I got a bit of traffic in qualifying, but in the race, we tried to take it easy and knew that a lot of things could happen. I got involved in an incident and fell back to seventh, but the team did a great job on the pit stop and Adrian did a great job during his stint."

"It's just great to finish races," said Fernandez. "This shows us that if we can finish races, we can get podiums. There was a very fast pace out there today and everybody was very strong. I was getting stronger and stronger during my stint. The Ganassi strategy was very good, and a little bit of traffic caught us out a bit and we weren't able to catch him. It was great competition and, in the end, I was glad to see everybody was running clean."

Angelelli and Danish racer Jan Magnussen, who started from the pole position and led a race-high 60 laps, finished fourth in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley, the machine's ninth-straight top-four overall finish. With the result, Angelelli keeps his hopes of defending the 2005 championship alive, heading into next weekend's nine-hour finale only four points behind Pruett and Diaz. Only Bergmeister, Angelelli and the No. 01 duo are still mathematically eligible to win the 2006 crown.

Ryan Dalziel and Alex Figge rounded out the top five in the No. 89 Playboy/Vonage/Palms Pontiac Riley, the best finish for the machine in seven races. The duo's best finish of the season came in the GAINSCO Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway, where the Pacific Coast Motorsports machine finished second.

LIDDELL AND HENZLER TIGHTEN GT CLASS BATTLE WITH SONOMA 250 WIN

Wolf Henzler and Robin Liddell scored their third Rolex Series GT class victory of the season in the Sonoma 250 at Infineon Raceway, and head into next weekend's season-finale at Miller Motorsports Park just eight points behind No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R co-drivers Andy Lally and Marc Bunting in the standings, with nine hours of racing to decide the 2006 champions.

Liddell started from the class pole and led throughout his opening stint. The Scot handed control to Henzler during a Lap 22 caution, eventually climbing back into the cockpit for the finish. Liddell inherited the lead again on Lap 83 when Lally had to take the No. 65 machine down pit road for fuel, and held off a late charge after a full-course caution period to score the third victory of the year for the Tafel Racing Porsche.

"I didn't really make a fantastic start, but I was able to make the correct line on the first turn," said Liddell. "After two laps, my lead was completely gone with a little bit of understeer. The track was extremely difficult to manage today. It's very twisty and on the straights, there was really only one good line. The Daytona Prototypes did a great job today, and was able to avoid any issues. We were able to pull away a little bit in the traffic, which ultimately was the difference."

Liddell and Henzler swept the GT races in California this season, also winning in the U.S. Sports Car Invitational at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May. With the victory, and the second-place finish by the No. 65 machine, Liddell and Henzler stand just eight markers behind Lally and Bunting in the standings with one race remaining on the schedule (474-466).

"It's a great win for us today," said Henzler. "The team has worked really hard to come back in this race. Everything was pretty perfect today and now we're back in the championship race. We got shuffled back because a few cars stayed out on the early yellows, but we were able to get back to the front. It was a good finish for the points and it will be a good fight for the championship at Miller."

The runner-up finish by Lally and Bunting was the 10th podium of the finish for the Petaluma, Calif.-based TRG machine. Bunting qualified sixth and gave control to Lally during a full-course caution period. Lally led a total of 12 laps late in the race, but surrendered the lead when he was forced to come down pit lane for fuel.

"I had a good start," Bunting said. "The car was really handling well and I was able to move-up. Andy did a great job and was able to lead some laps. We had a good clean run today and scored maximum points. Unfortunately the (No.) 72 car had a better day and won the race. That tightens up the points going into the last race in Utah."

"Marc did a good job to have a really uneventful stint," Lally added. "He turned the car over to me in excellent shape up toward the front of the field. Traffic was really tough today, the DP cars were all over and some of the GT guys were not too polite. We steered clear of all of the mayhem and came home second. I really didn't have anything for the (No.) 72 car at the end because we developed a loose condition. Utah is going to be exciting in just seven days."

David Murry and Leh Keen finished third in the No. 80 Shoes For Crews Porsche GT3, the best finish for the duo since Round 2 at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, a runner-up result. Burt Frisselle and Tommy Kendall finished fourth in the No. 98 Ironclad/Wine Country Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R, followed by Eric Lux and Ian James in the No. 74 Rembrandt Charms Porsche GT3. The No. 74 machine improved five positions from its 10th-place starting position, earning the SunTrust "Improve Your Position" Award in the GT class.

NOTEBOOK

In the Daytona Prototype chassis constructor championship, Riley Technologies clinched its third-straight championship with its victory. With a 58-point lead in the standings over Crawford Race Cars (542-484), Riley has already locked up the crown... In the GT engine manufacturer standings, Porsche dug into Pontiac's lead with Saturday's victory, and now only trails the American brand by 21 points (505-484)... The Daytona Prototype engine manufacturer championship chase is still up-for-grabs heading into next weekend's season finale. The win by Lexus moves them into a two-point lead over Pontiac, which finished second (486-484). Ford's best finish was sixth by Rob Finlay and Michael Valiante in the No. 5 Make-A-Wish/Z-Line Designs Ford Crawford, giving Ford 469 championship markers... The sixth place finish by the No. 5 machine after a 17th-place qualifying effort earned the Finlay Motorsports team the SunTrust "Improve Your Position" Award.

-credit: garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Andy Wallace , Ryan Dalziel , Mario Haberfeld , Jan Magnussen , Butch Leitzinger , Adrian Fernandez , Scott Pruett , Wayne Taylor , David Murry , Robin Liddell , Michael Valiante , Luis Diaz , Ian James , Andy Lally , Jörg Bergmeister , Max Angelelli , Alex Figge , Burt Frisselle , Marc Bunting , Chip Ganassi , Tracy Krohn , Wolf Henzler , Lehman Keen , Eric Lux , Rob Finlay , Nic Jonsson , Tommy Kendall
Teams Krohn Racing