Michael Shank Racing Concludes 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Series Season with Victory in SunRichGourmet.com 1000; Pruett, Rojas earn driving titles; Collins, Edwards wrap up GT championship with victory
TOOELE, Utah (Sept. 20, 2008) - Raphael Matos bookended the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 season. After winning the GT class in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona back in January, Matos made his return to the series by winning in his first Daytona Prototype start Saturday, the SunRichGourmet.com 1000 presented by The Grand and Little America Hotels at Miller Motorsports Park.
Matos joined regular drivers Ian James and John Pew to give the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley its first Rolex Series victory. The team became the third first-time Daytona Prototype winner in three races at Miller Motorsports Park. Meanwhile, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas wrapped up the 2008 Daytona Prototype championship with a ninth place finish in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley, joined by Alex Lloyd.
The 137-lap race on the 4.486-mile circuit saw 16 lead changes among 14 drivers and 10 cars, with the event including a mid-race deluge that quickly dissipated. A record nine of the 10 lead-lap finishers led the race. However, Matos pulled away on the restart following the sixth and final caution. He led the final 28 laps - the most in the event - cruising to a 29.398-second margin of victory over the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara of Max Angelelli and Michael Valiante.
"I had a great team - Mike Shank did an amazing job, and John Pew and Ian James did a great job," said Matos, who recently won the 2008 Firestone Indy Lights championship. "The crew had an amazing pit stop, and that's what put us in first position. This is a happy moment for everyone and a great way to finish the season."
Michael Shank Racing scored its first victory at Miller in 2006 when Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson took the team's No. 60 entry to victory. That was their first triumph until the most recent Rolex Series race, when Negri and Patterson brought the No. 60 Ford Riley to victory lane at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Fogarty and Alex Gurney concluded their season as the reigning series champions in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley with Jimmy Vasser, taking third place to wrap up second in the Daytona Prototype championship. The outgoing titlists won once in 2008.
Joao Barbosa and JC France finished fourth for the fifth time in seven races in the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley, allowing the team to finish third in the final team standings.
Polesitter Ricardo Zonta and Nic Jonsson finished fifth in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola. In all, 10 cars led the event, including nine of the 10 finishers. Ten cars finished the race on the lead lap.
Pruett and Rojas drove a consistent - but not completely trouble-free - race, finishing ninth in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley. The car spun twice, yet with a season-high six victories, Pruett and Rojas only needed to complete 30 minutes each to share the championship. Pruett drove the first stint from the second starting position, driving an hour-and-a-half before Rojas got in. Alex Lloyd, the 2007 Firestone Indy Lights champion, also earned seat time.
Collins and Edwards claim GT victory; Liddell, Davis hold second in points
Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards scored their second consecutive GT victory at Miller Motorsports Park in the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R, claimed the championship along the way. Edwards took the checkered flag by more than a lap over the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R of Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis, who finished second in the final standings.
Edwards took the lead late in the race and distanced himself enough to make a late splash for fuel without losing the lead. While they led flag-to-flag in this event in 2007, Saturday's race saw 16 lead changes among 11 drivers and four cars. Edwards led a race-high 49 circuits, with Collins leading six laps.
Collins and Edwards have been leading the GT points since April's race in Mexico. Since then, they have struggled with various mechanical issues, allowing both the Stevenson Motorsports team and No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 to enter the finale in striking distance for the title, with the top three teams each winning three events. The Banner Racing victory was its fourth of 2008, giving Collins and Edwards a final margin of nine points.
While the No. 07 team was busy seeing "ones," the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R co-drivers Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell were seeing "twos." The pair finished second in the SunRichGourmet.com 1000, earning their ninth podium finish of the campaign. Earning third in the GT championship were Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham of the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8, who finished fifth in the event, joined by David Haskell.
Andy Lally, Patrick Long and Tim George Jr. finished third in the No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3. George wrapped up the season by winning both the MESCO Building for the Future Rookie of the Year and the Bob Akin Award honors. Finishing fourth was the No. 32 PR1 Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R powered by Mike Forest and Patrick Barrett.
Six cautions for 19 laps slowed the race's pace to 90.555 mph.
The Rolex Series season-ending champion banquet will take place Monday in Las Vegas. The next Rolex Series race is the Rolex 24 At Daytona from Jan. 24-25, 2009 at Daytona International Speedway.
NEWS AND NOTES
- The victory is the first-ever Daytona Prototype victory for Ian James, John Pew and Raphael Matos. This is also the first-ever victory for the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing machine.
- The victory is fourth in five races for the Ford engines. Prior to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the manufacturer had not tasted victory since Barber Motorsports Park in July 2006.
- This is the third time in as many races at Miller Motorsports Park the overall winners in Rolex Series competition earned their first overall victories. Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri won in 2006 while Marc Goossens, Jim Matthews and Ryan Hunter-Reay won in 2007.
- Riley Chassis won 13 of 14 Daytona Prototype races this season, the second straight season the chassis manufacturer has done so. The manufacturer also took three of the top five finishing positions.
- Their second-place finish was the third straight podium and fourth of the season for Max Angelelli and Michael Valiante in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara.
- The third-place finish was the fourth straight top five and ninth of the season for 2007 series champions Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley.
- Their fourth-place finish was the fifth such finish in the last seven races for JC France and Joao Barbosa in the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley. France also captured the Jim Trueman Award, the top sportsman driver in the Daytona Prototypes, and the duo finished third in the final Daytona Prototype team standings.
- The fifth-place finish was the third such finish in the last four races for SunRichGourmet.com 1000 polesitter Ricardo Zonta and co-driver Nic Jonsson in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola.
- Defending Daytona Prototype race winners Marc Goossens, Jim Matthews and Ryan Hunter-Reay finished seventh in the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley after climbing as high as third late in the race.
- In their ninth-place finish, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas ended the season with 408 points. Ironically, that was the same number of points earned by 2007 champs Gurney and Fogarty.
- Ten of the 17 Daytona Prototypes finished all 137 laps of the race.
- Fourteen drivers in 10 Daytona Prototypes led laps in the race: Raphael Matos (28), Jon Fogarty (25), Bill Auberlen (22), David Donohue (18), Michael Valiante (12), Ricardo Zonta (10), Joey Hand (10), Nic Jonsson (3), Buddy Rice (3), Eric van de Poele (2), Memo Rojas (1), Mark Wilkins (1), Jim Matthews (1), Alex Gurney (1). Four engine manufacturers led the race.
- The GT victory by No. 07 Banner Racing drivers Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards was the duo's season-leading fourth Rolex Series victory of the season. They claimed the title by nine points. Edwards led 49 of the team's 55 laps.
- It was the second straight victory for Collins and Edwards at Miller Motorsports Park. In 2007, the duo led every lap in a car shared by Andy Pilgrim.
- Pontiacs owned seven victories this season, while Mazdas won four and Porsche two.
- Twelve of the 13 Rolex Series GT races were won from the front two rows, including five from the front row.
- Davis and Liddell's second-place finish was the duo's ninth podium of the season in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R. The team won three races this season in clinching second in the team championship.
- MESCO Building for the Future Rookie of the Year Tim George Jr., as well as Andy Lally and Patrick Long, finished third in the No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3. It was George's seventh podium of the season and third in four races.
- Mike Forest and Patrick Barrett finished fourth in the No. 32 PR1 Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R, the duo's best career finish in the Rolex Series GT class.
- In finishing third for the team title, Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham finished fifth in the race in the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8. Ham led a season-high 236 laps in GT this season.
- Eleven drivers in six GT cars led laps in the race: Paul Edwards (49), Eric Lux (16), Leh Keen (14), Dominik Farnbacher (14), Dirk Werner (11), Wolf Henzler (9), Patrick Long (6), Kelly Collins (6), Robin Liddell (2), Andrew Davis (2), Andy Lally (1).
- Daytona Prototype Team: TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (408 points) Q- GT Team: Banner Racing (373 points) Q- Daytona Prototype Chassis: Riley (487 points) Q- Daytona Prototype Engine: Pontiac (442 points) Q- GT Manufacturer: Pontiac (423 points) Q- Jim Trueman Award: JC France (N/A) Q- Bob Akin Award: Tim George Jr. (N/A) -Q MESCO Building for the Future Rookie of the Year: Tim George Jr. (330 points)
SELECTED POST-RACE QUOTES
Raphael Matos (No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley; race winner in Daytona Prototype race): "The car was very strong at the end of the race and that's why I was able to pull a gap. I love this series and I love the cars. I love driving them. I had a great team - Mike Shank did an amazing job, and John Pew and Ian James did a great job. The crew had an amazing pit stop, and that's what put us in first position. This is a happy moment for everyone and a great way to finish the season. I was a little bit concerned about the car before the race, but the car had a great balance and the balanced improved throughout the race. That's why were able to win at the end."
Ian James (No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley; race winner in Daytona Prototype race): "At the start, the car wasn't good. In the pits, we made a few changes and gradually it got better and better. We lost some of our rear downforce and some bodywork, and then the car came alive. Then, Raffa got in and was brilliant. The guys absolute first-class. He's head and shoulders above everyone in the paddock. I drove through the deluge. My heart's still pounding from that. I had many scares. Those last few hours in the lead also puts a stress on anybody's heart. But it was just brilliant."
John Pew (No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley; race winner in Daytona Prototype race): "Raphael (Matos) did a fantastic job on that last stint. Ian did a good comeback from his spin and collision. It's long overdue. This team deserves it. Our car deserves it."
Max Angelelli (No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara; second in Daytona Prototype race): "I think, even though we did not win the race today, what we did these last three races is a very strong way to finish the season and it gives us huge momentum for next season. The No. 6 car was the fastest at the end of the race, for sure. I was gaining on him at the beginning of that last stint and I thought maybe we might have a chance to win. But all of a sudden he just drove away from everybody and I never saw him again. They did a excellent job and Raphael (Matos) proved to everybody here in Grand-Am that he is a great driver. Second place to a car like that today is nothing to be ashamed of. We finished the season strong, though. I can't wait to get started on 2009."
Michael Valiante (No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara; second in Daytona Prototype race): "We started off the weekend not as good right away as we had been in the last couple of races. But the team did a really great job and Max and I worked really hard to give us a great race set-up once again today. Max drove a great first stint and then I was able to get us into the lead. Unfortunately, my radio stopped working at just the wrong time and we had to give up the lead. But Max got back in and had a really strong finish."
Alex Gurney (No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley; third in Daytona Prototype race): "It's not a bad way to end the season and every time you are on the podium it is kind of a good feeling. We certainly wanted to win the race. Jon had a great stint and it was looking quite promising, but we really didn't have the ultimate pace. Once the other guys really stretched their legs it was a hell of a battle. All of the guys battling for that last podium spot for the last hour, it was really tough stuff and it was nice to come out on top of that."
Jon Fogarty (No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley; third in Daytona Prototype race): "It's a testament to the team that we finished third. You look at our car, we really didn't have the pace of a third-place car, but good pit stops and great strategy allowed us to get on the podium. Everybody on the team absolutely took it to the maximum, not just here but all year long. We came up a little bit short in the championship but it was certainly an effort to be proud of. We had a bunch of podiums and just good team work. It is a pleasure to work with all of these guys. It's fun coming to the track when you know everybody is giving it their all."
Scott Pruett (No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley; Daytona Prototype champion and ninth in Daytona Prototype race): "We hoped to finish a little higher today, but we were turned around late in race, but we did what we had to do. After three straight seasons finishing second in this championship, it's great to be back on top. To accomplish what we have all season is just a testament to everyone involved - the entire Chip Ganassi Racing team, everyone at Lexus and TRD and we couldn't have done it without the support of a great partner in TELMEX. The record is great, but I'll look back on that more at the end of my career. Right now, it's all about winning this championship and all the guys that have worked so hard. Nobody puts together a better effort than Chip Ganassi."
Memo Rojas (No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley; Daytona Prototype champion and ninth in Daytona Prototype race): "Things were going pretty good for us. I was running right in front of both Krohn cars, we had a real good pace going until Zonta ran into my back and spun me out. I don't know what happened - I'll have to see the replay. We lost many positions and it's a matter of catching back up.
"It's great to win the championship. We got past those 30 minutes and the pressure of the last few weeks and we can call ourselves champions now. It's really amazing. I'm real happy to be here with this team and to win the championship. Highlight? We've had many highlights, but winning the pole at Mexico, especially because it's my hometown."
Alex Lloyd (No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley; ninth in Daytona Prototype race): "My stint went well. The first few laps were tough, still figuring out the track with the lack of time, but it went really well at the end. I think we would have liked a better result for the day, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm very happy to see Scott and Memo come in with the championship, which was the first priority for the day."
Kelly Collins (No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R; GT champion and race winner): "It was unbearably hard to drive the car for awhile. I knew if we went into that kitty litter, we wouldn't be sitting here right now with the victory and the championship. There was a time I think we were going about 30 miles per hour at most. It was very touch and go. After Mexico, we had a really good points lead. Then, we decided to cool it a bit, so to speak. We thought we'd hang here for awhile and then we started having some problems and we saw the points lead diminish."
Paul Edwards (No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R; GT champion and race winner): "We came through today. It's been a tough last six races, with weird stuff happening with the car. Today, though, the car was really strong. Andrew (Davis) and Robin (Liddell) have been really strong and consistent this season. The pressure was on. Miller is a great track for us. Our guys did amazing pit stops today."
Andrew Davis (No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R; second in GT race): "That was a great race. We did all we could. The No. 07 car with Kelly (Collins) and Paul (Edwards) did a great job. Congratulations to Pontiac and GM for the manufactures title. Congratulations to Banner (Racing) and those guys for the championship and driver's championship. We're just thrilled. Stevenson Motorsports and the Pontiac GXP.R race great today. To finish second in the championship is huge for us - and another podium finish. We have the most podiums out of all the GT teams this year. Robin was on slicks in the rain, which was actually a mistake but we ended up being able to come back and get a strong podium finish, so we're really happy and excited."
Robin Liddell (No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R; second in GT race): "To be honest I'm pretty happy. We obviously lost some time with the wet cautions there. We came in wet-to-wet and the Banner guys stayed out on slicks for another lap or so and then they went to rains, so that's how they got the break on us. I'm really happy with the race we did. I think we did a great job with what we had underneath us. The car was good, but it wasn't enough to be able to push it and get more out of it. Second in the race and second in the championship - it's a great result for us. If you look at the whole season and where we've come from. We're very happy."
Andy Lally (No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3; third in GT race): "I thought we had something for the win to tell you the truth. We had a really, super-solid car. TRG did a great job. Mark and Kevin were calling strategy and did a good job. My teammates did super. I'm a little disappointed with myself because I let myself get involved with (an incident) out there. He hurt our race early but we rounded and came back to it and then had a little bad luck with the way the yellow fell. A tiny little bit of bad luck to drop us back to third in the end there. All in all, it's a great way to end the season because we got Time George Jr. to win the 'Rookie of the Year' and we got to thank MESCO for putting the prize up for us and giving us a shot to go for that. It's a good way to end the season on the podium."
Patrick Long (No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3; third in GT race): "The race was wild. Andy (Lally) and Tim (George Jr.) did a great job in their opening stints. Then I got in and tried to clean it up. I tried to run the middle of the laces as clean as I could and with all the rain coming down and everything under yellow, the chips just didn't fall our way at the end there. Officially, we finished third but I think we had the car to win. The TRG car was hooked-up and I had a great time getting back in the Rolex Series. It's always action-packed here. It's just an honor to be driving with these guys."
Tim George Jr. (No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3; third in GT race and Rolex Series Rookie of the Year): "I'm feeling good. It's nice to wrap up the season on a good note. It's great for sponsorship for 2009. I'm really excited. I ran with Long and Lally and did a good deal...I'm pretty happy with the result."