Pruett, Rojas Shoot For 2nd DP Title Together
All that's left for Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas (No. 01 TELMEX BMW/Riley) in the 2010 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype season is for each to drive 30 minutes to share the DP championship.
It's the second crown in three years for the two drivers, Pruett's third and the fourth for TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Pruett shared the title with Max Papis in 2004 - Ganassi's first year in the Rolex Series - while the team won the championship in 2006 when driver champ Jorg Bergmeister raced two different cars.
Pruett and Rojas have been racking up milestones along the way in the most dominant season in DP history. They've won eight of the 11 races-breaking the mark set by Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty (No. 99 GAINSCO Chevrolet/Riley) in 2007 at the Montreal 200. That was also their 10th podium finish, tying the record set by Max Angelelli (No. 10 SunTrust Ford/Dallara) and Wayne Taylor in 2005.
"It's been a great season, and we just set the record for race wins," Ganassi said. "We've been fortunate to be able to pair two great drivers with a great group of guys. I'm involved in a lot of forms of racing, but sports cars have always been near and dear to my heart."
The team has been a factor to win in all but one of the 12 events, with a Lap 1 incident at Lime Rock Park the lone blemish on their record. Pruett finished second in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and cut a tire coming to the white flag at Mid-Ohio, allowing Gurney to take the victory.
Five Drivers Fight For Rolex Series GT Championship
Five drivers will end their battle for the Rolex Series GT title Saturday. Co-drivers Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato (No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8), points leaders since April, hold an eight-point advantage (318-310) over SpeedSource teammate Sylvain Tremblay (No. 70 Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8). Tremblay's co-driver, Jonathan Bomarito, did not drive at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
A long shot to win the title could be defending co-titlist Leh Keen and current co-driver James Gue (Dempsey Racing's No. 41 Global Diving & Salvage Mazda RX-8). They would have to finish third or better and hope Segal, Assentato and Tremblay do not score points. Bomarito could also win the title, but he'd have to finish fourth.
Assentato, at age 61, is among the series' most experienced racers. He raced during the 1970s and, after an injury, founded FXDD, one of the world's leading currency conversion companies. He returned to racing in the 1990s and competed in the first Rolex Series race in 2000 - the Rolex 24 - and has been a fulltime competitor in every season but one since 2004.
Segal and Tremblay each seek to join Craig Stanton as drivers who have won titles in both the Rolex Series and Continental Tire Challenge. In 2007, Segal became the then-youngest champion - at age 22 - to win a Continental Tire Challenge Grand Sport (GS) crown, when he triumphed with owner Jep Thornton.
Tremblay, a Continental Tire Challenge GS champion in 2001 and Street Tuner (ST) titlist again in 2004, has been close before to winning the GT title. In 2007, he brought Mazda into Rolex Series GT racing, and won in only his second race. He went on to lead the points, and entered the season finale at Miller with a chance to win the title. However, a first-lap accident totaled the team's Mazda RX-8.
Miller Again Final Race, Competitors To Test Different Configuration
Miller Motorsports Park has a history of switching things up each season the Rolex Series comes to town. The facility has hosted endurance and sprint races for the Rolex Series, and has been both the penultimate round and season finale.
This weekend will feature another change for competitors. After running the circuit's winding 4.486-mile, 24-turn full circuit since in 2006, drivers will compete on the 3.048-mile, 15-turn outer course in both the Rolex Series and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge races.
Three DP teams have visited victory lane in the three years Miller has hosted the Rolex Series season finale. Michael Shank Racing's two teams each scored their first victory at Miller.
Ozz Negri (No. 60 Crown Royal XR Ford/Riley) and Mark Patterson won the inaugural race in 2006, while John Pew (No. 60 Crown Royal XR Ford/Riley), Ian James and Raphael Matos won the 2008 finale. In between, Riley-Matthews Motorsports won in 2007 with Marc Goossens, Jim Matthews and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
The only year Miller did not host the season finale was 2009, when Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney (No. 99 GAINSCO Chevrolet/Riley). won en route to capturing their second DP title in three years.
Dyson Racing Returns To Rolex Series With Davy Jones, McCutchen
Dyson Racing, one of the dominant teams in the early years of GRAND-AM Road Racing, will make its return to the Rolex Sports Car Series, fielding a new Daytona Prototype in the season-ending Utah 250 at Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City.
Dyson Racing will partner with Godstone Ranch Motorsports to field the No. 16 Lola powered by a Roush-Yates Ford V-8. The car will be driven by sports car legend Davy Jones - an overall winner of both the Rolex 24 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans - and John McCutchen II.
Dyson Racing was one of the founding teams of GRAND-AM, winning 16 races, two drivers' and three consecutive team titles from 2000 through 2002. The program will be run from the team's Poughkeepsie, N.Y., headquarters.
"We were fortunate to hook up with some really great people at Godstone Ranch Motorsports with John McCutchen, Karen Garrett and their partners, who helped bring the effort to fruition," said Chris Dyson, Vice President and Sporting Director of Dyson Racing.
"I believe we have the fastest car in the series in the Lola and the best engine - the Roush Yates Ford," Dyson added. "We are looking forward to racing at Utah with the goal of doing more races in 2011. We have won the Rolex 24 At Daytona twice and it would be great to go back there again with a proper, in-house effort."
The team joins Doran Racing, Krohn Racing, AIM Autosport, Michael Shank Racing and SunTrust Racing using Roush Yates Engines in DP competition.
The car was prepared by Multimatic, which recently tested the car three hours north of its Toronto, Ont., shops.
This marks the first time in his career that Jones will compete in a Daytona Prototype. Prior to this season, he competed in two Rolex Series SRPII races in 2003, winning both races with G&W Motorsports. He then made his return to the Rolex Series in this year's Rolex 24 At Daytona, competing with McCutchen, Paul Edwards and Scott Russell (No. 07 Banner Racing Corvette). McCutchen made his series debut in the Rolex 24; he and Jones also competed in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in March.
Espenlaub, Putman Lead Points With Grand Sport Title Undecided
Charles Espenlaub and Charlie Putman (No. 48 Sparco/Fall-Line BMW M3) hold a 10-point advantage (254-244) in the Grand Sport (GS) class standings, with the season finale, the Salt Lake City 200, on Saturday.
Espenlaub and Putman, who need only to finish fifth or better to win the championship, joined the Fall-Line team this year, earning their sole victory in June at Watkins Glen International and have finished eighth or better in all nine races this year. Their closest rivals, Joey Hand and Michael Marsal (No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3), however, hold the tiebreak in victories - two versus one. Hand and rookie Marsal's Turner Motorsport team has won three of four GS races at Miller since 2006.
There are others eligible for the title. Like Hand and Marsal, Billy Johnson and Jack Roush Jr. (No. 61 ROUSH Performance Products Ford Mustang GT) have two victories, and the pair looks to overcome a 14-point deficit to Espenlaub and Putman. A mechanical issue kept Johnson and Roush, who has led the last 103 laps in which he has been behind the wheel, from earning points in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, but the duo has rallied for eight consecutive top-five results. Roush and Johnson know a little about victory lane at Miller; the pair won last year's race in dominating fashion.
Another Fall-Line pair, Terry Borcheller and rookie Andrew Hendricks (No. 45 Stable One Motorsports BMW M3), are 28 points behind Espenlaub and Putman. The most points any drivers can obtain at Miller is 35, for winning the race.
Thomas, Heumann Hold 19-Point Advantage In Street Tuner
The Street Tuner championship pits BimmerWorld/GearWrench drivers Seth Thomas and Bill Heumann (No. 81 Performance Friction/Rays Engineering BMW 328i) against Compass360 Racing drivers Lawson Aschenbach and David Thilenius (No. 74 Skunk2/HPD Honda Civic Si). Thomas and Heumann's second win of 2010 in June at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course launched them into the points lead. In that race, Aschenbach and Thilenius - also two-time race winners this season and points co-leaders after the first six races - finished 10th.
Thomas and Heumann, who need only to finish 14th to earn the title, hold a 19-point advantage (263-244) in the standings. They have since earned two more top-fives, while Aschenbach and Thilenius have finished 17th and 12th. Compass360 won last year's team title.
Thomas competed in the ST class for a full season in 2007 with Fountain Motorsports, while Heumann made his series debut last season, competing in one race. Heumann also leads the MESCO Building For The Future Rookie of the Year standings.
Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Championships Up For Grabs At Miller
The only reason Turner Motorsport may need assistance to find victory lane is because the track has moved it. Fighting to win its first Grand Sport championship since 2006, the Amesbury, Mass., team is also seeking a fourth GS victory in five seasons.
Leading the charge are Joey Hand and Michael Marsal (No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3), who have two victories this season. Hand won the 2007 race at Miller with Matthew Alhadeff.
But don't count out the team's other drivers, despite a season they'd rather forget. Bill Auberlen and Paul Dalla Lana have only one top-five finish this season, but Auberlen won in 2008 with Alhadeff and is poised to finish the season on a strong note. Turner Motorsport also won the 2006 GS and Street Tuner races. All previous races have been held on the 4.486-mile track; Saturday's race will be on the 3.048-mile outer course.
Carter Happy With First Season: Al Carter (No. 9 Stevenson Auto Group/Sunoco Camaro) said he's been happy with his first season in the Continental Tire Challenge.
Driving with veteran Hugh Plumb, the rookie Carter has earned two top-10 finishes in seven races. Carter, like many drivers, attended races with his family when he was young, but racing cars professionally was only a dream.
Fast forward from his childhood. Carter, who earned an economic degree at the University of Delaware and became a day trader, made a bet with a co-worker that he could drive a race car, and competitively. He jumped into a single-seater in 2007 and was immediately fast, which in turn helped reacquaint himself with his love for speed. He won back-to-back championships with Skip Barber's Racing School and met Plumb, with whom he quickly befriended. The pair decided, after looking at many options, to enter the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, a series Plumb has won in several times in the past.
Now, Carter equates his fulltime endeavors - which includes buying and selling stocks for clients - to a different type of office, one which sometimes offers stressful, but always fast-paced, situations.
"This has always been a dream, and now, I'm doing two things I love," Carter said. "It's been an up-and-down year, but I really have learned a lot. We've been running toward the front; we've just had some bad luck. Now, we need to finish the season on a good note, and hopefully we'll be back next season to show people what we can really do."
RSR Motorsports Goes For Three-Peat: The last time a driver won three straight Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge races was 2007, when Tom Nastasi (No. 5 Borla Dodge Challenger) opened the season with back-to-back-to-back victories. Owen Trinkler and Randy Smalley (No. 198 Cruise America/4 Winds RV Mini Cooper S) have a chance to match that this weekend. They won at New Jersey Motorsports Park and again last month at Le Circuit de Trois-Rivières in Quebec.
"I think we could pull it off, but I don't want to jinx it!" Trinkler said. "We could do really well at Miller, but it always takes a little luck. It was the great pit strategy that really won it for us at New Jersey and Trois-Rivières."
Car Count Sits At 53: The car count for the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge remains strong. Fifty-one cars are entered at Miller - 28 in the Grand Sport class and 25 in Street Tuner. Several new cars are entered, including the No. 00 CKS Autosport Camaro (Ashley McCalmont and Kirk Spencer); No. 7 TPN Racing/Blackforest Ford Mustang GT (Squeak Kennedy and Carlos Lira); No. 50 Finlay Motorsport with M.S.R. Ford Mustang Boss 302R (Rob Finlay and Steve Cameron); and No. 51 Roush Performance Ford Mustang GT (Andrew Carbonell and Felix Serralles) in GS, and No. 56 RACE EPIC/Murillo Racing BMW 328i (Jesse Combs and Lyonel Kent) and No. 65 RACE EPIC/Murillo Racing BMW 328i (Chris Brown and Bob Stretch).
Additionally, the No. 171 APR/BBS Volkswagen GTI, last year's winning ST car, is expected to race. Josh Hurley and Kevin Stadtlander are expected to drive.
Area Drivers, Team Competing At Home: The state of Utah is represented with several drivers . Those entered are Gunnar Jeannette of Sandy (No. 16 Bayshore Recycling/Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang Boss 302R); John Potter of Salt Lake City (No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche Cayman S); and Vesko Kozarov and Lara Tallman of Salt Lake City (No. 67 Citydeals.com/Unique Patio Furniture Honda Civic Si). The No. 67 car is based at Miller.
Ending The Reign: Ken Wilden (No. 52 Bizrate.com Ford Mustang GT) will end his reign as the defending Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Grand Sport champion at Miller. Wilden began the year with a pair of top-10 finishes, but his No. 59 car was retired at Barber Motorsports Park, and he missed the round at Circuit de Trois-Rivières. Wilden, ninth in points, will drive with Bob Michaelian, fifth in points. The No. 52, ironically, won at Barber with Michaelian and Dean Martin.