CANADIAN RACER MICHAEL VALIANTE WILL CO-DRIVE FINLAY MOTORSPORTS DAYTONA PROTOTYPE AT UPCOMING CROWN ROYAL 250 ROLEX SERIES RACE AT WATKINS GLEN Charlotte, NC (Sept. 15, 2005) -- Finlay Motorsports today announced that rising Canadian...
CANADIAN RACER MICHAEL VALIANTE WILL CO-DRIVE FINLAY MOTORSPORTS DAYTONA PROTOTYPE AT UPCOMING CROWN ROYAL 250 ROLEX SERIES RACE AT WATKINS GLEN
Charlotte, NC (Sept. 15, 2005) -- Finlay Motorsports today announced that rising Canadian racing star Michael Valiante will co-drive the team's #19 Air Force Reserve/Make-A-Wish Foundation Daytona Prototype with regular driver Memo Gidley at the upcoming Crown Royal 250 at Watkins Glen, September 22 -- 24.
Valiante will be filling in for regular driver Michael McDowell who is serving a one-race suspension. This is Valiante's third race with the Finlay Motorsports team; he co-drove with McDowell, Gidley and Jonathan Bomarito in the series-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, and when Gidley had a schedule conflict earlier this season, Valiante stepped in to co-drive with McDowell. He qualified the car 7th on the grid and led 22 of the race's 84 laps on the way to a 7th place finish at the Ferrari/Maserati 400 at California Speedway on April 3.
"I'm very happy to be driving for the Finlay team again, although I'm sorry for the way it came about," said Valiante, 25, of Vancouver, B.C. "Finlay Motorsports is a top team that fields a very classy, professional effort, and it's a pleasure to drive their car. I know Steve and Rick Cameron, the team manager and engineer, very well from my two-and-a-half years with them at Lynx Racing in the Atlantic series, so I should be able to get up to speed very quickly. I also have tremendous respect for Memo Gidley's abilities and am confident that he and I will be able to maintain Finlay Motorsports' front-running record in the Rolex Series."
Valiante, best-known as an extremely-talented open-wheel racer, has two Champ Car starts to his credit. He was a standout in the intensely competitive Toyota Atlantic series, finishing on the podium in only his second race. Over the course of two-and-a-half seasons, he won six times and finished 2nd in the 2002 championship and 3rd in 2003. He last drove the Watkins Glen circuit in a Barber Dodge open wheel car in 1999, finishing 5th.
"Michael Valiante is an extremely talented driver who has been a tremendous, if intermittent, asset to our team during the 2005 season," said Finlay Motorsports team owner Rob Finlay. "Our top priority for this weekend at the Glen was to bring in a driver who would fit smoothly into the team and be able to run the kind of pace needed to compete for the win. Valiante was our first choice, and we're working to be able to make him a permanent part of the team in 2006."
Though a first-year team, Finlay Motorsports has quickly become a force to be reckoned with in the well-ordered world of Grand American Rolex Series racing. The team's 2005 record includes four 4th-place finishes and leading six of the last eight races. Gidley and McDowell scored the team's first podium with a 2nd-place finish at Barber Motorsports Park on July 31. Finlay Motorsports is currently tied for 5th in the 2005 Rolex Series championship battle.
"Michael McDowell and I have an excellent relationship both in and out of the car, and if somebody has to replace him for this race I'm happy to share the seat with Michael Valiante," says Gidley. "Chemistry between the drivers, between the drivers and the engineers and between the drivers and the team members is critical in a front-running effort like ours. Valiante already has those relationships, and that should make for a very smooth transition. He's fast, and even though it's been a few years since he's raced here, and a while since he's raced the prototype, I think we'll be able to run at the front."
On-track action for the Crown Royal 250 at Watkins Glen begins at 3:30 pm Thursday, September 22 with a combined one-hour Daytona Prototype / GT practice session, followed by half an hour in which the DP cars are on track alone. Prototype qualifying will take place from 4:40 pm to 4:55 pm on Friday, September 23, and the 250-mile/74-lap/2 0x00be-hour race is scheduled to take the green flag at 3:00 pm, Saturday, September 24.