PRUETT, DIAZ PUT LEXUS ON PODIUM AT VIR 400 TORRANCE, Calif. (April 23, 2006) -- Scott Pruett came out on the short end of a thrilling last-lap, three-car battle at Virginia International Raceway, but still came away with a strong ...
PRUETT, DIAZ PUT LEXUS ON PODIUM AT VIR 400
TORRANCE, Calif. (April 23, 2006) -- Scott Pruett came out on the short end of a thrilling last-lap, three-car battle at Virginia International Raceway, but still came away with a strong third-place finish for he and co-driver Luis Diaz as the top finishing Lexus-powered car in today's Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series VIR 400.
Pruett had been running in second-place in his #01 CompUSA Lexus-Riley when he made a daring pass for the lead with just three turns remaining. As he pulled alongside leader Max Angelelli, the pair banged doors a couple of times before Angelelli moved to block Pruett, but left an opening for third-place Mike Rockenfeller to bump his way past the Italian for the win.The third-place showing was the fourth podium finish of the season for Pruett and Diaz in six 2006 events. Diaz was forced to start today's race from the back of the pack in the pit lane after changing an engine after yesterday's qualifying race. After maneuvering his way through the field, Diaz led 16 laps to continue the team's streak as the only car to lead every race this season.
The result wasn't quite as good for Michael Shank Racing's two entries. After starting sixth, Mark Patterson did a strong job maintaining his position in the #60 Flight Options Lexus-Riley in the early going. The team made a driver change on an early full-course caution with Oswaldo Negri climbing in the car. Negri then carved his way through the field to run in the second position for an extended stretch through the middle of the race before his day went awry. A slight problem in the pits cost the team a few positions, but things still looked good for the team to be in the thick of things at the finish before a late-race re-start resulted in another car making contact with Negri and cutting the Brazilian's rear tire forcing an extra pit stop which dropped the car to an eventual 13th-place finish.
Negri and Patterson did enjoy an impressive sixth-place finish in Saturday's qualifying event -- the first of five this season that will result in an overall 19-race schedule.
MSR teammates Mike Borkowski and Paul Mears Jr. also enjoyed a top-10 finish on Saturday with a 10th, but they, too, suffered difficulties in today's event as they retired in the 23rd position after an alternator belt came loose during Borkowski's run. For Borkowski, Saturday's event marked his third top-10 finish of the season in the #6 Graydon Elliott Fusion Racing Lexus-Riley.
Today's third-place finish allows Lexus to maintain its slight lead over Porsche in the Daytona Prototypes Manufacturer's Championship after six races of the 19-round title chase.
The Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series returns to action at Laguna Seca Raceway, May 4-6, where the series will conduct a 30-minute race on Saturday, as well as a 250-mile event on Sunday. In addition to paying full points, Saturday's event also will set the grid for Sunday's race.
SCOTT PRUETT, #01 CompUSA Lexus-Riley: "It was a great race. There's not much more to say really. If you like racing, then you would have loved to watch this one I can tell you. It just doesn't get any better than that the way the top-three finished. The first three cars were dueling it out for at least the last 20 laps. This kind of finish just shows that it's not over until the fat lady sings."
LUIS DIAZ, #01 CompUSA Lexus-Riley: "From my point of view, it was a challenging start coming off pit lane and making up spots where we could. But my main focus was just keeping the nose clean, picking people off one at a time and then getting the car back to Scott in one piece. Scott's the man, he ran a great race and we almost did it here again today at VIR."
OSWALDO NEGRI, #60 Flight Options Lexus-Riley: "It's a shame because we were almost exactly where we wanted to be. I don't know how it was that he broke the back of my car, because he hit me on the side, but he just kept banging and I had to come in because I could feel the tire was going down."
MARK PATTERSON, #60 Flight Options Lexus-Riley: "It was a great battle with a bad outcome. There wasn't as much grip as there was this morning in the warm up, which made things a little extra interesting in the first few laps. The guys on the front row were incredibly patient at the start, so we had a good-looking and safe start. Fortunately, some of the cars around me didn't quite get the same start as I did, so I was able to get a couple spots right out of the box. Even though there was a very tight pack up at the front, it was unbelievably clean racing. I still can't believe that people overlooked Oz to drive their cars, but that worked out well for us."
MICHAEL SHANK, MSR team owner: "It is too bad what happened with Oz, because we obviously had a good car, and there was a great battle for the lead late in the race, so he probably would have been in the thick of that if we didn't have to make that extra pit stop. But that's racing. Our car is pretty banged up from everyone hitting us - front, side, and back, but nothing serious, so we'll be packing up and getting ready to head to Laguna."