VIR pre-race notes 2006-03-27

Rolex Series Championship Chase Goes Through VIR for Pruett and Diaz Alton, Va. (March 27) -- Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz, who co-drive the No. 01 CompUSA Lexus/Riley for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates in the Grand American Rolex...

Rolex Series Championship Chase Goes Through VIR for Pruett and Diaz

Alton, Va. (March 27) -- Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz, who co-drive the No. 01 CompUSA Lexus/Riley for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve, are looking to repeat their victory of last year in the VIR 400 at VIRginia International Raceway on April 23.

The Ganassi squad accomplished almost everything they wanted to in 2005, but came up short in the championship battle, finishing second to the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac/Riley of Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli. Last year the VIR 400 was the penultimate race of the season, held over the weekend of Oct. 7-9, and the win by Pruett and Diaz kept them in contention for the title heading to the season finale at Mexico City.

Excellence is expected in the Ganassi empire, which enjoys a rich legacy with four CART championships (Jimmy Vasser, 1996; Alex Zanardi, 1997-98; Juan Pablo Montoya, 1999), one IRL championship (Scott Dixon, 2003) and an Indy 500 win (Montoya, 2000). Founded in 1990, the organization now fields a two-car IRL team, which won Sunday's season opener at Homestead with its new driver, defending series and Indy 500 champ Dan Wheldon; a two-car team in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series and a single-car entry in the NASCAR Busch Series; and the Rolex Sports Car Series team.

The Rolex Series team debuted in 2004 as a two-car entry, with Pruett and Max Papis sharing the driving duties in the No. 01 and Diaz and Jimmy Morales in the No. 02. Pruett and Papis were strong out of the box, storming to the championship with 11 pole positions and four wins in 12 races. In 2005 Diaz was teamed with Pruett in the No. 01 while the No. 02 car was shared by Stefan Johansson and Cort Wagner. Faced with larger Daytona Prototype fields and stiffer competition, Pruett and Diaz finished second in the title chase with four poles and three wins, one of which came at VIR.

The team has scaled down from two cars to one in 2006, with the exception of the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, won by the team's No. 02 Target Lexus/Riley co-driven by Wheldon, Dixon and Casey Mears. Pruett and Diaz were sidelined by mechanical problems at Daytona but have been very strong since, scoring a hugely popular win in Mexico City on March 4th and finishing a fighting third in last Saturday night's race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Pruett, who has been victorious in almost every series -- including NASCAR, CART, IMSA, IROC and SCCA Trans-Am in addition to the Rolex Series -- in which he has competed, is determined not to let another championship slip away.

"Last year was a bit of a disappointment finishing second overall," he said, "but we managed to keep our momentum going in the final two races, and the VIR win was huge for us in that respect. We had a car capable of winning pretty much the whole weekend. We needed that win to keep our chances alive to have a shot at the title in Mexico City. So in some respects, that was our most important win of the year. VIR is a great layout, and Luis and I look forward to defending our title in a few weeks' time."

Like his teammate, Diaz hopes that this year's VIR 400 will be an important stepping-stone to the title that eluded his team last year.

"VIR was a very important win for me personally last season," he said. "Although we had an outside chance of winning the championship, the win enabled us to carry the battle with the No.10 car to my home country. Scott ran a fantastic race in Virginia last season to finish it off, and I'm can't wait to get back there and try to repeat what the team was able to accomplish in 2005."

The Grand American Rolex Series will be joined over the April 21-23 VIR 400 weekend by the popular Grand-Am Cup Series for showroom-stock coupes and sedans and the Skip Barber National Championship, one of America's most renowned training grounds for aspiring open-wheel racers.

Advance three-day Super Tickets for the VIR 400 weekend are priced at $50. At the gate, three-day Super Tickets will be priced at $60. Also, single-day tickets will be available for Friday ($15, gate only), Saturday ($25, gate only) and Sunday ($40 advance/$50 gate). VIR is a family-friendly facility, where children 12 and under are admitted free with a paying adult. Spectator camping is available. Call 434-822-7700, ext. 116 or 300 for advance ticket sales.

VIRginia International Raceway is a multi-purpose road racing facility, located on the Dan River between Danville and South Boston, Va., and just north of historic Milton, N.C. In addition to its 3.27-mile natural-terrain road racing circuit, VIR is the cornerstone of VIR Club, America's first motorsports country club; the VIR Raceplex Industrial Park; the VIR Gallery, a sales showroom for high-end collector and racing cars; The Lodge at VIR, a 27-room trackside hotel; and the Oak Tree Tavern, a full-service restaurant located within the circa-1840 Plantation Clubhouse.

For more information on VIR, visit the track's website at www.virclub.com or telephone 434-822-7700. For more information on the Grand American Road Racing Association, visit their website at www.grandamerican.com. For more information on Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, visit their website at www.chipganassiracing.com.

-vir-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing