VIR race finish was 2006 fan choice

VIR 400 Finish Named 'Rolex Moment of the Year' Alton, Va. (September 7) -- The thrilling finish of this year's Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve VIR 400 at VIRginia International Raceway was...

VIR 400 Finish Named 'Rolex Moment of the Year'

Alton, Va. (September 7) -- The thrilling finish of this year's Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve VIR 400 at VIRginia International Raceway was named as the fans' choice for the "Rolex Moment of the Year" during the series' annual banquet in Las Vegas earlier this week.

The "Moment" occurred on the last lap of the 77-lap VIR 400 on April 23, nearing the end of a 20-lap stint that saw the top three cars running nose-to-tail around VIR's challenging 3.27-mile, 17-turn circuit. As the leaders began the final lap, Max Angelelli held the lead in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley, followed closely by Scott Pruett in the No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley and the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Porsche Crawford of Mike Rockenfeller. As the trio approached Turn 14 Angelelli was slightly balked by a GT car and Pruett seized the opportunity to pull alongside on the right in an attempt to grab the lead.

As Angelelli and Pruett banged doors, Rockenfeller surprised both by shooting past on the left, making contact with Angelelli as he went by. He led through the final three turns to the checkered flag, taking the win with a razor-thin 0.518sec margin of victory over Angelelli, with Pruett taking the final podium spot.

"The VIR win will go down as one of my finest racing memories," said Rockenfeller, who teamed with co-driver Patrick Long to claim the victory. "You see these bits on the racing highlight clips all of the time; now I am in one! It is also nice to know that the Grand-Am fans thought it was exciting, voting it as the Rolex Moment of the Year. It was a great win. The last lap I thought the race was over until the last turn when a GT car slowed the No. 10 car and the 01; a gap opened and I raced through it, traded some paint, and won. The Ruby Tuesday team did a great job to give us a fast car and Patrick kept us up front at the start. I also have to give credit to the guy in the GT car for providing just the right amount of racing room at the end!"

"We obviously had several exciting moments throughout the 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series, but it's hard to argue with the fans' choice for Rolex Moment of the Year," said Grand American Road Racing Association President Roger Edmondson. "Mike Rockenfeller's breathtaking last-lap pass to win the VIR 400 was another defining moment for the Rolex Series. Having said that, I am most proud of the chain of events leading up to Mike's charge from third to first with three turns remaining in the race. For the last 20 or 30 laps, you had top drivers like Mike, Max Angelelli, Scott Pruett and Michael Valiante--driving Daytona Prototypes powered by Porsche, Pontiac, Lexus and Ford--racing nose-to-tail. That battle was further validation of the type of competition we have in the Rolex Series."

The VIR 400 finish earned a total of 2,202 of just over 5,000 votes cast to edge 17-year-old Colin Braun becoming the youngest winner of a major-league auto race in the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway on June 29. The margin of victory in the voting was a mere 10 votes. Also nominated for the "Rolex Moment of the Year" was the star-studded field in this year's Rolex 24 At Daytona, Luis Diaz' hometown victory in Mexico City and the Pontiac GTO.R podium sweep at Phoenix International Raceway.

"We are honored to have been a part of the Rolex Moment of the Year," said VIR general manager Josh Lief. "As one of America's oldest permanent road racing tracks, VIR has played host to a number of memorable moments over the years, featuring many of the best drivers in the sport's history. Mike Rockenfeller's awesome pass to win this year's VIR 400 ranks right at the top of the list. We like to think that our track lends itself to thrilling racing action, and we look forward to more memorable moments with the Rolex Sports Car Series in the years to come."

Although the Rolex Sports Car Series' season is complete, the Grand-Am Cup Series still has one event remaining, at VIR, October 6-8. The Grand Sports (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) classes will each contest a six-hour endurance race to determine their driver, team and manufacturer championships in the longest races in series history.

The GS class features high-performance coupes and GT cars such as the Porsche 997, Nissan 350Z, Mustang GT, Pontiac GTO and BMW M3. The ST class features smaller high-performance coupes, sedans and roadsters including the Chevrolet Cobalt SS, Acura RSX-S and TSX, Mazda RX-8, BMW 330, BMW Z4 and Mini Cooper S. Also on tap for the weekend is the first-ever east-coast appearance of GT LIVE, an interactive festival for tuner-car and sport bike enthusiasts that is the wave of the future for young motorsports fans.

Advance three-day Super Tickets for the GT LIVE/Grand-Am Cup Weekend are priced at $40, with advance single-day tickets for Saturday and Sunday priced at $20. At the gate, three-day Super Tickets will be priced at $50 with single-day tickets priced at $20 (Friday) and $25 (Saturday and Sunday). Fans can upgrade their weekend with a VIP Pass for an additional $65, which will include catered meals on Saturday and Sunday. 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.

-credit: vir

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Scott Pruett , Colin Braun , Michael Valiante , Luis Diaz , Max Angelelli , Patrick Long , Chip Ganassi , Mike Rockenfeller
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing