VIR: Race report

Pruett and Diaz Keep Slim Rolex Series Title Hopes Alive With VIR ALTON, Va. (October 9, 2005) -- Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz kept their slim Rolex Sports Car Series title hopes alive with their third win of the season in the No. 01 CompUSA Chip...

Pruett and Diaz Keep Slim Rolex Series Title Hopes Alive With VIR

ALTON, Va. (October 9, 2005) -- Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz kept their slim Rolex Sports Car Series title hopes alive with their third win of the season in the No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley in Sunday's VIR 400 at Virginia International Raceway. Earlier this year the duo scored back-to-back victories at California Speedway and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Pruett took over from Diaz -- who led the race and survived an off-course spin in his opening stint -- on lap 31 of the 74-lap race and later passed the No. 77 Crown Royal Special Reserve Ford Doran of Matteo Bobbi for the lead at VIR's trademark Oak Tree turn on lap 63.

"I can't tell you how happy I am for this result today," Diaz said. "We have a championship battle heading into the season finale, and that's all I could have hoped for. It's great for CompUSA, Telmex and our sponsors to be a part of the Mexico City race, and having a shot at the championship will bring that much more excitement to the race. You can expect about half a million people for the weekend, so be prepared for a great show if you've never seen a race in my country."

Diaz (18 laps) and Pruett (12 laps) kept their No. 01 Lexus Riley up front for a race-high 30 laps.

"This CompUSA car was just really awesome today," Pruett said. "I had great pit stops from my guys, and that's what got it done for us. We were able to pick our spots on the track and make our moves in a very calculating fashion. We felt we had all of our bases covered coming into the race, and it paid off this afternoon. Luis did a fabulous job again, and I can't wait to get to Mexico City to what I think will be a great event for the Rolex Sports Car Series."

Pruett crossed the finish line 2.181 seconds ahead of the No. 2 CITGO Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford of Andy Wallace and Milka Duno while Bobbi and teammate Fabrizio Gollin finished third.

"I had to pass a lot of cars today, and the No. 01 car with Scott was the only one between me and first place," Wallace said. "He knew that, and I knew that. He was really pedaling there at the end. It's a bit disappointing, but it was a good finish for us. Milka did a fantastic job during the first part of the race. The conditions were difficult, and it would have been easy to wreck, but she didn't and turned the car to me in good shape. I'd like to congratulate everyone who raced around me today. It was very clean, but very competitive in some tough conditions."

The second-place finish was the first podium appearance for the CITGO duo since their victory at Mont-Tremblant in May.

"I started the race in seventh due to our team's position in the team point standings, which was great," Duno said. "I was able to keep the car on the lead lap and hand it off to Andy in great position. Andy then led the charge and fought very hard for our second place finish. This is a really good win for us and CITGO and very special as well for the Howard-Boss Motorsports team."

Championship leaders Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor finished fourth in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley and came up just short in clinching the 2005 Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype driver and team championships. They will easily clinch the titles in next month's season-ending race at Autodromo werHewrHermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City just by starting the race and having each driver complete a green flag lap. Following the VIR 400, Angelelli and Taylor have a 32-point lead over Pruett and Diaz (407 -- 375 points). A maximum 35 points are available in a Rolex Series race.

While SunTrust will have to wait a little bit longer to wrap up the Rolex Series driver and team championships, their success this season, in part, allowed Pontiac to clinch the Daytona Prototype Engine Manufacturer Championship at the VIR 400 with the No. 2 Pontiac Crawford's runner-up finish. Pontiac, with 10 wins in 13 races so far this season, wrapped up the coveted engine title for the second-straight year with a strong 52-point margin over Lexus, 446 -- 394 points.

Riley Technologies also wrapped up its second-consecutive Daytona Prototype Constructors Championship with its 10th win of the season at VIR. Their points total of 446 is currently an out-of-reach 63 points ahead of Crawford Race Car's 383 tallies.

After the starting field was set by championship standings due to the persistent rain that plagued VIR all weekend, pole-sitter Taylor led the race's opening laps before Diaz muscled past on lap 11. In addition to both winning drivers, Taylor and Bobbi, the fifth driver to lead the VIR 400 was Nic Jonsson in the No. 67 Krohn Racing/TRG Pontiac Riley who paced the field for 17 laps at the mid-race point.

The winner's average speed of 87.788 mph was slowed by seven caution periods for 22 laps.

Pruett and Diaz's Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Cort Wagner and Stefan Johansson finished fifth in the No. 02 New Century Lexus Riley and were among 10 race cars that finished on the lead lap, including the top-two finishers in the GT class.

TEAM PTG DUO FINISHES 1-2 IN GT CLASS AT VIR 400

Tom Milner and Bill Auberlen powered the No. 21 BMW Team PTG M3 to the race car's third victory of the season, edging the No. 16 BMW Team PTG M3 by less than one second in the VIR 400.

Milner started the car 21st in-class, and steadily picked off positions throughout his stint, before handing the controls to Auberlen. Auberlen led the GT field for most of his shift and he and teammate Joey Hand in the No. 16 machine finished on the lead lap and ninth and 10th overall, respectively.

"It was the way it should be -- nice and easy," Auberlen said. "It's nice to have your teammate give it to you right out front, and then have your team have such great pit strategy that keeps you up front all day long and actually get a lap up on the whole field. We had the speed out there, and Tom Milner did a great job."

The victory was the third of the year for both Milner and Auberlen.

"It was great strategy all race long by the team," Milner said. "Overall, it was a great day for PTG and BMW."

Justin Marks -- who won with Auberlen at VIR last season -- started the No. 16 BMW just behind the No. 21 car on the grid, and like Milner, steadily moved up positions during his stint.

"It was a pretty good day for us, but it may be too little too late," Marks said. "It was a good effort by the team all weekend. I would have liked to come back and repeat at VIR, but there is always next year."

"We are excited to be still in the championship hunt, that's what we race for all season long," Hand said. "Justin did a stellar job bringing the car up the field after we didn't get to qualify, and the team did an awesome job on pit stops. You can't say enough about BMW Team PTG. We had a great day, and now we just go to Mexico City and show off there."

The No. 21, No. 16 and two other Team PTG entrants failed to turn in their driver qualifying nomination forms in on time, forcing the BMW M3s to start at the back of the pack. The starting grid for the race was formed based on team points, as rain cancelled Saturday's qualifying session.

With a third-place finish by No. 65 TRG Pontiac GTO.R co-drivers Andy Lally and Marc Bunting, the teammates moved atop the GT driver standings. The duo came into VIR five points behind No. 80 Synergy Racing Porsche GT3 Cup co-driver Craig Stanton, but with their sixth podium finish of the season -- coupled with Stanton's seventh-place run with David Murry -- Lally and Bunting now lead Stanton by one point (348-347), heading into next month's season finale in Mexico City.

-garra-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing