Watkins Glen: Round five preview

Pruett & Diaz Look to Extend Points Lead in Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 30, 2006) -- With a series-leading three victories from seven 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special...

Pruett & Diaz Look to Extend Points Lead in Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 30, 2006) -- With a series-leading three victories from seven 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve events, No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley co-drivers Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz head into Saturday's Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen (SPEED, Live, 2:30 p.m. ET) as the co-leaders in the Daytona Prototype driver point standings.

The duo looks to increase its lead, currently seven points (263-256) over No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley driver Jorg Bergmeister, against a strong field of 27 Daytona Prototypes and 22 GT machines in the second of three endurance races on the 2006 Rolex Series schedule. Pruett and Diaz previously earned victories this season in the Mexico City 250 in March, the Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach last month and the GAINSCO Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway two weeks ago, and the historic Watkins Glen International circuit has been good to the No. 01 team in the past as Pruett and then-co-driver Max Papis earned the victory in 2004 en route to their championship-winning season. However, Diaz and Pruett will have their hands full this weekend as they go for victory number four.

Despite a recent run of bad luck, No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing team Porsche Crawford co-drivers Patrick Long and Mike Rockenfeller will undoubtedly be one of the top contenders for victory in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen. Rockenfeller and Long have won twice in 2006, at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Virginia International Raceway, and head into the second half of the season looking to erase their current 34-point deficit to Pruett and Diaz in the championship standings. The team certainly has the drivers and car to do just that, and would love to begin the process with a victory on Saturday.

That being said, one must also not overlook the drivers that stand between the No. 01 and No. 23 driving tandems in the championship, as all are equally as hungry for a victory themselves. Bergmeister has twice held the points lead this season but is still looking for his first win of the season, which could come this weekend. Last year, Bergmeister and Christian Fittipaldi finished second in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen to teammates Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonsson, who are returning as defending race champions in the No. 75 Krohn Racing Ford Riley. A repeat performance is not out of the question.

Michael McDowell trails Bergmeister by just one point in the driver standings and will be reunited by co-driver Memo Gidley in the No. 19 Playboy/Uniden Racing Ford Crawford. Gidley missed the last three races with injuries sustained in a crash during practice on race morning at Long Beach, leaving the black and orange machine to McDowell and Guy Cosmo, who is entered as a third driver in the No. 19 this weekend as well. While McDowell won the qualifying race for April's VIR 400, the team has yet to record a feature race win this season and would love nothing more than to celebrate Gidley's return in victory circle.

Defending Daytona Prototype co-champion Max Angelelli returns as the most recent winner at Watkins Glen International with a victory alongside fellow co-champion Wayne Taylor in the Crown Royal 250 at The Glen last September. Bolstered by a victory in the Road & Track 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca earlier this month and three consecutive top-four feature race results, Angelelli has charged back into the title chase and is just 27 points behind Pruett and Diaz with seven races still remaining. He will be joined in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley this weekend once again by Taylor and Australian Ryan Briscoe.

Another team performing well in the championship but still looking for a breakthrough victory is the pairing of Rob Finlay and Michael McDowell in the No. 5 Make A Wish/Z-Line Designs/Finlay Motorsports Ford Crawford. McDowell and Finlay have finished inside the top-nine positions in five consecutive Rolex Series feature races, including a season-best performance of fifth at Homestead-Miami Speedway in March. Valiante and Finlay are also joined by Cosmo on the No. 5 team's entry at Watkins Glen.

The Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen will also feature some new and familiar names. Topping the list is two-time Rolex 24 At Daytona and Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., who is joining forces with Burt and Brian Frisselle in the No. 8 GlycoMax Porsche Doran for Synergy Racing. All three drivers have put together solid performances at Watkins Glen International in the past, making this trio of drivers one to watch.

Joining 2003 Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen winner Mike Borkowski and co-driver Paul Mears Jr. in the No. 6 Playboy Racing/Mears Lexus Riley for the first time this weekend is full-time Grand-Am Cup Series competitor Tommy Constantine, while Forest Barber returns to the cockpit of a Daytona Prototype for the first time since the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona and will share the No. 78 Doran/Pegasus Racing Pontiac Doran with Oliver Kuttner. Canada's Hugo Guenette also returns to Rolex Series action this weekend and will co-drive the No. 40 Derhaag Motorsports Preformed Line Products/Coyote Closures Pontiac Riley with Randy Ruhlman.

Other strong contenders for the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen include Shane Lewis and Craig Stanton in the No. 3 Southard Motorsports BMW Riley, Andy Wallace and Butch Leitzinger in the No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford for Howard-Boss Motorsports, Adrian Fernandez and Mario Haberfeld in the No. 12 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Pontiac Riley, Fittipaldi and owner/driver Eddie Cheever Jr. in the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve/Cheever Racing Porsche Crawford, the two-car Brumos Racing effort with David Donohue and Darren Law co-driving the No. 58 Red Bull Porsche Fabcar and Hurley Haywood and JC France in the No. 59 Brumos Porsche Fabcar, Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri Jr. in the No. 60 Flight Options Lexus Riley for Michael Shank Racing, Harrison Brix and 2003 Daytona Prototype champion Terry Borcheller sharing the No. 77 Kodak/Amp'd Mobile/Sirius Ford Doran for Feeds The Need/Doran Racing, Alex Figge and Ryan Dalziel in the No. 89 Playboy/Vonage/Palms Casino Pontiac Riley for Pacific Coast Motorsports and Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and Bob Stallings in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley.

Further strengthening the field are Brian Tuttle and Rod MacLeod in the No. 7 Tuttle Team Racing Pontiac Riley, Doug Goad and Larry Oberto sharing the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Racing Pontiac Crawford, the No. 11 CITGO Racing by SAMAX Pontiac Riley trio of Milka Duno, Marc Goossens and Stefan Johansson, the No. 16 Thetford/Norcold Pontiac Crawford in the hands of Guy Smith and Chris and Rob Dyson with Howard-Boss Motorsports, the No. 47 Querencia Golf Club/TruSpeed Motorcars/Wright Motorsports Porsche Riley of Rob and Charles Morgan and the No. 97 CyberSpeed Racing Pontiac Riley to be co-driven by Tony Ave and Skip Cummins.

While the Daytona Prototypes have had lots of time to prepare for the six-hour challenge of Watkins Glen, the teams and drivers competing in the Rolex Series GT machines face a tight, five-day turnaround between races. Points co-leaders Marc Bunting and Andy Lally, who won Monday's Rolex GT Series Challenge at Lime Rock Park in the No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R, will lead the GT class into Saturday's Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen. They are expected to be joined this weekend by RJ Valentine, who opted not to drive at Lime Rock.

Bunting and Lally lead No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3 co-drivers Robin Liddell and Wolf Henzler by 17 points, 314-297. Henzler is no stranger to success at Watkins Glen, as he co-drove an Autometrics Motorsports Porsche to the GT victory in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen last year alongside Cory Friedman and Leh Keen. A repeat victory on Saturday with Liddell would go a long way toward both drivers' championship hopes. Keen will also be in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen field aboard the No. 80 Shoes for Crews/Synergy Racing Porsche GT3 he is sharing with David Murry.

Joining the No. 65 and No. 72 teams among the GT class favorites are Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards in the No. 64 TRG/iRise Pontiac GTO.R. Collins and Edwards still lead the GT class with three feature race victories (at Mexico City, Homestead and Phoenix) and are just one point behind Henzler and Liddell in the GT points race.

On the strength of five consecutive top-seven results in feature races, two-time Rolex Series GT champion Bill Auberlen and his Sigalsport BMW co-driver Matthew Alhadeff have also moved into the top 10 in the GT driver standings. The duo will share the No. 05 Alhadeff Motorsports/Motul/GRW.com.mx/enVista BMW M3 on Saturday afternoon/evening.

SPEED will provide live television coverage of the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. Live coverage is also available, including audio web casts in English and Spanish and live timing & scoring data, via the official web site of the Grand American Road Racing Association, www.grandamerican.com.

Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen Fast Facts

WHO: Grand American Road Racing Association

WHAT: Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve

WHERE: Watkins Glen International; Watkins Glen, N.Y.

WHEN: Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen (six-hour time limit) Saturday, June 3 at 2:30 p.m. ET

TV: Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen -- SPEED, Live, Saturday, June 3 at 2:30 p.m. ET

<pre> EVENT SCHEDULE:

Thursday, June 1 3:00 p.m. -- 5:00 p.m. Rolex Series practice 7:00 p.m. -- 8:00 p.m. Rolex Series practice

Friday, June 2 1:15 p.m. -- 1:45 p.m. Rolex Series practice 4:15 p.m. -- 4:30 p.m. Rolex Series GT qualifying 4:45 p.m. -- 5:00 p.m. Rolex Series Daytona Prototype qualifying

Saturday, June 3 8:15 a.m. -- 8:45 a.m. Rolex Series practice 2:30 p.m. START -- Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen (six-hour time limit)

-garra-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing , Autometrics Motorsports , Wright Motorsports , Michael Shank Racing , Pegasus Racing