Rolex Sports Car Series Champions Honored at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas LAS VEGAS, Nev. (November 2, 2004) -- Upwards of 500 attendees--including several Grand American and NASCAR dignitaries--saw the 2004 Rolex Sports Car Series champions ...
Rolex Sports Car Series Champions Honored at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS, Nev. (November 2, 2004) -- Upwards of 500 attendees--including several Grand American and NASCAR dignitaries--saw the 2004 Rolex Sports Car Series champions receive the laurels of victory in the Rolex Sports Car Series Awards Celebration at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas Monday night.
Taking home some of the night's biggest pieces of hardware were members of the Daytona Prototype championship-winning No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing team. Champion co-drivers Scott Pruett and Max Papis were presented with championship trophies and specially-engraved Daytona Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Rolex watches.
"It's a very special night for me," said Papis, who earned his first auto racing championship. "I've been dreaming for many years to be in this position. I couldn't do it without Scott and all the guys behind me. I've always been fighting for one goal, and I'm very proud of giving this championship to Lexus, CompUSA and Chip Ganassi. This season was a battle from our heart. That's the way I've been driving all my life."
"This is a great championship, and I'm driving with a great friend of mine in Max," Pruett added. "The CompUSA guys did a great job. This is about us tonight. This is one of my sweetest championships ever, and I hope to get another one. I think this is (championship) number seven for me. This is what racing is all about."
CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates owner Chip Ganassi was also on hand to receive his Daytona Prototype team owner's championship. It was the fifth major racing championship for Ganassi since 1996, as his team earned four consecutive CART Champ Car titles from 1996 through 1999 and won the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series crown last year.
"It's certainly been a trying week of motorsports," said Ganassi, who was referring to the tragedy that claimed the lives of several key members of NASCAR's Hendrick Motorsports last week. "I'm glad to be in a festive atmosphere. Felix and I got into this last year, and we've done lots of racing and had lots of fun this year. It was fun because of great competition. People who I know from throughout my whole career are in this series. To put something together like this, you need very strong drivers. To be successful, you need drivers who aren't selfish. These guys made it possible. I'm looking forward to being back next year. We felt really welcome."
Also among the Daytona Prototype honorees was No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley car owner and driver Wayne Taylor, who took home runner-up trophies in the driver and team championships, and No. 2 CITGO Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford driver Andy Wallace, who finished third in the Daytona Prototype driver standings. Wallace and co-driver Milka Duno were also presented with the season-long SunTrust "Improve Your Position" award, and No. 2 car owner Rick Howard accepted the third-place team trophy. Riley Technologies principal Bill Riley accepted the Daytona Prototype chassis constructor's title, while Pontiac Marketing Director Mark-Hans Richter accepted the engine manufacturer's title.
Like the Daytona Prototype champions, 2004 Rolex Sports Car Series GT champion Bill Auberlen--who drove the No. 21 Prototype Technology Group BMW M3 to the class title--also received a Rolex Cosmograph for his performance. For Auberlen, it was his second Rolex Series GT title in three years.
"This is unbelievable," Auberlen said. "(PTG president) Tom Milner, thank you very much. We've followed you for years and years. I've been with BMW for eight years and it's been unbelievable for my life."
Earning second place in the GT driver's chase was No. 22 PTG BMW driver Boris Said, while Auberlen's No. 21 co-driver, Justin Marks, completed a sweep of the top three positions for PTG in the GT standings. Milner took home the GT team championship trophy for PTG, while BMW North America M Brand and Motorsports Manager Hernando Carvajal accepted the GT manufacturer's championship.
In the Super Grand Sport (SGS) class, No. 38 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup co-drivers Marc Bunting and Andy Lally also earned Rolex Cosmographs for their championship-winning effort. The duo led a sweep of the top three positions in the SGS class for TPC.
"We had a great year this year," Lally said. "I'm proud to be a part of one of the most competitive and important racing series."
"I'd like to thank Andy," Bunting contributed. "I wouldn't be up here without him. I also want to thank (TPC owner) Mike Levitas and TPC. They always gave us a competitive car."
Levitas claimed the SGS team owner's championship trophy as well as a second place in the driver's championship as driver of the No. 36 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup. No. 37 TPC driver John Littlechild took home the third place trophy in SGS, and Porsche Motorsport North America President Uwe Brettel was presented with the SGS manufacturer's crown.
Through the official web site of the Grand American Road Racing Association, Rolex Series fans voted the door-banging incident between Papis and Jan Magnussen in the No. 27 Doran-Lista Racing Lexus Doran during the Grand Prix of Miami in February as the "Rolex Moment of the Year." Upon learning of the award, Papis joked, "that Rolex Moment of the Year cost me five grand."
Among the attendees were NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France, Grand American Chairman and International Speedway Corporation (ISC) President Lesa France Kennedy, ISC Chief Executive Officer Jim France, NASCAR President Mike Helton, NASCAR Chief Operating Officer and Grand American Board of Managers member George Pyne. The formal presentation began with a welcome address from Grand American President Roger Edmondson.
The Grand American Road Racing Association, which sanctions the Rolex Sports Car Series and the Grand-Am Cup Series, is one of the fastest growing motorsports organizations in the United States. The 14-race 2005 Rolex Series schedule and the 11-race Grand-Am Cup calendar will deliver professional sports car racing to many key markets throughout North America in addition to being televised in the United States and Canada on SPEED Channel and distributed globally through ESPN International. With title sponsorship support from Rolex Watch USA, the Rolex Sports Car Series showcases emerging and legendary drivers from around the globe and thoroughbred racing machines from the industry's leading constructors and the world's top automobile manufacturers. Learn more about Grand American at www.grandamerican.com.