Birmingham: Chip Ganassi Racing preview

TEAMS: Back-to-back Rolex 24 At Daytona Champions TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates and drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas in the No.01 TELMEX Lexus-Riley, Rob Finlay and Michael Valiante in the No.19 Z-Line Designs/Mission ...

TEAMS: Back-to-back Rolex 24 At Daytona Champions TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates and drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas in the No.01 TELMEX Lexus-Riley, Rob Finlay and Michael Valiante in the No.19 Z-Line Designs/Mission Residential/Make-A-Wish Foundation Lexus-Riley.

VENUE: Barber Motorsports Park this Sunday, July 22nd (2:00 p.m. ET) on the 2.38 mile 16-turn road course in Birmingham, Alabama. Round 10 of 14 in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series season.

AIR DATE: July 22th, 3:00 p.m. EST, LIVE, on SPEED Channel

LAST RACE: Iowa Speedway, Newton, Iowa. No.01, St. 2 Fn. 1, No.19, St. 5 Fn. 2

NEXT RACE: August 3rd, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Quebec

TEAM POINTS: No.01 TELMEX Lexus-Riley, 272 points (1st, +20); No. 19 CGRFS Lexus-Riley, 130 points (17th, -142)

DRIVER POINTS: Scott Pruett, 272 points (1st, +15); Memo Rojas, 247 points (4th, -25); Rob Finlay, 190 points (10th, -82); Michael Valiante, 178 points (12th, -94)

EXHAUST NOTES: Both CGRFS cars are coming off a strong, record-breaking win at last week's inaugural race at Iowa Speedway...Pruett became the all-time most winning Rolex sports car driver with 14 career wins...With 15 team wins, CGRFS also increased their margin as the most victorious team in Rolex competition...Rojas scored his first career Rolex win...Finlay and Valiante scored their first career podium (2nd place) and highest qualifying effort (5th) in the 2007 season....Last week marked the first time in the team's Grand-Am history that CGRFS finished 1-2.

BARBER HISTORY AND MORE: Disappointment is an appropriate term to sum up the last two July races in Birmingham for the No.01 CompUSA entry (TELMEX is the current banner). In 2006, Pruett and then teammate, Luis Diaz, qualified seventh, yet finished their day with a top-10 finish. Frustration mounted as they lost four positions in the final five laps of the race. In 2005, unpredictable rainy weather was a major deterrent to Pruett racing the car to a podium finish; but the team posted a fourth place finish. Arguably the most positive experience at Barber was in 2004 when Pruett and Max Papis steered the No.01 Lexus-Riley into pole position on the starting grid and a third place spot on the podium.

With one start in Daytona Prototype competition at Barber Motorsports Park in 2006, Finlay and Valiante hope to rope in a podium finish in the South, after their strong performance in the Mid-West. In fact, Finlay's proud past in Birmingham includes a victory in the Grand-Am Cup series last July.

BARBER REWIND: In 2006, co-driver, Luis Diaz started the race from the seventh spot on the grid, but immediately fell to ninth after being sandwiched and bumped from behind on the opening laps of the 2:45 minute sprint race. The car suffered rear end damage, but Diaz kept fighting throughout his 60-plus lap stint, and turned a very tight car over to Pruett (Lap 62) as the team made its only pit stop of the time-shortened 97-lap race. Pruett worked his way toward the top-five over the remaining laps, and had himself firmly planted in the sixth position with five to go. But with the checkered flag being displayed to the points-leading No.76 Krohn Racing machine, the team's No.75 sister car forced Pruett off course in the final turn, relegating the Ganassi team to a tenth place finish.

MAKING IT HAPPEN IN "THE MAGIC CITY": In the same fashion that Birmingham grew into a boosting industrial city in the late 1800's, the No.01 and No.19 drivers and team hope to direct their forward momentum from Iowa's victory to this weekend's race at Barber. One area for expansion is the driver and team championship lead over the No.10 car. Another is to tally up CGRFS' first victory in Birmingham in DP competition since the team's Grand-Am start in 2004. Additionally, both cars have yet to earn a pole position in qualifications for the season. This year's race also occurs on a significant event for the team: their 50th Rolex start; and is an opportune time for the team's third victory of the season. Whether or not magic is needed to accomplish these goals, the TELMEX and Z-Line Design teams are ready to apply their growing confidence from Iowa for a repeat 1-2 finish.

LOOKING BACK ON IOWA: The first feat of the day was the qualifying results; Rojas maneuvered the car into second and Finlay impressed his team with fifth place start on the grid. Consistency was the name of the game in the 192-lap event with only two cautions and little wreckage between competitors. Both teams were able to capitalize on a driver change pit stop on lap 38, because the two leaders did not opt for switching drivers. All four CGRFS pilots consistently ran in the top-5 for the first quarter of the race. A break for Pruett surfaced on Lap 84, on the final yellow pit stop. He exited the pits P1, with Valiante following in P3. The CGRFS cars sandwiched the no.99 Fogarty/Gurney car, until Valiante overtook second place in turn two with only 23 laps remaining. Lapped traffic brought the No.01 and No.19 bumper to bumper on the final lap. Pruett's experience showed as he held off Valiante; especially considering only drops of fuel remained at the end of the race.

-credit: cgr

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Max Papis , Scott Pruett , Michael Valiante , Luis Diaz , Gilles Villeneuve , Memo Rojas , Chip Ganassi , Rob Finlay , Felix Sabates
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing