Another CompUSA Podium and Still in the Championship Lead Birmingham, Alabama, October 10th, 2004 ---- From a Rolex Grand Am series record setting tenth pole position in a single season, the no.01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix...
Another CompUSA Podium and Still in the Championship Lead
Birmingham, Alabama, October 10th, 2004 ---- From a Rolex Grand Am series record setting tenth pole position in a single season, the no.01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley driven by Max Papis and Scott Pruett set the pace early for the start of the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant under a slight drizzle that persisted throughout the 2 hour 45 minute timed race at the beautiful Barber Motorsports Park.
Teams looked to the stormy sky and gambled with tires as some took the start on rain tires and other with slicks. The pole sitting no.01 CompUSA Lexus Riley stuck to the dry tires for the entire race in the hopes that the dry line would present itself early and remain there for the entire race giving them a chance to maintain their lead in the championship.
From their fifth place starting position, the no.02 CompUSA Lexus Riley opted for rain tires off the start which enabled Jimmy Morales to move up quickly to second spot behind teammate Max Papis by the second lap. But as the dry line appeared, Morales was unable to keep the pace and had to return the no.02 CompUSA car to the pits for dry tires.
Papis, in the meantime did his best to maintain the lead given the conditions, only relinquishing first place to come into the pits under caution. Scott Pruett, retook the lead with the no.01 Lexus Riley by lap 53, while no.02 CompUSA car was making its drive for the leaders with Luis Diaz at the helm.
The no.4 car of Butch Leitzinger took the lead from Scott Pruett on a Lap 59 restart. Leitzinger withstood heavy pressure from Max Angelelli in the No. 10 car and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 54 car as the laps ticked away. Victory belong to Leitzinger when Fittipaldi spun and made hard contact with the Turn 10 barrier with four laps remaining. Fittipaldi was not injured, and the race finished under caution. It was Leitzinger's 10th career overall victory in Rolex Sports Car Series competition. The two CompUSA Lexus Rileys finished in 3rd and 4th place. Unfortunately, just in front of the no.01 CompUSA were their arch rivals in the no.10 car of Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli.
That now means that despite three wins and Pruett and Papis's seventh podium of the year, the Rolex Series Championship now will go down to the wire for the final race at California Speedway in three weeks as no.01 CompUSA drivers hold a slim 3 point lead (327-324) over second place rivals, the No.10 car.
"The CompUSA team came into this weekend knowing what we had to do but we just couldn't take the chances we wanted to out there because of the conditions, explained Scott Pruett. "It was just terrible out there with the steady drizzle on dry tires. I had to keep the no.01 CompUSA Lexus Riley to the dry line because if you went off just a little bit it could have been disastrous, in fact you saw that happen to the #54 car right in front of me at the end. The championship is going to come right down to an incredibly exciting end and that's a credit to the series because it truly shows how close the competition is. The CompUSA team will be ready to put it all on the line in California and see exactly what we're made of."
"With the no.01 CompUSA leading the race, we had to set a conservative pace but really everyone was using the 01 car as a reference for breaking points, and that made this very difficult for us," said Max Papis. "We had a lot to lose because any small mistake could have taken us out of the championship. That's racing and in the end it was a great race in difficult conditions. Don't remember every remember driving on slicks in wet conditions for so long. I'm really looking forward to Fontana now. The CompUSA team wants this Championship very badly and we're working hard both on and off the track for it. Maybe we come out of this race only leading by three points, but the fact remains we're still the ones to beat."
For Luis Diaz and Jimmy Morales, their fourth place finish was well earned but they are hoping to take the no.02 CompUSA Lexus Riley a few steps further for the finale in Fontana.
"The no.02 CompUSA Lexus Riley was really awesome but the rain really complicated things and made a bit more interesting for everyone, especially the fans, since every team seemed to be on a completely different strategy," said Luis Diaz who along with co-driver Jimmy Morales has brought the no.02 car across the finish line in the top five in the last three consecutive races. "After an early set back, the no.02 CompUSA crew did a good job to get us caught up and back on the lead lap to battle up front. We had a good strategy and we're pleased with fourth place. This was a good result for the no.02 Lexus Riley but we really want to take it a step further in Fontana and see if we can't get that win that we want so much."
Fans of CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates can catch the 2004 Rolex Series Finale at California Speedway in Fontana, LIVE on SPEED Channel, beginning at 4:00 PM (ET) on Sunday, October 31st. Fans are also welcome to follow the team's progress throughout the race weekend by logging on to the GrandAmerican.com website for free Zippo live timing results and are invited to keep up with the team's successes by logging onto their official website at chipganassiracing.com for news, features, photos and much more.