Birmingham: Series race report

Pruett, Rojas Win Grand-Am Rolex Series Leading Sixth Race in Sunday's Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park TELMEX Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates teammates now lead standings by 60 points LEEDS, Ala. (July 20, 2008) - Scott Pruett loves ...

Pruett, Rojas Win Grand-Am Rolex Series Leading Sixth Race in Sunday's Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park

TELMEX Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates teammates now lead standings by 60 points

LEEDS, Ala. (July 20, 2008) - Scott Pruett loves winning close races. One race after scoring the closest finish in the history of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16, Pruett beat Darren Law to the start/finish line by .341 seconds to win the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant, the fourth-closest finish in series history.

The series-leading sixth triumph of 2008 in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley allowed Pruett and co-driver Memo Rojas to extend their lead in the Daytona Prototype championship to 60 points over Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, who retired the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley with clutch problems.

Pruett - who led twice for 17 laps, including the final 13 - prevailed on a hot and humid day, with 102-degree temperatures taking toll on both participants and machinery.

Law and David Donohue scored their third runner-up finish in the last four races sharing the No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley. It was their fifth consecutive top-five finish.

Pruett was the lone race leader to finish in the top 10. Six other cars led the event, but all of them finished outside of the top 10. Ricardo Zonta started third in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola. He led the opening 25 circuits after jumping into the lead in the first turn, and stayed there until the team's first pit stop. Nic Jonsson took over, but skidded off course in turn nine early in his run and lost three laps. He returned to finish 13th.

Guy Cosmo led a lap in the Spirit of Daytona Porsche Coyote and co-driver Marc-Antoine Camirand ran second late in the race, but the car lost power late in the race to bring out the final caution period. Brad Jaeger led three laps in the No. 77 Kodak Doran Racing Ford Dallara, but co-driver Memo Gidley pulled off and retired when the car caught fire. He escaped without injury.

The turn of events gave Joey Hand a sizeable lead in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Porsche Riley started by Bill Auberlen. Hand had a 45-second lead over Camirand and more than a minute over the third-place car of Gurney when Gidley's incident brought out the caution.

Gurney - who stayed out front a race-high 35 laps - led Pruett on the restart, but Brian Frisselle passed both Pruett and Gurney for the lead on Lap 76 in the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley. Frisselle, who took over for Mark Wilkins, led the next 15 circuits before losing power with mechanical problems with 13 laps remaining.

That left Pruett out front, followed by Gurney. However, the GAINSCO car fell back on the restart for Frisselle's problems, and Gurney retired with clutch problems.

Law made a challenge in the closing laps, running side-by-side through turn six. Pruett maintained the lead, and then held off Law's final challenge on the three-lap sprint following the last caution for Cosmo's problem.

Ian James and John Pew finished third in the No. 6 Ford Riley, followed by Michael Shank Racing teammates Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson in the No. 60. Burt Frisselle and Ricky Taylor placed fifth in the No. 47 Doran Racing Ford Dallara, followed by the pole-winning No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Dallara of Michael Valiante and Max Angelelli.

SpeedSource's Ham, Tremblay win third GT race of season

In GT, Nick Ham passed Robin Liddell eight laps from the checkered flag to score the third victory for the No. 70 SpeedSource Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8 he shared with Sylvain Tremblay. Ham started from the pole and led 28 laps before turning the car over to Tremblay. Ham returned to the car for the sprint to the finish and led the final 8 laps.

Liddell led a race-high 55 laps in the No. 57 Stevenson Racing Pontiac GXP.R started by Andrew Davis. He was passed for the lead following the penultimate restart, and then fell to fourth after the final caution.

Bryce Miller and Dirk Werner finished second for the second straight race in the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche GT3, gaining two positions in the closing laps. Andy Lally and Tim George Jr. finished third in the No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3.

Kelly Collins led eight laps in the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R he shared with fellow three-time winner Paul Edwards. They finished sixth, allowing Tremblay and Ham to pull within 14 points of the GT lead.

The race was slowed by five cautions for 18 laps, with Pruett and Rojas averaging 85.694 mph.

The next race for the Grand-Am Rolex Series will be Aug. 1 at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

NEWS & NOTES

- The victory is the season-leading sixth Daytona Prototype victory of the season for Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley. This is also the sixth victory for the Lexus Riley.

- The victory was Pruett's 20th career Rolex Series victory (19th in Daytona Prototypes) and Ganassi's 21st as a team owner. Both are Rolex Series records.

- Pruett has been involved in all four of the closest finishes in Rolex Series history, as his margin ahead of Darren Law was 0.341 seconds. Pruett and Rojas also won the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway earlier this month, with a margin of victory of 0.081 seconds.

- Pruett and Rojas are now one victory from tying the single season record for overall victories (seven), set last season by Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley.

- Sunday's race marks the second race this season that a race has been won from the front row. Memo Rojas qualified and started the car second.

- Pruett has now led a Daytona Prototype season-leading 263 laps.

- The victory marks the sixth this season for the Lexus power plant.

- The Riley Chassis has won all Daytona Prototype races this season and 19 dating back to last year's Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen. The manufacturer also took the top four finishing positions.

- Scott Pruett and the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley have now finished in the top 10 in a record-extending 28 consecutive races.

- This was the 75th Daytona Prototype race in the history of the Rolex Series. The Daytona Prototypes debuted in 2003.

- Their runner-up finish was the third such finish in four races for the No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley of Darren Law and David Donohue. After finishing outside the top 10 in each of their first four starts, the duo has finished either second or fifth in the last five races.

- John Pew and Ian James claimed their career-best third-place finish in the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley at Barber. Their previous season- and career-best finishes were fourth twice.

- Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson improved a season-best 10 positions in their fourth-place finish aboard the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley. It also marked the duo's second fourth-place finish of 2008.

- Burt Frisselle and Ricky Taylor posted their season-best finish, fifth, in the No. 47 Doran Racing Ford Dallara. The race also matched a career-best for Taylor, who also finished fifth in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. It also marked the first top-five finish this season for Frisselle.

- Max Angelelli and Michael Valiante finished sixth after starting on the pole. Valiante didn't lead a lap for only the second race in nine starts this season in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara.

- Nine of the 18 Daytona Prototypes finished all 103 laps of the race.

- Marc Goossens and Jim Matthews posted their first top-10 finish in four races after taking eighth in the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley.

- Seven drivers in seven Daytona Prototypes led laps in the race: Alex Gurney (35), Ricardo Zonta (25), Scott Pruett (17), Brian Frisselle (15), Joey Hand (7), Brad Jaeger (3), Guy Cosmo (1). Four chassis manufacturers and four engine manufacturers led the race, and all seven cars that ran up front were different combinations.

- Ricardo Zonta posted the fastest lap of the race on Lap 83 with a time of 1:21.740.

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- The GT victory by Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham was the duo's third Rolex Series victory of the season and fourth for the SpeedSource team. It was also the team's first victory at Barber Motorsports Park.

- Tremblay and Ham's victory was the fourth for Mazda this season. The team's No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8 won the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen. Pontiacs have five GT victories this season, while Porsche owns one.

- Ham has now led a GT class high 235 laps this season.

- All 10 Rolex Series GT races have been won from the front two rows, including five from the front row.

- Second-place GT finishers Bryce Miller and Dirk Werner matched their best finish of the season in the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3. It was their second straight such finish after the pair finished second at Daytona earlier this month. In 15 career Rolex Series contests driving together in the Farnbacher Loles Racing stable, the pair has 12 podiums and 13 top fives.

- TRG's Tim George Jr. added to his Rolex Series MESCO Rookie of the Year point standings with a third-place finish in the No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3, taking the position with defending GT race co-winner Andy Lally. It was George's fifth podium finish this season. Lally has finished in the top five in four of five Rolex Series GT starts this season. This was the first race this season the pair drove together.

- Stevenson Motorsports drivers Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis scored their seventh top-five of the season with a fourth-place run in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Porsche GXP.R. Liddell led a race-high 55 laps.

- Spencer Pumpelly and Ted Ballou gave TRG a second car in the top five when the duo finished fifth in the No. 66 TRG Porsche GT3.

- Defending race co-winners Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards finished sixth in the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R. This was the third straight race the pair finished behind Ham and Tremblay, whose lead was cut to 14 points. Three races ago, heading into the EMCO Gears Classic at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the lead was 35 points.

- Three drivers in three cars led in GT competition: Robin Liddell (55), Nick Ham (36), Kelly Collins (8).

POST-RACE QUOTES (TOP THREE IN EACH CLASS)

Scott Pruett (No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley): "I feel bad that the No. 61 car broke. They had a really good car. The No. 99 car and myself got jammed up which allowed them to get past both of us. He had a good run. The No. 58 guys are knocking at the door for a win.

"All the alarms were on today - the oil temp, water temp - and you just had to ignore it all. Everything was overheating, including the drivers. We just took it to the checkered flag. This is big for us as a team. We've only finished one time on the podium here since 2004."

Memo Rojas (No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley): "I just tried to stay with the leaders. We knew it was going to be tough. We did a good job as a team and got lucky, as well. It's an endurance race and we just managed to stay out of trouble."

David Donohue (No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley): "We were really looking for a win. The guys did a great job working on the car through the night. They deserve a win. This being a Porsche-sponsored event, it would have been nice to have a Porsche on top. The motor ran super hot but held very strong all day. Our water temps were over 245 degrees (Fahrenheit) and our oil temps were over 280 degrees (Fahrenheit). It was stupid hot."

Darren Law (No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley): "Overall, I think the cars were pretty even. In the end, it was a two lap run. Everyone was loose from the pick-up. The motors were hot. I just couldn't make up any more ground than I did. It was close. It was a great run."

Ian James (No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley): "I was just trying to hold on there at the end to be on the podium even though I was out of tires. I'm just really happy to be here."

John Pew (No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley): "We had a little earlier pit stop than we planned, with grass in the radiator which overheated the engine. The whole team really deserves this."

Sylvain Tremblay (No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8): "It wasn't about what Nick and I did. It was a whole team effort. Our cars were good at places like Daytona, and we knew that. The real challenge was getting them ready for places like this and Mid-Ohio. All the credit needs to go to those who get the car ready for us to do what we need to do. Obviously the weather played a big part in it. I'm very pleased."

Nick Ham (No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8): "The first stint was harder than the last one. Getting out and rehydrating before getting back in, I felt much stronger. I had a great run with Robin. I was battling with him. I knew I just need to be patient and not make any mistakes, then the race would come to us and it did. It was a great win for our team."

Bryce Miller (No. 86 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3): "It's nice to be back and running for podiums again. The first stint was especially hot. I would have like to have served a little longer. A second-consecutive podium is certainly good for us and our sponsors. The car was great. Our hats off to Farnbacher Loles Racing."

Dirk Werner (No. 86 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3): "This was the first race I ever did without any practice before. I came here, not knowing how the car would feel. I raced here last year but the car is a little different, with different tires. The car was set-up awesome. I was able to do consistent lap times because the tires didn't go away. I had a shot at the end because the Pirelli Tires stayed strong. I want to thank Bryce for letting me run here. For him it was a risk. We're back on the podium, which is good."

Tim George Jr. (No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3): "I started out pretty well, although it was pretty hot. I felt like I did a pretty good stint moving up a few spots before I handed it over to Andy Lally, my new co-driver for the rest of the year."

Andy Lally (No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3): "That last few laps reminded me of when I was doing open-wheel in F2000 back in the day. It was absolutely an awesome knock-down, drag-out dogfight and that is exactly the way I love to see things end. We were blocking each other, chopping each other, but we kept the tolerance within an acceptable limit. It was a good show and a lot of fun. I was able to get by Robin there in (Turn) 7. We both went in real hot, but I was able to come out of it. It's a blast running in the GT class when it comes down like this. I love this stuff."

-credit: garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Nic Jönsson
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing , Stevenson Motorsports , Doran Racing , SpeedSource , Michael Shank Racing