Daytona II: Under the lights preview

Rolex Series Set for Battle Under the Lights at Daytona in Brumos Porsche 250 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 27, 2006) -- Just five days after Round 9 of the 14-race 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special ...

Rolex Series Set for Battle Under the Lights at Daytona in Brumos Porsche 250

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 27, 2006) -- Just five days after Round 9 of the 14-race 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the Rolex Series teams will return to action on Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway for the Brumos Porsche 250 (SPEED, Live, 7 p.m. ET).

German driver Jorg Bergmeister has parlayed back-to-back top-two finishes into a healthy, 26-point lead in the Daytona Prototype driver standings (323-297) over No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley co-drivers Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz and heads into Thursday's 10th round looking to extend that lead. He shares the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley with 17-year-old Colin Braun, with whom he co-drove to a second-place result in the EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank last Saturday at Mid-Ohio. Bergmeister picked up his first victory of the season earlier this month in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen alongside road racing stalwart Boris Said.

Bergmeister has been a model of consistency throughout the 2006 campaign, as evidenced by the fact that he has not finished lower than eighth in any Rolex Series feature race this season. He has finished on the podium a total of four times, and will need to continue that type of performance if he is to take home the Daytona Prototype title at season's end. The reason being is that there are plenty of drivers and teams that have also shown the ability to run up front and one bad race can quickly change the complexion of the championship battle.

A good example of that is the No. 01 pairing of Pruett and Diaz. Nobody in the Daytona Prototype class has won more this season than the CompUSA duo, which took victories in the Mexico City 250, the Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach and the GAINSCO Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway. Pruett and Diaz entered the EMCO Gears Classic trailing Bergmeister by just four points, but were dealt a blow when Pruett collected a spinning Burt Frisselle in the No. 8 GlycoMax/Synergy Racing Porsche Doran in the last half of the race at Mid-Ohio, leaving them 21st in class after a run of seven-consecutive top-10 finishes.

Nevertheless, Pruett and Diaz will undoubtedly pull out all the stops to fight their way back in the standings. While they also struggled in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona--where a mechanical failure left them 20th in the Daytona Prototype class--the team's No. 02 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley driven by IndyCar champions Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon and NASCAR racer Casey Mears claimed the overall victory. That could bode well for Pruett and Diaz on Thursday.

Over the past five races, no team has been hotter than the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley operation. Defending Daytona Prototype co-champion Max Angelelli has shared the No. 10 machine with his 2005 co-champion and car owner, Wayne Taylor, as well as Danish standout Jan Magnussen, and the SunTrust car has finished in the top four in every feature race since a second-place performance in the VIR 400 in April. The run includes a victory in May's Road & Track 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca by Angelelli and Magnussen, and Angelelli is just three points behind Diaz and Pruett in the Daytona Prototype point standings.

On Thursday, Angelelli will once again share the car with Taylor, as the duo looks for its third victory at Daytona since 2004. Angelelli and Taylor combined to win the 2004 Brumos Porsche 250, and were joined by Emmanuel Collard in their 2005 Rolex 24 At Daytona victory. Angelelli will be a busy man on Thursday, as he will also compete in Round 3 of the Crown Royal International Race of Champions (IROC) Series, which immediately follows the Brumos Porsche 250.

Through nine races, the Rolex Series has seen six different winners, one shy of the series record for different winners in a season set last year, and there have been five different winners in each of the past five events. All of the teams that have won thus far must be considered among the favorites for the Brumos Porsche 250.

That list includes the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford combination of Porsche factory drivers Patrick Long and Mike Rockenfeller. Long and Rockenfeller are the only drivers besides Pruett and Diaz to have won more than once this season, taking victories in the Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami and the VIR 400. While the Ruby Tuesday drivers have experienced a run of bad luck lately, the No. 23 machine was clearly the fastest in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and the "sprint race" format of the Brumos Porsche 250 may be just what the doctor ordered for Rockenfeller and Long.

Last weekend's first-time winners, Adrian Fernandez and Mario Haberfeld in the No. 12 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Pontiac Riley, also rate among the favorites to win the Brumos Porsche 250. After adapting to the nuances of sports car racing through the first half of the season, the No. 12 machine has been consistently fast over the past several events, and now that they've found Victory Circle, Fernandez and Haberfeld could be a formidable combination.

In addition to the regular complement of drivers that bring star power to every Rolex Series event, the Brumos Porsche 250 has traditionally attracted superstars from other forms of racing. This year is no exception, with two champions set to make cameo appearances under the lights at Daytona. Bobby Labonte, the 2000 NASCAR champion, will make his second Rolex Series start of the season, co-driving the No. 07 Spirit of Daytona Racing with Bobby Labonte Pontiac Crawford with Guy Cosmo.

Making his third Rolex Series appearance of the season will be 2003 Champ Car World Series champion Paul Tracy, who returns to the cockpit of the No. 6 Playboy Racing/Mears Motor Coach Lexus Riley alongside Mike Borkowski with Michael Shank Racing. While all of the drivers and teams in the field want to win, for Tracy and Labonte, victory is their sole motivation and either one could win on Thursday night.

Other front-runners in a power-packed lineup include No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford co-drivers Andy Wallace and Butch Leitzinger, No. 19 Playboy/Uniden Racing Ford Crawford teammates Memo Gidley and Michael McDowell, Christian Fittipaldi and Eddie Cheever Jr. in the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve/Cheever Racing Porsche Crawford, the No. 58 Red Bull/Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar combination of Darren Law and David Donohue, Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri Jr. in the No. 60 Flight Options Lexus Riley, the No. 75 Krohn Racing Ford Riley in the hands of Nic Jonsson and car owner Tracy Krohn, Terry Borcheller and Harrison Brix in the No. 77 Kodak/Amp'd Mobile/Sirius Ford Doran, the No. 89 Team Vonage/Playboy/Palms Casino Pontiac Riley, and Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley.

Both Leitzinger and Wallace know their way to Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway, and Leitzinger is the defending champion of the Brumos Porsche 250 alongside then-co-driver Elliott Forbes-Robinson. Gidley and McDowell have won in Rolex Series competition before, as have Fittipaldi, Donohue and Law. The Porsche Crawford combination proved extremely quick at Daytona, which should benefit Fittipaldi and Cheever, while the No. 58 Porsche Fabcar seems to be tailor-made for the Central Florida road course.

Patterson and Negri finished second in their last Rolex Series appearance at Daytona in February and would love nothing more than to collect their first victory in the Brumos Porsche 250, while Jonsson and Krohn have also won previously in Rolex Series competition. Borcheller is another driver with previous Rolex Series victories at Daytona, including the 2004 Rolex 24 At Daytona, and would love to visit Victory Lane with Brix. With runner-up finishes already under their belts, Dalziel and Figge and Fogarty and Gurney seem poised for a breakthrough win at any time.

Strengthening the Brumos Porsche 250 field even further are Shane Lewis and Craig Stanton in the No. 3 Southard Motorsports BMW Riley, Rob Finlay and Michael Valiante in the No. 5 Make A Wish/Z-Line Designs/Finlay Motorsports Ford Crawford, the No. 7 Tuttle Team Racing Pontiac Riley combination of Jonathan Cochet and car owner Brian Tuttle, Burt and Brian Frisselle in the No. 8 GlycoMax/Synergy Racing Porsche Doran, Doug Goad and Marc-Antoine Camirand in the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Racing Pontiac Crawford, the No. 11 CITGO Racing by SAMAX Pontiac Riley pairing of Milka Duno and Stefan Johansson, Chris and Rob Dyson in the No. 16 Thetford/Norcold Pontiac Crawford, the No. 30 Sigalsport/Motul/enVista BMW Riley of Matthew Alhadeff and Bill Auberlen, Chris Bingham and Randy Ruhlman in the No. 40 Preformed Line Products Pontiac Riley, the No. 50 Rocketsports Racing Ford Crawford with drivers to be named, Hurley Haywood and JC France in the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar, the new No. 61 AIM Autosport Lexus Riley entry of Mark Wilkins and James Hinchcliffe, and Tony Ave and Skip Cummins in the No. 97 CyberSpeed Racing Pontiac Riley.

The battle for the GT championship has heated up considerably, with just 14 points separating the top six drivers. No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R co-drivers Marc Bunting and Andy Lally hold a slim, five-point lead (372-367) over No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3 co-drivers Robin Liddell and Wolf Henzler, with No. 64 TRG/iRise co-drivers Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards just behind with 358 points. Liddell and Henzler have won each of the past two GT-class races and have three victories on the season, while Collins and Edwards also own three victories and Bunting and Lally have won twice. All three teams rank among the favorites to win.

Not to be overlooked, however, is the two-car entry from TPC Racing, which earned the class victory in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. Sharing the team's No. 35 Porsche GT3 will be team owner Michael Levitas--who was one of the four drivers to win in January--and John Angelone, with 2006 Rolex 24 GT winners Ian Baas and Spencer Pumpelly slated for the No. 36 Turbo Performance Center Porsche GT3. A total of 22 cars have been entered for the GT class.

All Brumos Porsche 250 activities will take place on Thursday, with Rolex Series practice beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET and qualifying slated to begin at 12:15 p.m. The Brumos Porsche 250, Round 10 of the 14-race 2006 Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve, takes the green flag at 7:00 p.m. The scheduled distance is 250 miles (70 laps) and the race is subject to a two-hour and 45-minute time limit. The Crown Royal IROC Series race--featuring Angelelli and 2004 Daytona Prototype co-champion Max Papis against a field of stock car and open-wheel racing stars--will start at 10:00 p.m. ET.

SPEED Channel will provide live television coverage of the Brumos Porsche 250 beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET. Live coverage, such as audio webcasts and live timing & scoring from all on-track sessions, is available via the official web site of the Grand American Road Racing Association, www.grandamerican.com.

Brumos Porsche 250 Fast Facts

Who: Grand American Road Racing Association

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

Where: Daytona International Speedway ; Daytona Beach, Fla.

When:              Brumos Porsche 250

Thursday, June 29 at 7:00 p.m. ET

TV: LIVE on SPEED -- Thursday, June 29 at 7:00 p.m. ET

Schedule of Events:

Thursday, June 29
9:00 a.m. -- 9:30 a.m. Rolex Series GT Practice
9:30 a.m. -- 10:30 a.m. Rolex Series Practice
10:30 a.m. -- 11:00 a.m. Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Practice
11:30 a.m. -- 12:00 p.m. Rolex Series Practice
4:00 p.m. Driver Autograph Session
7:00 p.m. START -- Brumos Porsche 250 (250 miles/70 laps/2 ¾-hour time limit)

-garra-

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