A REAL POINTS BATTLE Various car racing series often refer to the pursuit of season-long, triumphant driver and manufacturer championship chases as "battles" of the highest order. Try this "order" on for size. At the Rolex Series presented...
A REAL POINTS BATTLE
Various car racing series often refer to the pursuit of season-long, triumphant driver and manufacturer championship chases as "battles" of the highest order.
Try this "order" on for size.
At the Rolex Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Scott Dixon, Casey Mears and Dan Wheldon took the race victory and the Daytona Prototype driving championship points lead.
As the CGR trio exited the series for regular driving jobs in Nextel Cup and the IndyCar Series, it was reasonable to expect a new points leader would emerge after the Rolex Series' next stop, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriquez in Mexico City.
Sure enough, in something of a surprise to many (with no disrespect, gents), Jörg Bergmeister and Colin Braun came out on top after finishing second in their No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford-powered Riley.
Next up was the Linder Industrial Komatsu Miami Grand Prix, where Alex Job Racing took its first-ever, overall sportscar race victory (seems almost impossible to believe, doesn't it?) with drivers Patrick Long and Michael Rockenfeller at the wheel of the No. 23 (soon-to-be) Ruby Tuesday Porsche- Crawford. Though coming out on top in the race, the duo wouldn't dislodge Bergmeister from the points lead after he finished ninth with an assist from Max Papis (Braun wasn't dislodged by the Ruby Tuesday gang either after getting dumped from the top by legal matters; more on that, below).
In something of a two-race streak, retrospectively speaking, Bergmeister would book it from Miami with a four point lead (81-77) over Crown Royal/Cheever racing's Christian Fittipaldi (whose No. 39 Crawford-Porsche finished second in the race).
Moving along to the April 8 Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach, Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz won the race and that, in turn, put the 2005 second-place DP points championship finishers atop the 2006 DP driver standings for the first time in 2006.
Though Bergmeister would again finish in the top-10 - his fourth time in four starts - running and finishing out front gave Pruett and Diaz a six- point edge (111-105) over the Krohn Racing driver.
With a soon-to-be-seen twist in the racing road, a long-lasting lead it wasn't to be.
New-to-the-series qualifying races - happening five times altogether in 2006 and the first time ever at Virginia International Raceway - and an electrical glitch in Pruett's No. 01 CompUSA Lexus-Riley would shove Pruett and Diaz from first to fourth in the standings; elevate Bergmeister back to the top; put Rockenfeller/Long in second place; and, Michael McDowell, who won the race in this No. 19 Playboy/Uniden/Palms Ford-Crawford, into third place in the Rolex Series' DP championship hunt.
At the same time Rockenfeller banged his Ruby Tuesday through a hole in the following day's VIR main event, he and Long took first place in the race and the DP driving championship moments later.
Sitting on top of the world, last week's U.S. Sports Car Invitational at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was almost everything for which the Ruby Tuesday gang had hoped - and not hoped.
Scoring its fourth-straight front-row start after the Laguna Seca qualifying race, the Ruby Tuesday crew on one day apparently solidified its points lead only to have a gear-shift sensor fail in Sunday's main event, leaving the team to finish 38th and Bergmeister - posting his sixth top-10 in six starts - to resume the Rolex Series' Daytona Prototype points point.
We're not talking blow-out here, folks.
Bergmeister, who lays awake nights wondering where the world economy is heading, now has a solid two-point margin over Long and Rockenfeller: 208 to 206, respectively.
With another qualifying race on the agenda Friday, to be followed by Saturday night's Gainsco Grand Prix, it wouldn't be terribly surprising to see the lead change hands yet again on the 1.51-mile Phoenix International Raceway - with Bergmeister, Long and Rockenfeller watching from the sidelines as the hands of others determine their fate.
While the trio of Rolex Series' points battlers will be racing elsewhere, usual co-driver Colin Braun on Friday evening will do all he can to keep Bergmeister in front and Marcel Tiemann will do all he can after being tapped by Alex Job Racing to qualify the No. 23 Porsche Crawford.
Now, beyond Alex Job calling upon him, I have no idea how Tiemann got in the mix - or how he'll get out, for that matter. Like the points, it'll all shake out by Sunday.
HE'LL PROBABLY SMOKE A TIRE OR TWO
Did you notice Speed's in- and on-car Krohn Racing cameras at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca? The Krohn name - smack dab in the camera shots no matter their location - had a no smoking icon (a red-encircled cigarette caricature with red diagonal line crossing it) where the "o" in Krohn is normally found.
Though the no-smoking theme is for real, it's more than just an anti- smoking move.
An otherwise first-place points leader, 17-year-old Colin Braun, having been stung by being barred from participation in the March 25 Linder Industrial Komatsu Miami Grand Prix due to anti-tobacco settlements barring under-18-year-olds in sports activities having cigarette sponsorship/advertisements, a bevy of Braun-favoring lawyers (or maybe it's just one, really good barrister) noticed a Federal law that stipulates anti- smoking messages - and the bearers of such - cannot be prevented from conveying that message.
So, here's Braun, now conveying an anti-tobacco message - protected even beyond your garden-variety Constitutional free speech protections - versus the rest of the world who thinks he shouldn't be a part of anything having to do with cigarette sponsorships.
As if Braun's gonna be dumb enough to risk his life for a lousy cigarette.
With looming races at Watkins Glen and Sonoma at which are Roger Penske's Marlboro-sponsored cars will appear in tandem with the Rolex Series, stayed tuned to see who wins a classic case of which governmental agency or authority has the greater say.
Nothing particularly unusual . it's just happening at a race track this time.
WHERE'S SPEED WHEN YOU NEED IT?
Like most preening testosterone-driven males - regardless of species - there was a lot of enlarging, fluffing, red faces, yelling, chest-thrusting and one cussword after Sunday's Rolex Series race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
But that's about all.
Still, it would've made good theater - though J.C. France and Chris Bingham still retain No. 1 Rolex Series "fight" award thus far in 2005.
A certain motorsports writer was talking with Christian Fittipaldi when the Brazilian-born driver (now on his third hair style in 2006; going for a new record) started to smile at something over the reporter's right shoulder. It was one of his best impish smiles - woe be unto those who can't recognize the classic Fittipaldi look - so it was immediately clear something was amiss.
Less than 20-feet away were Harrison Brix, Terry Borcheller and Adrian Fernandez in a huffin' and puffin' heated discussion - the escalating volume of which would've made it noticeable even had Fittipaldi's eagle eyes not caught it 0.003-seconds into the "fight."
The three were discussing the finer aspects of wrecking another car. In this case - according to the combatants - it was Borcheller on one day and Fernandez on another day.
"Pay back" was one of the most frequently used terms by all involved parties, along with complete sentences like "You don't know how to drive," and healthy sprinklings of "did," "did not," "duh" and "no-duh," etc.
It really looked pretty serious for awhile. Luis Diaz even came a-running to make sure his fellow Mexican National Hero (that would be Fernandez) was okay.
When Diaz smirked, turned and walked away, it became apparent that no fists would fly.
Soon thereafter, Brix and Borcheller moved on and an exasperated Fernandez was left wondering if perhaps a Shakespeare play had broken out, much ado about nothing that it was.
But, that's racing.
..And I'm DC Williams writing this gossip column exclusively for Motorsports.com