DC's perspective on Rolex Series happenings

FIGURE IT OUT With four races down of the scheduled 14 races for the 2006 Rolex Series season, only one Daytona Prototype driving team has claimed top-dog honors in repeat fashion - Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz, who drove...

FIGURE IT OUT

With four races down of the scheduled 14 races for the 2006 Rolex Series season, only one Daytona Prototype driving team has claimed top-dog honors in repeat fashion - Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz, who drove their No. 01 Lexus-powered CompUSA/Telmex Riley to wins at Mexico City's Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez and the DP-only Rolex Series race at the Long Beach Grand Prix.

In fact, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates' Lexus-powered Riley cars have won three of the four decided races.

Remember Scott Dixon, Casey Mears and Dan Wheldon driving their Target-sponsored No. 02 Lexus-Riley to a Rolex 24 At Daytona victory?

Indeed, over the course of the season's first four races, Lexus-powered drivers have six times stood on race-end podiums.

Porsche drivers have stood on half as many, with Ford and BMW power each claiming one podium finish.

So, who gets nailed with new sanctions?

Porsche - which finished first solely at the end of the Miami Grand Prix.

Go figure.

RACING FOR FUNSIES

Count 'em: only 13 GT cars showed for the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez race in March.

Though greater in number than those teams taking part in 2005's season-ending race only four months previous in Mexico City, it still seemed, well, unprofessional that so many teams didn't care to participate.

The track and the fans on hand were gracious hosts at the top-rate facility - many fans taking the time to enthusiastically thank those having undertaken the not-so-cheap trip from north of the border.

And, perhaps, "expense" was the principal reason behind many not showing up.

But it just might've been a case of being penny wise; pound foolish when one considers the marketing opportunities in Mexico.

Though an element of being in the right place at the right time always plays a role in success, NASCAR's achievement of that end hasn't exactly been dumb luck, either.

With Mexico's middle-class-and-up demographic having more people in it than the entirety of Canada's population, there's got to be a heap of commercial prospects there just ripe for the mining.

But one must take pick and shovel in hand and commence swinging and digging to be productive. Gold rarely walks itself into one's possession.

Perhaps some of those who otherwise regularly participate in the GT side of the Rolex Series are given more credit for being "professionals" than they deserve.

BOUNCING BACK

Well before Chris Mellon joined the No. 3 BMW-powered Riley PAP Autoparts team as crew chief/techie late last season, he'd been solving some of racing's greatest aggravations for so long that years ago his hair turned pure white.

So it wasn't any surprise when Brumos Racing's No. 59 Porsche-FABCAR team turned to the veteran in early 2004 to help that team find a way back to Victory Lane - which it hadn't driven into since a win at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2003 where drivers J.C. France and Hurley Haywood brought home the Daytona Prototype's first overall - not class - victory.

Leaving that still-struggling team under a dark cloud as 2004 drew to a close after failing to conjure his magic, Mellon's image - rightly or wrongly - was nonetheless tarnished a tad.

So it was probably pretty satisfying to the lanky, soft-spoken Mellon when the No. 3 BMW-Riley, in the hands of drivers Shane Lewis and Bill Auberlen, finished a surprising third in the DP show at Long Beach on April 8.

Extra credit, though, should go to engine-builder Steve Dinan, who from all appearances hasn't got much in the way of support from BMW but still plows ahead in the development of his DP powerplant.

(Indeed, a lack of even moral support from both the German-based BMW factory and BMW USA was said to be at least one of the factors behind Finlay Motorsports switch to Ford power in 2006.)

A lot is to be said for people who continue plowing ahead when, at times, so many things seem to be working against them. Mellon and Dinan are two such souls. Gee, one reckons they could be called true "Racers."

MILLISECONDS

Cheers have arisen from race commentators and TV viewers alike when a suddenly hurting race car quickly darts from a racing surface.

Though at times cautiously so, praise nevertheless is often effusive for the "quick-thinking" driver who "heroically" got his "rolling hazard" out of the way so that other racers could continue their fight unimpeded.

Burt Frisselle wasn't among them - but only by milliseconds - at Long Beach.

The Long Beach Grand Prix's front straight is one huge parabola, making for a long stretch on the 1.98-mile track.

As such, in a less-than-scientific pre-race poll, most LBGP Daytona Prototype drivers favored it as the better place to pass of about three recognized passing zones on the 1.98-mile course.

Still, the built-in competitive nature of the car class required DP drivers to take an all-out, petal-to-metal, precise, gear-shifting blast-off out of the course's final Turn 11 to provide any hope of a successful end-of-front-straight pass.

That's probably what the Gainsco Blackhawk, Crown Royal Eddie Cheever Motorsports and Lowe's Fernandez Racing car drivers were doing - putting their heads down - when they happened upon Burt Frisselle's crippled No. 8 Shoes For Crews Porsche-Doran as it helplessly languished just around a corner that didn't offer a lot of options for making like a tree (you know: "and 'leaving'").

Burt and "little brother" Brian have some pretty darn good racing genes in them by way of their father, Brad Frisselle, who not only built some darn good winning Can-Am race cars - the Frissbee - but drove 'em well, too.

Milliseconds: that's all the time Burt Frisselle - and the others - had on hand to do their thing in a spot that wasn't really conducive to such compact time periods.

Though it would've been better had Blackhawk driver Rocky Moran Jr. not suffered a broken leg, the best news to come out of that deal was that all of the Daytona Prototypes did as designed: saved driver lives in one nasty-ass crash.

VERY INTERESTING

Those in the 50-and-above age bracket will likely remember the irreverent and assuredly politically incorrect Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, which ran in a prime-time NBC TV slot in the late-1960's and early 1970's.

Though rocketing people like Goldie Hawn into the public consciousness, the show also thrust some sayings into the vernacular of the day, like "sock it to me," "You bet your Sweet Bippy" and "Here Comes Da Judge."

What's this got to do with racing?

Two words: "Mike Rockenfeller."

Asked Thursday afternoon for some impressions of his first-ever encounter with VIRginia International Raceway's challenging track, the German-born Rockenfeller pondered a moment, then said, "Very interesting" - as though he were Laugh-In regular Arte Johnson incarnate, though not knowing it.

Thus loosing a flood of one journalist's memories of the diminutive comedian, more often than not dressed as though he was a member of the German Wermacht, when given the chance Johnson often said little more than a heavily German accentuated "Very interesting."

And, that's what the VIR race weekend should look like, too, with a first-time look at a set of Saturday Rolex Series qualification races which will demand some considerable thought be given as to how a team will manage their race weekend.

As Rolex 24 second-place finisher Oswaldo Negri put it, "If you've got any suggestions on how to handle it, we're interested in hearing them."

-Exclusively for Motorsport.com by DC Williams

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Shane Lewis , Eddie Cheever , Casey Mears , Scott Dixon , Scott Pruett , Rocky Moran Jr. , Dan Wheldon , Burt Frisselle , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Chip Ganassi , Mike Rockenfeller , J.C. Fra , Felix Sabates
Teams Williams , Chip Ganassi Racing