Fontana: Season finale race report

Pruett and Papis Take Daytona Prototype Title with Victory in Lexus Grand American 400k FONTANA, Calif. (October 31, 2004) -- No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley co-drivers Max Papis and Scott Pruett wrapped up the 2004 Rolex Sports...

Pruett and Papis Take Daytona Prototype Title with Victory in Lexus Grand American 400k

FONTANA, Calif. (October 31, 2004) -- No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley co-drivers Max Papis and Scott Pruett wrapped up the 2004 Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype driver and team titles with their victory in today's Lexus Grand American 400k at California Speedway.

After starting from the pole position, Papis jumped out to an early lead ahead of his CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Darren Manning in the No. 8 Lexus Riley and Jimmy Morales in the No. 02 Lexus Riley. Meanwhile, the No. 01 co-drivers' chief rival for the championship--Wayne Taylor in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley--encountered fuel pickup problems on Lap 7 of the 89-lap race and was forced onto pit road prematurely. The problem ultimately dropped the No. 10 car off the lead lap and effectively ended Taylor's championship bid.

However, the day would not go without incident for Papis and Pruett. On Lap 39, Papis brought the No. 01 onto pit road and Pruett took over the controls, but as Pruett attempted to leave pit lane, the fuel hose was still attached. The ensuing penalties cost Pruett a total of 55 seconds, and he lost the lead to teammate Luis Diaz in the No. 02 for eight laps. Diaz made his final pit stop of the afternoon on Lap 82, and Pruett led the rest of the way en route to the victory and the Daytona Prototype crown.

"We showed determination and a lot of hard work," Pruett said. "We had teamwork all season long. It's nice to win, even sweeter to have a championship. I felt he was sending me out too soon. We pulled out and I immediately stopped and luckily we didn't have any damage. Fortunately for us, our car was superb. I ran a fast, conservative pace.

"I just can't say enough for the Chip Ganassi guys. For the team it was nerve wracking coming into this last race, separated only by three points, that's pretty awesome competition."

"I'm overwhelmed," said Papis, who was celebrating his first auto racing championship. "It's really special driving for an organization like Chip Ganassi. Three weeks ago we decided we wanted to get help from Darren (Manning) and Scott (Dixon). I was surprised in the beginning with our pace.

"On the personal side, it's been a very strange weekend. Last week people from (NASCAR NEXTEL Cup team) Hendrick (Motorsports) had their tragedy and I lost some friends. Five years ago today my friend Greg Moore had his accident so Scott really made this weekend great for me. Even when Scott had his problem in the pit stop, it could have been terminal but it wasn't. We didn't work for this championship without the ups and downs."

The championship came in the first year of Rolex Sports Car Series competition for CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing. Team owner Chip Ganassi has previously won championships in CART Champ Car and Indy Racing League IndyCar Series competition.

"That's the way you want to win a championship," Ganassi said. "Winning the race, in order to win a championship that isn't decided until the last race of the season, makes it even more gratifying. I was as nervous as anyone heading into this race. This has been an incredible battle all season long. I've had a lot of fun and really enjoyed it. To win our first Rolex Grand American Sports Car Series championship in just our first season is very special."

Finishing second were Elliott Forbes-Robinson--who celebrated his 61st birthday today--and co-driver Butch Leitzinger in the No. 4 Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford. It was the duo's second-straight top-two finish to go with their triumph three weeks ago in the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant at Barber Motorsports Park. It was also their third podium result in their past four starts dating to a third-place run in the Grand Prix of Miami last month.

"At the beginning of the year, we were struggling a little bit with our car," Forbes-Robinson said. "The Boss Snowplow had faith to put me in a car when a lot of people wouldn't put an old guy in a car. Coming into this series, I didn't know how it would all work, but I love being here."

"It was good, hard racing," Leitzinger added. "The cars are so equal and everyone drives well. It's been great fun. Like Elliott, I didn't know what to expect coming into this year."

Despite contact with the No. 63 Stuttgart Performance Porsche GT3 RS of Geoff Escalette on Lap 10 that required extensive repairs, Manning and co-driver Scott Dixon battled back for a third-place result. It was Manning's first-ever appearance in the Rolex Sports Car Series and was Dixon's first Rolex Series race since competing in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in February.

Taylor and co-driver Max Angelelli rebounded from the early gremlins to finish fourth in the race, and Angelelli also turned the race's fastest lap (1:31.790 on Lap 80). Rounding out the top five were No. 27 Doran-Lista Racing Lexus Doran co-drivers Didier Theys and Jan Magnussen.

Papis and Pruett wound up 10 points ahead of Taylor in the Daytona Prototype driver standings (362-352) and also brought home the team championship for the No. 01 team by the same margin over the No. 10 team. The victory also gave Riley the Daytona Prototype chassis constructor's championship, 391-364, over Crawford. The second-place finish by Forbes-Robinson and Leitzinger clinched the Daytona Prototype engine manufacturer's championship for Pontiac by 10 points, 401-391, over Lexus.

AUBERLEN WINS GT CROWN; MILNER AND COLLINS TAKE FIRST CLASS WIN

Despite a fuel pump relay failure on Lap 45 that put the championship in doubt, No. 21 Prototype Technology Group BMW M3 driver Bill Auberlen wrapped up the GT driver's title, while his No. 16 PTG BMW M3 teammates Tom Milner and Kelly Collins earned the class race victory in the Lexus Grand American 400k.

Auberlen wound up sixth in class and 18th overall leaving him in a tie with PTG teammate Boris Said, who finished second in the race with No. 22 PTG BMW M3 co-driver Joey Hand. Auberlen and Said finished with 260 points apiece, but Auberlen claimed the championship based on the fact that he had eight class wins to Said's five. Ironically, Auberlen's first four victories came with Said as his co-driver.

"Today was definitely emotional," Auberlen said. "This race was the biggest roller coaster. I went from leading the race, to not being able to win, to winning the championship. This win is for the team, and this is what PTG is all about. It couldn't have gotten any closer. I'm happy to win, but I'm sad that Boris couldn't win because we were teammates and he helped me win this championship. What a season."

For Milner and Collins it was their first Rolex Series GT class win, and was Milner's first-ever Rolex Series class victory. The victory came in their second race together.

"Going in I didn't think I was close as I was," said Milner. "Coming into these races I thought just go out and have fun but to get a pole and a now a win, it's amazing."

"We had some problems at Barber but it was good here today, Collins said. "We had a car that's really good. I'm happy for Tom (Milner) and Bill (Auberlen) and sorry for Boris (Said)."

RJ Valentine, Ian James and Chris Gleason finished third in the GT class and 15th overall in the No. 66 The Racer's Group Porsche GT3 RS. Emil Assentato and Stephen Earle finished fourth in GT co-driving the No. 33 Scuderia Ferrari of Washington Maserati Light GT and Kevin Buckler and Patrick Flanagan came home fifth in the No. 67 The Racer's Group Porsche GT3 RS.

In addition to the driver's championship, Auberlen also sewed up the GT manufacturer's championship for BMW by an 18-point margin over Porsche. A class victory by Auberlen and co-driver Justin Marks in the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant earlier this month clinched the team title for the No. 21 team.

BUNTING AND LALLY TAKE SGS TITLE; SIGAL AND BRIX GET CLASS WIN IN "HOMETOWN" RACE

All No. 38 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup co-drivers Marc Bunting and Andy Lally had to do to win the first and only SGS driver's championship in Rolex Series history was for each driver to compete under green flag conditions. They accomplished their mission inside of five laps, as Bunting drove the opening lap of the race after starting from the class pole position before the first and only full-course caution flag of the race came out to begin Lap 2.

Under the caution, Bunting brought the Porsche onto pit lane and handed over the controls to Lally, who claimed his piece of the championship pie as soon as the green flag flew again on Lap 5. The duo led the SGS class for a sizable portion of the race before a late race pit stop relegated them to a second place finish.

"It was a great season," Bunting said. "Everyone at TPC Racing did a great job. We certainly weren't expecting another podium. We just wanted to get our two laps and win the championship. We were lucky to get the yellow early and do the driver change to get Andy in the car and then get me back in later. It was a great ending to a great season."

"The goal coming in here was to get a lap each, that's all we had to do to win," Lally offered. "After that, we just wanted to go all out and go for it. I got the lead early and I turned it over to Marc and he was just flying. It was just a good time. It basically became a nice celebration for two hours and 45 minutes. We enjoyed today. We barely broke a sweat, and we had some fun. I'm looking forward to coming back next year."

Los Angeles native Gene Sigal and San Diego's Harrison Brix pounced on the opportunity and brought home their first career Rolex Series class victory in the No. 04 Grease Monkey Racing Porsche GT3 Cup. The triumph came in Sigal's ninth career SGS start and the fifth SGS start for Brix.

"It really was a big battle," Brix said. "When Randy (Pobst) caught me, we were in the thick of it. He kept getting held up by the (Daytona) Prototype cars. My spotter was awesome. He kept telling me to keep going."

"We're going to stay with Grand American and decide which class to run next year," Sigal said. "We're finally getting a baseline we're all happy with."

Finishing third in SGS were TPC Racing owner Michael Levitas and Randy Pobst in the No. 38 Porsche GT3 Cup, followed by the John Littlechild and Jean-Francois Dumoulin in the No. 37 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup. Sandwiching the TPC cars was Grease Monkey Racing, as the team's No. 03 Porsche GT3 Cup of Andrew Alfonso and Tim Traver finished fifth.

Bunting and Lally clinched the SGS team title for the No. 38 team after winning the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant at Barber Motorsports Park three weeks ago, and Porsche clinched the SGS manufacturer's title in the Grand Prix of Miami last month. The 2004 season was the only one for the SGS class, as it will be combined with the GT category for the 2005 Rolex Series season.

-garra-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Darren Manning , Jan Magnussen , Butch Leitzinger , Boris Said , Didier Theys , Max Papis , Scott Dixon , Scott Pruett , Wayne Taylor , Bill Auberlen , Joey Hand , Stephen Earle , Elliott Forbes-Robinson , Kelly Collins , Luis Diaz , Kevin Buckler , Ian James , Max Angelelli , Justin Marks , Chris Gleason , Jean-Francois Dumoulin , Michael Levitas , Jimmy Morales , John Littlechild , Marc Bunting , Chip Ganassi , Geoff Escalette , Patrick Flanagan , Gene Sigal , Andrew Alfonso , Harrison Brix , Tim Traver , Greg Moore
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing