Heated Battle for CompUSA in Miami 250 Ends with 4th Place and Tighter Fight for Championship Homestead, Florida--Sunday, September 19th, 2004- Under blazingly hot and humid conditions at the 2.3-mile road course Homestead-Miami Speedway, the...
Heated Battle for CompUSA in Miami 250 Ends with 4th Place and Tighter Fight for Championship
Homestead, Florida--Sunday, September 19th, 2004- Under blazingly hot and humid conditions at the 2.3-mile road course Homestead-Miami Speedway, the CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team's race for the win at the Miami 250 and for the Rolex Sportscar Series Championship got a bit more heated than expected.
With the No. 01 CompUSA Lexus Riley of Max Papis and Scott Pruett starting from the pole position for the eighth time in nine races to date, the duo were the clear favorites for the Miami 250, especially with a 19 point lead in the championship, three victories to their credit, and not one finish outside of the top ten this season.
With the air temperature hovering at 95 degrees Fahrenheit and a track temperature topping 108, Max Papis left a heat trail of his own as he took the start in the no.01 Lexus Riley and began to build up an amazing lead that was over 12 seconds by the thirteenth lap. Meanwhile, CompUSA teammate Jimmy Morales had more of a struggle on his hands when the no.02 CompUSA car was tagged from behind on the start and fell to the back of the field after a quick pit to repair the damage.
"I got hit from behind on the start and the bodywork cut the left rear tire which ended up putting us a lap behind," explained Morales, who along with Diaz have a pair of third places finishes under their belts in the last 5 races. "I worked as hard as I could to get that car back up under very hot conditions that were difficult for both car and driver but we also had a bit of trouble with sixth gear that made it more of a challenge in the straight-aways."
With three full course cautions to cool things down and mix things up a bit, Luis Diaz had worked his no.02 CompUSA car all the way up into the top five by lap 75. Pitting under the fourth yellow of the day, the no.02 CompUSA crew made the decision to top up on fuel but forego fresh tires in order to get Diaz back out into second place ahead of teammate Scott Pruett in the no.01 car who in turn came out of the pits in third spot with fuel and new tires.
On the restart, Diaz made a quick move and eased his way past the 10 car for the race lead. A few laps later, after a little wiggle and slightly disadvantaged by older tires, Diaz was passed by the 10 car and the no.01 CompUSA Lexus Riley in turn and eventually settled down to protect a fourth place position.
"It was a very good strategy by the team to go with fuel only on that pit stop to get us out onto the track and up front," said Diaz who brought the no.02 Lexus Riley across the finish line in fourth place after battling back from a one lap deficit. "Even on old tires, we finished strong and I feel good about our fourth place. Every time out there, the no.02 CompUSA Lexus Riley feels better and better even when the competition is getting tougher and tougher, and I feel we are ready for even more success in these final three races especially on tracks that we think we can excel on."
Pruett, in the meantime, proceeded to stalk the race leader (10 car), who stood second in the championship points behind the CompUSA no.01 drivers. With less than 20 laps to go in the timed race, and within spitting distance of the leader in turn one, the no.01 CompUSA car suddenly spun on its own and found itself stuck in the gravel pit. There was later some suspicion that oil on the track from an earlier incident might have been the cause. Pruett however eventually got the no.01 car back on track and drove as hard as could to make up some valuable points.
"I can't tell you how disappointed I am right now for the team but I'm just not sure what happened," said Pruett who would go on to finish 10th in class and overall. "The CompUSA did a good job preparing the no.01 Lexus Riley and it was reasonably strong from the start and continued to be very consistent throughout the race. As I got to turn one, I was pushing really hard, trying to keep the heat on the leader and force him to make a mistake but suddenly my car just stepped out on me for no reason. The CompUSA team had the car for a podium finish and missing out on the valuable points really hurts but it will certainly make this final stretch very interesting. We'll rebound quickly and drive hard for that championship."
In the final laps, the 10 car of Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli was passed by the no.1 car of Milka Dunno and Andy Wallace who went on to claim the win at the Miami 250. The result means that Papis and Pruett do retain their lead in the Rolex Series Championship ahead of Taylor and Angelelli, but by a slim margin of just 8 points with three races to go in the season.
"It was a sweet beginning but it was a very bitter finish for the no.01 CompUSA Lexus Riley today," said Papis of their efforts to finish among the leaders and try extend their lead in the Championship. "It's very disappointing because we were competitive out there and really battled for the win and for the championship from start to finish. This is a great team and we're still vying for that championship. We only lost a little bit of ground today. It makes it just a bit harder but this team knows how to battle and that's what we do every time we're out there. The next three races will be that much more important and exciting and it will certainly give us a chance to prove just how much we want to win this Rolex series championship."
The next stop for the CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team will be Virginia International Raceway for the 400 kilometer race presented by SunTrust, October 1-3. Fans of CompUSA team can watch the race live on SPEED at 12:00 PM (ET) on Sunday, October 3rd. Fans are also welcome to follow the team's progress throughout race weekends by logging on to the GrandAmerican.com website for free Zippo live timing results and are invited to keep up with the team's successes by logging onto their official website at chipganassiracing.com for news, features, photos and much more.