Homestead: Series race report

Pruett, Rojas Extend Grand-Am Rolex Series Point Lead; Collins, Edwards Win GT at GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 29, 2008) -- Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas extended their Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown...

Pruett, Rojas Extend Grand-Am Rolex Series Point Lead; Collins, Edwards Win GT at GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 29, 2008) -- Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas extended their Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 point lead Saturday with their second consecutive Rolex Series win in the young 2008 season. The pilots of the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley captured Saturday's GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The duo combined to lead 51 laps overall, including 41 for Pruett, to win the 99-lap race by 1.645 seconds over defending race co-winner Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand of Alex Job Racing. Pruett and Rojas were also part of the quartet that won January's Rolex 24 At Daytona. With the win, the two stretched their championship lead to a 13-point gap over defending champions Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty following two events.

It also marked Pruett's record-extending 16th Daytona Prototype victory in Grand-Am competition.

"Everything was good today; we could run inside, outside -- high, low, really anywhere on the track," Pruett said. "This was truly one of the best cars I've ever had. The engine was phenomenal. They've worked hard to improve our drivability since Daytona -- and in all the races we've won, I think this might have been our best Lexus engine ever."

Rojas earned his third career Rolex Series win in a race that was slowed by nine full course caution periods for 40 laps.

"We got banged around pretty good on that first lap and lost a position, but we were able to stay in it," Rojas said. "Once we went into the lead the car really ran well. It's a bit cooler today than it was in qualifying and the car was working was working better."

Auberlen and Hand finished second in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Porsche Crawford. Auberlen avoided trouble from the early cautions throughout his stint before passing off to Hand.

"My stint was no problem because I knew there were going to be a lot of yellows, a lot of accidents," Auberlen said. "I thought I would take it easy and let the race come to us because that is kind of how it was last year. The car was really good, especially after restarts. [However], on the last restart, the car became very loose and really bad."

Hand was able to reel in the troubles of the No. 23 and led 14 laps before losing the lead to Pruett on Lap 78. From there, Hand hung around for a runner-up finish.

"Our car was good enough today," Hand said. "When we got here on Thursday, we were in the dumps. We were not good. But, the Ruby Tuesday crew worked and worked to find some stuff. When it looked like we should have packed up, they persevered. And today, we had the best race car that we had all weekend."

Rounding out the Daytona Prototype podium were Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley. Patterson qualified ninth and drove a trouble-free first stint before passing the car to Negri, who brought the No. 60 machine home on the podium after holding off Marc Goossens in the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Pontiac Riley over the last several laps.

Goossens and teammate Jim Matthews finished fourth after sneaking by Matt Plumb in the No. 7 SigalSport Rum Bum BMW Riley late in the race. Plumb and Gene Sigal brought the No. 7 Rum Bum machine to the checkered flag in fifth. Lexus, Porsche, Ford, Pontiac and BMW marked five different Daytona Prototype engine manufacturers in the top five.

Five Daytona Prototypes led overall and nine Daytona Prototype cars finished on the lead lap.

Michael Valiante led 20 laps early in the race in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara in the Dallara's Rolex Series debut before a spinning Daytona Prototype collected Valiante and sent the team to the garage for repairs. Valiante and teammate Max Angelelli finished 14th in class.

Collins, Edwards Won Rolex Series GT Portion of Race

Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards led 51 laps to win the Rolex Series GT class from the pole at the GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami.

Edwards led the final 30 laps in the No. 07 Banner Racing Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R after getting by Jan Heylen on Lap 70 of the 99-lap race. Edwards and Collins also finished 10th overall, though only 1.118 seconds ahead of the second-place No. 67 TRG Gleukos/Monster Cable Porsche GT3 and drivers Spencer Pumpelly and Tim George Jr.

Collins led the opening 12 laps before pitting for the first of the nine caution periods. He returned to the lead for nine more circuits before Dominik Farnbacher in the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3 took the lead for 21 laps.

The team stayed well in the top five as pit stops circulated, and Edwards took the point from Heylen on Lap 70. Four caution periods in the final 36 laps kept the challenge for the win close, but Edwards kept his cool until the checkered flag. The car began smoking heavily after he crossed the start/finish line.

"This is awesome," said Edwards, who combined with Collins to finish second in the GT driver standings last season. "We made huge changes to the car following Thursday's practice, bigger changes we'd like to make during a racing weekend. This gives us the momentum we need, because Mexico City is a great track for us."

"From the get-go, the car was good," added Collins, one of five Pontiac drivers to lead the race.

For Pumpelly and George, the duo moved up 13 positions from flag-to-flag, slowly moving through the field as many of the frontrunners backpedaled due a number of mechanical problems.

The race marked the second straight runner-up finish for TRG at the 2.3-mile track, and second straight on the young season after three of its cars took top-five finishes in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Pumpelly and George also moved into the series GT driver point lead by one (62-61) leading into Round 3 at Mexico City, Mexico.

"The race was tough because of the depth of talent was really incredible," Pumpelly said. "This year in GT, it's going to be really tough. Fortunately, Tim George did an awesome job in his first stint. The TRG guys gave both of us a really good car. We worked on it a lot last week in the shop and worked on it all week here. The effort that went into it was phenomenal. At the end, I really wanted to win, because I thought on the restart we were fast enough, but he'd get up to speed and up to temp, I really don't think we had much for him.

Banner Racing team owner Leighton Reese and co-driver Jan Magnussen finished third after starting in the second-to-final position. The No. 06 Banner Racing Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R team made an engine change on Friday. Magnussen led 14 laps overall, jolting through the field after Reese passed more than 10 cars in the opening 15 circuits.

Fourth were No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3 drivers Dominik Farnbacher and Dirk Werner, while incoming point leaders, defending race winners and Rolex 24 At Daytona co-winners Nick Ham and Sylvain Tremblay in the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazdaspeed/Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8 finished fifth.

The third round on the Rolex Sports Car Series schedule is April 19 at Mexico City, Mexico.

-credit: garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Alex Gurney , Paul Edwards , Jan Magnussen , Jon Fogarty , Scott Pruett , Marc Goossens , Michael Valiante , Joey Hand , Kelly Collins , Leighton Reese , Max Angelelli , Sylvain Tremblay , Memo Rojas , Jim Matthews , Spencer Pumpelly , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Chip Ganassi , Jan Heylen , Matt Plumb , Nick Ham , Gene Sigal , Dominik Farnbacher , Alex Job , Michael Shank , Dirk Werner , Tim George Jr. , Felix Sabates
Teams Alex Job Racing , SpeedSource , Michael Shank Racing