There's no place like home for many south Florida drivers, teams. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 20, 2004) -- When the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series takes to the track next week for the Grand Prix of Miami, many drivers and teams will...
There's no place like home for many south Florida drivers, teams.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 20, 2004) -- When the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series takes to the track next week for the Grand Prix of Miami, many drivers and teams will not have a long drive to the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Ten drivers competing in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series race call South Florida home, while five teams are based there.
"Racing at Homestead-Miami is like racing at home for me. I consider it my home track since I have lived here since arriving in the U.S. in 1999. In fact, this is where I won my very first CART race in 2000 at the Miami Grand Prix on the oval track," said Italian Max Papis, who will pilot the No. 01 CompUSA Lexus Riley of Chip Ganassi Racing.
The Grand Prix of Miami will be Papis' first spin around the track in a Daytona Prototype. "It'll be very different running on the Homestead road course with the Daytona Prototype cars, but I am very much looking forward to it," he said.
Team owner and driver Jon Leavy, of Sunrise, will pilot the Murray's Speed & Custom No. 18 Leavy Racing Enterprises Pontiac Chase during the Grand Prix of Miami. He is excited about returning to the newly re-designed Homestead-Miami Speedway. "I'm looking forward to racing in the Grand Prix of Miami. I won there in 2000 in my first Grand American race, after an exciting duel that came down to the final laps with Doug Goad. Ironically, both of us now are in Daytona Prototypes," Leavy said.
SpeedSource team owner and driver Sylvain Tremblay agrees. "It's fun (racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway). We have a lot of local fans to support us. The track is about 45 minutes away from the shop. We tested in December on the new banking, and we look forward to going back," said Tremblay, who will drive the SpeedSource No. 70 Workscape Ford Multimatic in the Grand Prix of Miami.
In addition to South Florida-teams Murray's Speed & Custom and SpeedSource, Bell Motorsports is based in Miami, while CRL Motorsports is out of Miami Beach and Orbit Racing is in Jupiter.
CRL Motorsports No. 76 Ferrari 360 Challenge co-drivers Justin Bell and Ray Langston are both South Florida residents. Bell resides in Delray Beach, while Langston lives in Miami Beach.
Langston's wife, Kimberly, is not only the car owner, but also a model for the Miami Beach-based Irene Marie Management Group. A model since age 18, she has traveled the world, but now is trying her hand at racing.
"She decided to become a car owner and make a living out of it. She's excited about (the Grand Prix of Miami). We have a lot of friends coming. I think it's going to be great. It's my first Grand American race too," said Ray Langston.
For the local drivers, racing at the Homestead-Miami Speedway has several advantages. "It gives us more time at the shop preparing instead of traveling. We also get home earlier, which helps logistically for Phoenix. We have three races at the local track this year. It's helpful to us," Trembaly said.
The proximity of the track also allows many of the drivers and crews' friends and families to attend the event.
"It's easier for our friends and families to go the race. It's nice to have a Homestead fan base," said Gunnar Jeannette, driver of the Gunnar Racing No. 79 Porsche GT3 RS. "We have friends from the Makos Fighter Squadron based at the Homestead Air Force Reserve Base coming to the race. It's nice for them."
Other South Florida drivers currently slated to run in the Grand Prix of Miami include Oswaldo Negri Jr., and Burt Friselle, both of Aventura, in the Michael Shank Racing No. 6 Lexus Doran, Bill Adam, of Miami, in the TPC Racing No. 37 Porsche GT3 Cup, and Shane Lewis, of Jupiter, in the Southard Motorsports No. 7 BMW Fabcar.
Tickets are currently on sale for the Grand Prix of Miami, as well as the entire Toyota INDY 300 weekend, and can be purchased online at www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com or by calling 305-230-RACE.
Additional information on the Grand Prix of Miami and the Rolex Sports Car Series is available online at www.grandamerican.com.