Laguna Seca: Inaugural race report

Diaz & Pruett Sweep California Races with Victory in Road & Track 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca MONTEREY, Calif. (May 1, 2005) -- No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley co-drivers Luis Diaz and Scott Pruett claimed ...

Diaz & Pruett Sweep California Races with Victory in Road & Track 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

MONTEREY, Calif. (May 1, 2005) -- No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley co-drivers Luis Diaz and Scott Pruett claimed their second-straight Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series victory in Sunday's inaugural Road & Track 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to sweep the two 2005 Rolex Series events in California.

After starting third on the grid, Diaz kept the No. 01 machine inside the top-five positions throughout his stint and was running in second place before making a pit stop under full-course caution on Lap 26 of the 97-lap race. During the stop, Diaz handed the car over to Pruett, who ran as low as ninth as teams adopted different pit strategies.

Pruett clawed his way back toward the front and took the lead from Butch Leitzinger in the No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford for Howard-Boss Motorsports leading into the famed Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca "Corkscrew" section on Lap 70. He withstood heavy pressure from Leitzinger throughout the closing stages of the race before getting a break when Hugo Guenette lost the nose of his CB Motorsports No. 15 DLGL/HRIS Software Lexus Riley in Turn 1 on Lap 96. The race finished under full-course caution as a result of the debris on the race track, giving Pruett and Diaz an uncontested win.

"The entire team put together a great race," Diaz said. "Chip Ganassi Racing was awesome, and this is just another great performance for these guys. Scott fought hard all day and we were able to do it again in California. It's my job to get things going and turn the car over to Scott to close it out, and I think we combined to do that today and brought it home."

The Road & Track 250 triumph comes on the heels of Pruett's and Diaz's first win together in the Ferrari Maserati 400 at California Speedway last month. It was the sixth Rolex Series victory for Pruett, while the first two wins of Diaz's Rolex Series career have come in back-to-back fashion. The performance also enabled the CompUSA duo to knock seven points off the Daytona Prototype championship lead shared by No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley co-drivers Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli. Pruett--the defending Daytona Prototype co-champion--and Diaz stand just 10 points in arrears of Taylor and Angelelli, 130-120, after four of 14 races.

"It was just an awesome day for the CompUSA team and Chip Ganassi Racing," said Pruett, who scored back-to-back wins for the second time in team history (Mont-Tremblant/Watkins Glen, 2004). "To get two-straight wins in this series is an accomplishment in itself. I just hate it for the fans though. I was hoping for a green-white-checkered for all the people that showed up to see a great race today. This one had it all. Hopefully, it was as fun to watch as it was to drive in. Luis did a fantastic job again today, getting the car to me in one piece and working his way through traffic. You had to be aggressive out there, but also be aware of going three-and four-wide at times. I guess the cream of the crop rises to the top, and that's how it unfolded."

Leitzinger led 25 laps on his way to a second-place result for himself and his No. 4 co-driver Elliott Forbes-Robinson. It was their third runner-up result in four 2005 races, and was also their fifth top-two result in the past six Rolex Series events dating to a victory in the penultimate round of the 2004 season at Barber Motorsports Park.

"I was told at the beginning of the race that Butch wanted the car looking and running exactly the same as when I left," said Forbes-Robinson. "My job at the beginning of the race was to keep it the same so he had a good car to get into. I think we had the better car at the end of the race, and I think we had a shot at it. When you have a car that you fix up to do a long run and keep the tire fresh, you want long runs where the car is good at the end of the race."

"I was disappointed that it did go yellow at the end, but I know it was probably the right call," Leitzinger added. "When you go over the hill, there was an entire nose where you would have been driving. That would have been pretty ugly. It was a good call."

After taking over the seat of Bell Motorsports' No. 54 Kodak EasyShare Pontiac Doran from co-driver Ralf Kelleners on Lap 61, Terry Borcheller came out on top in a hotly-contested battle for third place with Angelelli in the No. 10 over the closing laps. It was the first podium finish for the 2003 Daytona Prototype champion since he finished third in the six-hour race at Mont-Tremblant last season, and was Kelleners' first-ever podium in Daytona Prototype competition.

Angelelli and Taylor wound up fourth in the No. 10 machine for their ninth-consecutive top-four finish dating to last season. Kenny Wilden and Mike Borkowski rounded out the top five in the No. 6 Mears Motor Coach Pontiac Riley for Michael Shank Racing. It was Borkowski's second-straight top-five finish to go with a third-place run at California Speedway.

After starting from the pole position in Michael Shank Racing's other race car, Oswaldo Negri Jr. became the fourth different driver to lead the first lap in four 2005 races when he motored his No. 60 MatlinPatterson Lexus Riley out front at the drop of the green flag. Negri led the first six laps in the race on his way to a ninth-place finish for himself and co-driver Mark Patterson. With 38 laps led in the No. 66 Krohn Racing/TRG Pontiac Riley, Jorg Bergmeister spent the most time at the head of the field of the day's four leaders. Bergmeister and co-driver Max Papis wound up 10th.

BMW TEAM PTG SWEEPS GT TOP THREE AT MAZDA RACEWAY LAGUNA SECA

Although the team had to do some quick rearranging of its driver lineup following a crash during Saturday morning practice, it was a banner weekend for defending GT team champion BMW Team PTG as the team's cars finished 1-2-3 in the Road & Track 250.

Joey Hand's crash in the No. 21 BMW Financial Services M3 on Saturday forced the team to withdraw the car from the race, moving Hand to the team's No. 22 car and defending GT driver champion Bill Auberlen to the team's No. 16 F1 Air BMW M3 as third drivers. Both cars--as well as the team's No. 17 F1 Air BMW M3 held the class lead at one point or another--but it was the No. 16 threesome of Auberlen, Justin Marks and Tom Milner who emerged victorious.

"When the accident happened (with the No. 21) Grand American allowed us to put Bill and Joey into different cars and it took about a half-hour to put Bill into our car," Milner said. "It takes about 25 seconds to do a driver change. It didn't matter for us (having to do an extra driver change) because adding fuel to the car takes longer. We had a great pit stop strategy the entire race, including pitting under that first yellow and that gave us almost a lap up on the rest of the field."

It was the second career Rolex Series GT triumph for Milner and his first since taking the class win in the 2004 season finale at California Speedway. It was the fifth GT win for Marks, and was his first since he and Auberlen co-drove to the class victory at Barber Motorsports Park last October.

"I knew when I went on the track that there were a lot of cars for position that weren't that far in front of me," Marks said. "With the two team cars being pretty clear out in front, it was important for me to get through all those cars as quickly as possible. It was 99 percent with just a hair left over to get through those, but once I did I was able to relax just a little bit."

For Auberlen, the GT triumph was his second-straight as he and Hand co-drove the No. 21 to the Ferrari Maserati 400 class win last month at California Speedway. It was the 17th career Rolex Series class win for Auberlen, who holds second place on the series' all-time class winners list behind Borcheller with 24.

"Coming into the weekend, our best opportunity was to finish first, second, third and fourth," Auberlen said. "But with our little drama, we actually ended up putting every driver first, second and third, so it worked out even better. It couldn't be any better. I think this track is suited for the BMW better than any track we've been to so far. Normally, I'm fighting from somewhere in the back but with these young guys giving me the car in the lead I had to learn to drive in that role pretty quick."

The No. 16 trio finished 14.629 seconds ahead of class polesitter Kelly Collins and his co-driver, RJ Valentine in the No. 17 machine. The No. 16 and 17 machines finished one lap ahead of Hand, Ian James and Chris Gleason in the No. 22 BMW Financial Services M3, who completed the podium sweep.

David Murry and Craig Stanton finished fourth in the No. 80 Synergy Racing Porsche GT3 Cup. It was Stanton's fourth consecutive top-four finish and moved him into the GT points lead by eight points (114-106) over No. 65 Auto Gallery/TRG Porsche GT3 Cup co-drivers Marc Bunting and Andy Lally, who finished 18th in class today. Michael Levitas and Randy Pobst completed the GT top five with a fifth-place run in TPC Racing's No. 36 Ajilon Consulting/TPC Superchargers Porsche GT3 Cup.

FIRST GRAND AMERICAN TRIP TO MAZDA RACEWAY LAGUNA SECA DEEMED A SUCCESS

By all indications, the first Grand American Road Racing Association trip to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was a successful venture. The Monterey fans were treated to a pair of entertaining races, with car counts at or near Grand-Am Cup and Rolex Series records and beautiful weather throughout the weekend.

"That was a spectacular way to open our 2005 season," said Gill Campbell, CEO/general manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. "The sight of 52 Daytona Prototypes and GT cars taking the green flag was amazing. The Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series is a rapidly-growing series and we are proud to extend an invitation to them to return next May for the U.S. Sports Car Invitational."

While official crowd figures were not announced, the weekend attendance met or exceeded the track's goals for the first-time event.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Hugo Guénette , Ralf Kelleners , Max Papis , Scott Pruett , Wayne Taylor , David Murry , Bill Auberlen , Joey Hand , Elliott Forbes-Robinson , Luis Diaz , Ian James , Andy Lally , Terry Borcheller , Jörg Bergmeister , Max Angelelli , Justin Marks , Michael Levitas , Mike Borkowski , Craig Stanton , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Marc Bunting , Chip Ganassi , Mark Patterson , Michael Shank
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing , Michael Shank Racing