Long Beach: Daytona Prototypes pre-race notes

Daytona Prototypes Ready for First-Ever Street Fight in Crown Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 4, 2006) -- Carrying the momentum of three successful events to open the 2006 Grand American Rolex...

Daytona Prototypes Ready for First-Ever Street Fight in Crown Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 4, 2006) -- Carrying the momentum of three successful events to open the 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve season, the Daytona Prototype class will run its first-ever street race in Saturday's Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach (SPEED, 9:00 p.m. ET), part of the 32nd Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend.

However, while this is the first Daytona Prototype street race, there are a host of drivers in the field with experience and race victories on the streets of Long Beach. No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley driver Scott Pruett and No. 12 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Pontiac Riley driver Adrian Fernandez are the Rolex Series drivers with the most experience, having each driven in 11 previous races at the famed seaside circuit.

Pruett's lone victory at Long Beach came in his first Trans-Am start at the venue in 1987. He also made nine Champ Car starts at the venue from 1988 through 1999, earning podium finishes with a second-place performance in 1995 and a third-place run in 1997. Pruett's No. 01 co-driver Luis Diaz is no stranger to Long Beach either, as the Mexican made two Toyota Atlantic starts with a best result of sixth in 2003.

Pruett and Diaz have finished on the podium in each of their past two Rolex Series starts, including a victory in the Mexico City 250 last month. The CompUSA duo are part of a four-way tie for third place in the 2006 Daytona Prototype driver standings, and trail points leader Jorg Bergmeister by just five points (81-76) heading into Round 4 of the 14-race series.

Fernandez made a total of 11 Champ Car starts at Long Beach from 1993 through 2003 and earned his best result with a second-place outing in his final Champ Car appearance. Fernandez will share the No. 12 machine with Brazil's Mario Haberfeld, who drove in the 2003 and 2004 Champ Car events at Long Beach and earned ninth-place results in each race. Fernandez and Haberfeld look for their first Rolex Series victories this weekend.

The Daytona Prototype driver in the field who has enjoyed the most success in Long Beach is No. 50 Rocketsports Racing Ford Crawford pilot Paul Gentilozzi. In nine Trans-Am starts from 1996 through 2005, Gentilozzi owns four victories (1998, 1999, 2002 and 2004). Gentilozzi's co-driver this weekend is Tomy Drissi, who has seven previous Trans-Am starts at Long Beach with a best result of third in 2000. Gentilozzi and Drissi also head to Long Beach looking for their first Daytona Prototype victories.

No. 19 Playboy/Uniden/Palms Ford Crawford driver Memo Gidley has also tasted champagne in Long Beach's victory circle, taking the Toyota Atlantic victory in 1998. Gidley finished second in his Long Beach Toyota Atlantic debut in 1997 and finished 21st in his lone Champ Car start at the circuit in 2000. Gidley is paired with Long Beach rookie Michael McDowell, and the Playboy/Uniden Racing co-drivers are looking for their first victory of the season following four straight top-eight performances, including their first career Rolex Series victories in the 2004 finale at Mexico City. McDowell and Gidley are tied for third in the standings with Pruett and Diaz.

Gidley is one of three former Long Beach Toyota Atlantic race winners in this weekend's Rolex Series field. No. 5 Make A wish/Z-Line Designs/Finlay Motorsports Ford Crawford driver Michael Valiante won in 2002 and did not finish worse than fourth in any of his three Toyota Atlantic starts at Long Beach. He will be teamed with Finlay Motorsports owner Rob Finlay--a Long Beach newcomer--in the No. 5 machine for Essex Racing.

Ryan Dalziel won the 2004 Toyota Atlantic event and will co-drive the No. 89 Playboy/Vonage/Palms Casino Pontiac Riley with Alex Figge for Pacific Coast Motorsports. Figge also made three Atlantic starts in Long Beach with a best result of fifth in 2003.

Rocky Moran Jr., who is returning to the cockpit of the No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley this weekend for the first time since the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona in January, narrowly missed adding his name to the list of Toyota Atlantic winners at Long Beach last year. Moran was leading the Atlantic race last year until a mechanical failure on the penultimate lap ended his bid.

Moran is teamed with Alex Gurney, who made three Atlantic starts with a best result of second in 2002. Gurney, a resident of nearby Irvine, Calif., will certainly rank among the "hometown" favorites this weekend. Gurney's father, Dan Gurney, is a racing legend--particularly in Southern California--as evidenced by the fact that the media center at Long Beach bears his name.

Randy Ruhlman is the final Rolex Series driver in the field with a previous Long Beach victory under his belt, as he claimed the Trans-Am victory last year. Ruhlman will be rejoined in the No. 40 Preformed Line Products/Coyote Pontiac Riley this weekend by co-driver Chris Bingham, who sat out the Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami two weeks ago owing to his one-race suspension for an altercation in Mexico City with No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar driver J.C. France.

Other Rolex Series drivers with Long Beach experience include No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve/Cheever Racing Porsche Crawford co-drivers Eddie Cheever Jr. and Christian Fittipaldi, No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford driver Butch Leitzinger and No. 6 Graydon Elliott Fusion Racing with MSR Lexus Riley driver Kenny Wilden. Cheever made five Champ Car starts in Long Beach between 1990 and 1995, taking a best result of third in 1991, while Fittipaldi drove in seven Long Beach Champ Car races with a best result of fifth in 1999.

Leitzinger--who will share the No. 4 machine with Howard-Boss Motorsports teammate Andy Wallace--finished 13th in the 2002 Trans-Am race at Long Beach, his lone previous appearance, while Wilden finished eighth in the 2001 Trans-Am event and 18th in the 1999 Toyota Atlantic race after starting from the pole position. Wilden will share the No. 6 machine with Mike Borkowski.

While any of the aforementioned drivers must rate among the favorites given their previous experience on the daunting Long Beach street circuit, there are plenty of others who will likely adapt quickly and be contenders as well. Certainly, No. 23 Hirewise/10th & M Seafoods Porsche Crawford co-drivers Lucas Luhr and Mike Rockenfeller have momentum on their side following a victory in Round 3 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. However, they will have to adjust to the fact that all Porsche-powered Daytona Prototypes have seen a 75-pound increase in their minimum weight.

While the Porsches will be carrying more weight this weekend, the Pontiac-powered Daytona Prototypes received a 25-pound reduction, which may bode well for defending Daytona Prototype co-champion Max Angelelli in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley. Angelelli will have a busy weekend, as he is also competing in Round 2 of the Crown Royal IROC Series at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday night, and will also welcome a new co-driver to the No. 10 machine. Car owner Wayne Taylor--who shared the 2005 title with Angelelli--has elected to sit out the Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach, giving way to Danish hotshoe Jan Magnussen.

Other potential frontrunners include Michael Shank Racing's No. 60 Flight Options Lexus Riley in the hands of Oswaldo Negri Jr. and Mark Patterson, the No. 8 Shoes for Crews/Synergy Racing Porsche Doran of Burt and Brian Frisselle, the No. 77 Kodak/Amp'd Mobile/Sirius Ford Doran of Harrison Brix and 2003 Daytona Prototype champion Terry Borcheller with Feeds The Need/Doran Racing, the two-car operation from Krohn Racing, and the two-car Brumos Racing team.

Bergmeister will be reunited with regular No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley co-driver Colin Braun, who did not compete in the Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami, and Bergmeister looks to maintain or grow his four-point lead in the Daytona Prototype standings over Fittipaldi. In the team's No. 75 Ford Riley will be team owner Tracy Krohn and Sweden's Nic Jonsson.

Darren Law and David Donohue are slated to once again share the No. 58 Red Bull/Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar, while sports car legend Hurley Haywood has been reunited with France in the team's No. 59 Porsche Fabcar. France was also suspended from the event at Homestead-Miami Speedway as a result of the altercation with Bingham in Mexico City.

The 26-car Daytona Prototype field is further bolstered by Shane Lewis and an as-yet-unnamed co-driver in the No. 3 Southard Motorsports BMW Riley, Brian Tuttle and Frenchman Jonathan Cochet in the No. 7 Tuttle Team Racing with BAM Pontiac Riley, Doug Goad and Larry Oberto in the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Racing with Bobby Labonte Pontiac Crawford, Marino Franchitti and Milka Duno in the No. 11 CITGO Racing by SAMAX Pontiac Riley, Tim Hubman and Shawn Bayliff sharing the No. 33 M-L Lifestyle BMW Picchio for ADi Motorsports, and Rob and Charles Morgan in the No. 47 Querencia Golf Club/TruSpeed Motorcars/Wright Motorsports Porsche Riley.

The format for Saturday's race will differ somewhat from the norm in the Rolex Series. It is just the second stand-alone Daytona Prototype race in class history, and will be a 90-minute timed event. Teams will be required to make a pit stop and driver change.

The two-day schedule will see the Daytona Prototypes turn their first laps ever on the 1.97-mile, 11-turn circuit for a 45-minute practice session beginning at 8:00 a.m. PT on Friday, April 7. Friday's schedule concludes with an hour-long qualifying session from 3:55 to 4:55 p.m. PT.

Saturday's schedule calls for a 20-minute warm-up beginning at 8:00 a.m. PT, and the green flag drops on the Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach at 4:00 p.m. PT Saturday afternoon. The race will be televised by SPEED on a slight tape delay with coverage set to air at 9:00 p.m. ET on Saturday evening. Live Timing & Scoring data and audio webcasts in English and Spanish will be available on the official web site of the Grand American Road Racing Association, www.grandamerican.com.

Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach Storylines

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 3, 2006) -- Heading into this weekend's Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach, Round 4 of the 14-race 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve (SPEED, Saturday, April 8 at 9 p.m. ET), here are some pre-race notes, story angles and interesting trends to follow:

STREAKS

Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates has had at least one of its cars on the podium in six consecutive races dating to the Crown Royal 250 at The Glen last September. This season, the No. 02 Target Lexus Riley was triumphant in the Rolex 24 At Daytona with drivers Casey Mears, Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon, and Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz--regular co-drivers of the No. 01 CompUSA Lexus Riley--followed their victory in the Mexico City 250 in Round 2 with a third-place result in the Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami... No. 19 Playboy/Uniden/Palms Ford Crawford co-drivers Memo Gidley and Michael McDowell have finished inside the top eight positions in four consecutive races dating to their victory in the 2005 season finale at Mexico City.

STREET FIGHT

The Daytona Prototypes--which made their debuts in the 2003 Rolex 24 At Daytona--will take to the Long Beach street course this weekend, marking the first time the machines have competed on a street course. The Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach will be the 42nd race in the four-year history of the revolutionary racing machine. The Long Beach course is the 12th different venue that the Daytona Prototypes have competed at, joining Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Barber Motorsports Park, California Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Phoenix International Raceway, Virginia International Raceway, and Watkins Glen International. Later in 2006, Infineon Raceway and Miller Motorsports Park will be added to the list.

NEW PLACE, SAME FACES

Despite 2006 being Grand American's first trip to the famed Long Beach street course, the 1.97-mile, 11-turn circuit is very familiar to a number of Rolex Series drivers, who have combined for a total of 14 podium finishes in three different series. Below is a list of Rolex Series drivers competing this weekend with prior Long Beach experience:

- Eddie Cheever Jr. (Five Champ Car starts; best finish of third in 1991)

- Ryan Dalziel (Three Toyota Atlantic Series starts; 2004 race winner)

- Luis Diaz (Two Toyota Atlantic Series starts; best finish of sixth in 2003)

- Tomy Drissi (Seven Trans-Am Series starts; best finish of third in 2000)

- Adrian Fernandez (11 Champ Car starts; best finish of second in 2003)

- Alex Figge (Three Toyota Atlantic Series starts; best finish of fifth in 2003)

- Christian Fittipaldi (Seven Champ Car starts; best finish of fifth in 1999)

- Paul Gentilozzi (Nine Trans-Am Series starts; race wins in 1998, 1999, 2002, 2004)

- Memo Gidley (One Champ Car start; two Toyota Atlantic starts--2000 race winner)

- Alex Gurney (Three Toyota Atlantic Series starts; best finish of second in 2002)

- Mario Haberfeld (Two Champ Car starts; best finish of ninth in 2004)

- Butch Leitzinger (One Trans-Am Series start; 13th place in 2002)

- Rocky Moran Jr. (Four Toyota Atlantic starts; best finish of fifth in 2002)

- Scott Pruett (Nine Champ Car starts; three Trans-Am starts--1987 race winner)

- Randy Ruhlman (Eight Trans-Am Series starts; 2005 race winner)

- Michael Valiante (Three Toyota Atlantic starts; 2002 race winner)

- Ken Wilden (One Trans-Am Series start, eighth place in 2001; One Toyota Atlantic start in 1999, finished 18th after starting from pole position)

BACK IN ACTION

Four Rolex Series regulars who all missed the Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami will be returning to their cockpits for this weekend's Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach. Colin Braun will rejoin teammate--and points leader--Jorg Bergmeister in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley. The duo combined for a runner-up finish in the Mexico City 250 in March after a fifth-place result with Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonsson in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Eddie Cheever Jr. will also return to Rolex Series action this weekend in the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve Porsche Crawford he shares with Christian Fittipaldi. Cheever missed the Grand Prix of Miami while competing in the Indy Racing League's Indy Car Series opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway the following day. Fittipaldi co-drove with Lucas Luhr to a runner-up finish, catapulting the Brazilian to second in the championship chase. Also returning to action this weekend are Chris Bingham and JC France, who each served one-race suspensions in Miami, stemming from an on-track altercation in Mexico City.

Fast Facts

WHO: Grand American Road Racing Association

WHAT: Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach

WHERE: Long Beach, Calif. -- 1.97-mile, 11-turn street course

WHEN:             Saturday, April 8 at 4:00 p.m. local time

SPEED, 9:00 p.m. ET

EVENT SCHEDULE:

Friday, April 7
8:00 a.m. - 8:45 a.m. Practice -- Rolex Series
3:55 p.m. - 4:55 p.m. Qualifying -- Rolex Series (Format TBD)

Saturday, April 8
8:00 a.m. - 8:20 a.m. Practice -- Rolex Series
4:00 p.m. START -- Crown Royal Grand American Challenge

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Nic Jönsson
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing , Wright Motorsports , Doran Racing , Michael Shank Racing