Pruett, Werner Look to Improve Grand-Am Rolex Series Championship Leads at Season's Midway Point at Mid-Ohio DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 19, 2007) -- As the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve nears the...
Pruett, Werner Look to Improve Grand-Am Rolex Series Championship Leads at Season's Midway Point at Mid-Ohio
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 19, 2007) -- As the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve nears the halfway point of 2007, championship leading drivers will look to their teammates for additional consistent finishes and a strong push toward individual Daytona Prototype and GT class driving titles. They're next chances come Saturday and Sunday respectively in the EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
Scott Pruett (Daytona Prototype) and Dirk Werner (GT) each sit alone atop their respective championships, having co-piloted their cars to podium finishes in the last two races in addition to wins earlier this season. With 50 percent of the season completed after this weekend, both drivers know there is no margin for error, as one bad finish could let others mount a second-half challenge.
As has been the case many times throughout the season, the two classes will compete in separate events. The Daytona Prototype race is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. Saturday (SPEED, Same Day at 8 p.m. June 23) with the GT class race at 11 a.m. Sunday (SPEED, Same Day at noon June 24). Both races are scheduled for two-and-a-half hours.
Pruett has not dominated this season, but his No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley and teammate Memo Rojas have been reliable in helping Pruett attain a seven-point lead (180-173) over Italian driver Max Angelelli. Although the co-winner of the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona has not been to the top of the podium since, Pruett -- who finished second at Mid-Ohio in 2005 -- has runner-up finishes with Rojas in each of the last two races (Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Watkins Glen International). Pruett showed the team's strength in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen when he overcame a two-lap deficit after spinning on the first lap. Rojas, at one point outside the top 10 and still looking for his first series win, has rebounded to third in the current standings.
Angelelli, in contrast, has six podium finishes in seven Daytona Prototype starts this season -- including a victory with Jan Magnussen at Virginia International Raceway -- and will also need consistent finishes between himself and his co-driver to retake the championship lead. The lead driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley welcomes Jonathan Cochet back to the cockpit this weekend for the duo's second straight race together. Cochet performed well at the Sahlen's Six Hour earlier this month, and was ninth in 2005 at Mid-Ohio driving for Tuttle Team Racing. Angelelli finished third in 2005 and second last season at Mid-Ohio.
The only two drivers to win multiple times this season in Daytona Prototype action are No. 99 Bob Stallings/GAINSCO Pontiac Riley co-pilots Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, currently tied for fourth in points. The pair -- tied for 11th in the standings two races ago -- dominated the Sahlen's Six Hour and also won in March at Mexico City, Mexico. Fogarty also added a taste of accomplishment at Mid-Ohio last year, leading a race-high 31 laps before he and Gurney landed third after starting second. Gurney started on the pole at Mid-Ohio in 2005.
Eighteen-year-old Colin Braun hopes for the same success he tallied last season at the 2.258-mile, 13-turn track. Braun and defending series champion Jorg Bergmeister finished second. Braun and co-driver Max Papis -- the track qualifying record holder in Daytona Prototypes -- hold a fourth-place tie in the point standings and hope to give their No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley its first victory of 2007. The pair has finished second twice -- both times after starting on the pole. Papis was also fifth at Mid-Ohio in 2005, driving with Bergmeister.
Bergmeister and No. 23 Alex Job Racing Ruby Tuesday Pontiac Riley co-driver Patrick Long are eighth in the standings and look to join Gurney and Fogarty as multiple 2007 winners this weekend. While Bergmeister owns a pair of top fives at Mid-Ohio, Long scored a pole in his only Grand-Am track start last season.
Brumos Racing Porsche will again bring its two-car team to Mid-Ohio and seeks better races at the track than they have had in the past two seasons. No. 58 Red Bull/Brumos Porsche Porsche Riley drivers David Donohue and Darren Law share 11th in the point standings and have consistency on their side, with top-10 finishes in five of the six races in 2007. The No. 59 Brumos Porsche/Kendall Porsche Riley team car with Hurley Haywood and JC France co-driving has finishes of 11th and 15th in the last two races at Mid-Ohio. Haywood and France will look for their third top-10 of the season this weekend.
Two Columbus, Ohio-area Daytona Prototype teams will take short jaunts to Mid-Ohio. Michael Shanks Racing will bring two cars to the track, including the No. 60 Michael Shanks Racing Key Bank Lexus Riley, piloted by Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri Jr. The pair was seventh in last year's outing and claimed their first podium finish of the season at Laguna Seca a month ago. The team car No. 6 Playboy Lexus Riley -- now with Ian James and John Pew behind the wheel -- last season finished ninth at the track, and James led 10 laps in the Sahlen's Six Hour to score a season-best fourth for himself and Pew.
With drivers Shane Lewis and Randy Ruhlman behind the wheel of the No. 3 Preformed Line Products/TrueChoice Motorsports Lexus Riley, the Southard Motorsports team looks to score its first top 10 of the season.
Another Ohio-based team, Feed the Needs/Doran Racing stable out of Cincinnati, has Memo Gidley and Guy Cosmo set to pilot the No. 77 Kodak Doran Riley this weekend. Gidley -- fourth last year at Mid-Ohio driving for Finlay Motorsports -- and Cosmo have finished 10th in each of the last two Daytona Prototype races. The Doran team car finished 13th last year at Mid-Ohio with Harrison Brix and Terry Borcheller.
Brix is now in the No. 39 Cheever Racing Crown Royal Special Reserve Porsche Fabcar with Christian Fittipaldi. The chassis has continuously improved this season and has been among the frontrunners in the last two races before late-race problems forced the car to finish outside of the top 10. Fittipaldi set the EMCO Gears Classic's fastest race lap last season.
Several other teams have been successful at Mid-Ohio during the last two seasons. The second Krohn Racing entry -- the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley -- finished sixth in 2005 with Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonsson. The pair is tied for 17th in points and is coming off a season-best fifth-place finish in the Sahlen's Six Hour. The No. 19 Z-Line Designs/Mission Residential/Make-A-Wish car -- now operated by Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates -- has top-10 finishes in each of its last two Mid-Ohio appearances. Rob Finlay and Michael Valiante are listed as the drivers.
Other Daytona Prototype entries for this weekend include Californians Bill Auberlen and Matthew Alhadeff, who won at Homestead in the No. 05 Luggage Express Team Sigalsport BMW Riley and returns to Mid-Ohio where the team began Daytona Prototype competition last year. No. 11 SAMAX South Coast Fish Company/CITGO Pontiac Riley driver Patrick Carpentier is the only listed driver for the team this weekend. Carpentier anchored the team's season-best second-place finish in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
No. 91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley led laps with drivers Jim Matthews, Marc Goossens and Ryan Hunter-Reay at the Sahlen's Six Hour, and landed a season-best sixth there. All three drivers are entered for Mid-Ohio. The No. 61 AIM Autosport Exchange Traded Gold/Barrick Gold/RBC Financial Lexus Riley with Brian and Burt Frisselle and Mark Wilkins and the No. 12 RVO Motosports Rock Valley Oil & Chemical Co. Pontiac Riley with Roger Schramm and Justin Bell are also entered.
After reuniting for the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, the GT class returns to action at Mid-Ohio as the premier event on Sunday's card. And for the first time since the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, a new points leader heads the standings.
German rookie Werner, who now leads the points by 11 (204-193), and American co-driver and fellow rookie Bryce Miller have been the hottest pair of drivers on the GT circuit since Daytona, having finished on the podium in the last four races. With a second-place finish in the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Motorsports Marquis Jet/IPC Porsche GT3, Miller moved ahead of No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 co-drivers Nick Ham and Sylvain Tremblay after the three shared the lead in the standings. Miller, who was 10th in point standings two races ago, has moved into fourth. Among the duo's consistent finishes was a victory in April at VIR and a second-place finish last month at Lime Rock Park.
Werner wasn't the only driver to pass Tremblay and Ham in the standings. Equally as consistent throughout the season have been No. 07 Banner Racing/Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R co-drivers Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards, who have since moved into a second-place tie in points. Despite not having won a GT race in 2007, Collins and Edwards are the only two drivers to have placed in the top 10 in all seven GT events. The pair also claimed second in GT last season at Mid-Ohio, and Collins landed a victory in GT at the track in 2005.
Tremblay has since fallen to fifth in the standings with two straight finishes outside the top 10. He and Ham are two of four drivers to take multiple victories this season, but the team needs to regroup as quickly as possible in order to return to their early season form. Currently, Tremblay and Ham are separated by nine points, as Ham did not drive at Watkins Glen due the car's early retirement. Ham is now eighth in the standings.
The other two drivers who own multiple GT victories in 2007 are Andy Lally and RJ Valentine, tied with Tremblay for points and wins. Lally mastered the Sahlen's Six Hour in the No. 66 TRG CRG/Maxter Porsche GT3, driving to the checkered flag with assistance from Valentine and Spencer Pumpelly. That car has finished inside the top 10 in six of its seven starts. Valentine was part of the winning Mid-Ohio GT team in 2005, and finished third last year with Lally and Marc Bunting. Lally was second with Bunting in 2005.
Bunting is entered to drive the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Stevenson Automotive Corvette this weekend with Dominic Cicero II. It marks one of five Corvettes entered, joining the Nos. 42 and 43 Team Sahlen HRPworld.com Corvettes driven by Joe Sahlen and Will, Joe and Wayne Nonnamaker. The No. 56 Beachman Racing/Dynex Design Corvette has Bruce Beachman and Michael Fitzgerald in another race car, and the No. 03 Georgian Bay Motorsports SCADA Pack Corvette looks for a victory right out of the box in GT competition with drivers Jamie Holtom and Eric Curran, regulars in the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Street Tuner (ST) division.
Holding on to eighth and tied with Ham is Jean-Francois Dumoulin, who won the season-opener for the GTs at Daytona with Carlos de Quesada. The duo is entered to drive the No. 22 Alegra Motorsports/Fiorano Racing Gatorade/TodayMD.com Porsche GT3 again at Mid-Ohio. The other duo which has won this season, No. 06 Banner Racing/Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R co-drivers Leighton Reese and Tim Lewis Jr., won their first race for the team at Lime Rock and has top-10 finishes in five of seven races this season. They own 10th in the standings. Drew Staveley and Mark Pavan pilot the No. 30 Racers Edge Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R, the third such GXP.R in the field.
Tafel Racing has been tough at Mid-Ohio in past seasons, and should be once again with two Porsche GT3s entered. No. 74 Rembrandt Charms Porsche GT3 co-drivers Eric Lux and Wolf Henzler notched a season-best third at Lime Rock and own four top 10s in seven starts this season. No. 72 Tornos/Dunkel Bros Porsche GT3 co-pilots Nathan Swartzbaugh and Andrew Davis look to turn around their bad luck with their first podium of 2007. Heading into the race, the duo's best finish is a fourth at VIR. Tafel Racing won last year's race with Henzler and Robin Liddell.
The other Farnbacher Loles Motorsports car is also ready for action in attempt for its first victory of 2007. Leh Keen, who was fourth and sixth at Mid-Ohio the last two years, teams with Dominik Farnbacher in the No. 85 Shoes for Crews/Recaro Porsche GT3. While the two drivers have yet to win a race, their car has led in more than half of the GT races this season.
The No. 21 Matt Connolly Motorsports race car sat on the GT pole last season at Mid-Ohio, and the team has Connolly, Hal Prewitt and Shawn Price enlisted for battle this weekend. Last year's pole-winning BMW was destroyed in Joey Hand's spectacular crash, but the Connolly team is expected to return to Mid-Ohio with a Pontiac GTO.R. Canadians Greg Wilkins and Dave Lacey have co-piloted a Porsche GT3 to third- and fourth-place finishes at Mid-Ohio in the last two seasons, and are back in the No. 17 Doncaster Racing MineStar/Tim Hortons Porsche GT3 this weekend.
Ford and Nissan also hope to break through for their first victories of the season. Tom Nastasi and Ian James are entered in the No. 15 Blackforest Motorsports USG Sheetrock/Guardian Insulation Ford Mustang GT while Tommy Constantine, Mike Borkowski and David Murry are entered in the No. 35 Playboy Racing/Unitech Vonage/Palms Nissan 350Z.
Others entered are the No. 28 At Speed Motorsports Celette/Duraform Porsche GT3 (Ian Baas and Mark White), No. 36 Competition Marketing Motorsports Pontiac GTO (Nick DiMeo, Peter Doane and Manny Matz), No. 41 Team Sahlen Orchard Chrysler/Dodge Porsche GT3 (Aaron Bambach and Robb Brent), No. 65 TRG Maxwell Paper Products Co. Porsche GT3 (Ross Smith and Daniel DiLeo), No. 67 TRG NETTTS/Louis Boston Porsche GT3 (Pumpelly and Mark Greenberg), No. 69 SpeedSource FXDD Mazda RX-8 (Emil Assentato and Nick Longhi), No. 81 Synergy Racing EMC Mechanical/Gamewell Mechanical Porsche GT3 (Milton, Carey and Kevin Grant) and the debuting No. 96 RJR Racing Group Porsche GT3 (Rene Robichaud and BJ Zacharias).