Mid-Ohio: GT round eight, DP round seven preview

Ohio-Based Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Teams Look For Home State Victory Saturday at Mid-Ohio Michael Shank Racing, Southard Motorsports and Doran Racing all aiming for first 2008 victory DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 17, 2008) -- The...

Ohio-Based Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Teams Look For Home State Victory Saturday at Mid-Ohio
Michael Shank Racing, Southard Motorsports and Doran Racing all aiming for first 2008 victory

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 17, 2008) -- The three Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Daytona Prototype teams based in Ohio -- Michael Shank Racing, Southard Motorsports and Doran Racing -- have all shown strong at least some time during the 2008 season. But there is another thing all three teams have in common -- they are all still searching for that elusive first victory of the season.

Each team and driver hopes that victory comes Saturday in the two-and-a-half hour EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank at those teams' home track, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio (SPEED, Live at 5 p.m. ET).

Shank's No. 60 Ford Riley is fourth in the team standings. Oswaldo Negri, who took the Rolex 24 At Daytona pole position, and Mark Patterson have taken five top-10 finishes in the opening six races, with a best finish of third in the GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The team's No. 6, with Ian James and John Pew co-piloting the car, is tied for fifth in the team standings, also with five top 10s and a best finish of fourth in the Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway.

Southard, 15th in team points, has Bill Lester and Shane Lewis behind the wheel of the No. 3 Lexus Riley, and together the pair earned a season-best ninth at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Doran Racing, which has a winning record in the Rolex Series, brings two cars. Doran Racing's No. 77 Kodak Ford Dallara, with Memo Gidley and Cincinnati native Brad Jaeger, is 16th in team points with a best finish of fifth in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen. The team's No. 47 CDOC Ford Dallara started at Mexico City in April, and has two top 10s in four races. The car was significantly burned in a fire in the Sahlen's Six Hours earlier this month, but the car has been rebuilt for drivers Burt Frisselle and second-generation driver Ricky Taylor for this weekend.

So what will it mean for one of these teams to win at the 2.258-mile, 13-turn track?

"Save for winning the Rolex 24, I can't think of any better place to win a race for Mike Shank than at Mid-Ohio," Negri said. "We haven't always had the best luck there, but we know we will have a fast car this weekend. Mark (Patterson) had another excellent drive at Watkins Glen, and we would love to go back to the top step of the podium and get a win for Mike and the Westfield Insurance people who will be with us this weekend. The championship is also very important for us, and we just want to keep bringing good results to keep that momentum."

There are several other winless teams chasing point leaders Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, who drive the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley. Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty scored their third of seven victories at Mid-Ohio last year in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley en route to a successful march to the title. The pair's lone podium finish in 2008 was second at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

The No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley of former Daytona Prototype champion Max Angelelli, who won the pole at Watkins Glen and joined Michael Valiante in a second-place finish, is also looking for its first win. The team's Dallara chassis was destroyed by fire in a highway incident following the race at Laguna Seca. The team returns to the Riley this weekend, with a new Dallara expected in July. Krohn Racing will race its Proto-Auto Lola chassis at Mid-Ohio for the first time. Formula 1 veteran Ricardo Zonta joins Nic Jonsson in the No. 76 Pontiac Lola -- which is tied for fifth in points -- with team owner Tracy Krohn and Eric van de Poele sharing the No. 75 entry.

Pruett and Rojas are coming off a victory in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, their fourth Daytona Prototype triumph of the campaign. They opened the year by giving Ganassi his third consecutive victory in the Rolex 24, and also won at Homestead and VIR. Finishes of second at Mexico City and third at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca have helped the pair open a 36-point lead (202-166) over Mexico City winners Jim Matthews and Marc Goossens, who share the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley. The only other team to win this season is the No. 2 SAMAX BMW Riley of Ryan Dalziel and Henri Zogaib, who won at Laguna Seca.

Porsche, Corvette Look to Derail Pontiac, Mazda in Rolex Series GT

With Pontiac and Mazda winning all seven races to date in 2008, Porsche and Corvette will be looking for their initial GT class victory in the EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank.

TRG and Farnbacher Loles Racing will again field multi-car efforts. TRG has four cars in the running, including the No. 67 of Tim George Jr. and Spencer Pumpelly, who have four podium finishes in GT competition this season. The team's No. 66 Porsche GT3 is the defending race winner, and half of that winning combination is back this weekend. Andy Lally will compete for the third time this season, joining Ted Ballou in the No. 66. Lally replaces Bryce Miller, who returned to the Farnbacher Loles Racing camp to compete with 2007 Rolex GT champ and No. 87 Porsche GT3 regular Dirk Werner. Lally's 2007 co-winner RJ Valentine is co-driving the No. 68 TRG Porsche GT3 with Centerville, Ohio-born Bryan Sellers.

In addition to Werner and Miller, Farnbacher Loles is fielding the No. 86 Porsche GT3 with Eric Lux and Leh Keen, and Dave Lacey and Steve Johnson in the No. 88.

Leading the Corvette charge is the two-car Team Sahlen effort, with three drivers based in the Canton, Ohio, area. The No. 42 car will be driven by Will Nonnamaker and Joe Sahlen while the No. 43 car will be driven by the father-son duo of Joe and Wayne Nonnamaker. Pontiac's Banner Racing pair driving the No. 07 car, Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards, lead the point standings by 35 points (219-184) over the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 co-drivers Nick Ham and Sylvain Tremblay. Banner's second car, the No. 06 Pontiac GXP.R, pairs Marc Bunting with Jan Magnussen.

Mazda is coming off a victory at Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, with Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato scoring the maiden Rolex Series triumph for the No. 69 SpeedSource FXDD Mazda RX-8. Rolex 24 winners Ham and Tremblay return to the team's No. 70 entry. Adding variety to the manufacturer lineup is the No. 53 Playboy Racing BMW M6 driven by Mike Borkowski and Tommy Constantine.

Practice for the EMCO Gears Classic begins Friday at 9 a.m., with qualifying set for 4:30 p.m. Saturday's race, scheduled for a 5:10 p.m. start, is set for two hours and 45 minutes or 250 miles (111 laps. The weekend also includes a race for the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Street Tuner class, which takes the green flag at 12:45 p.m. Sunday.

RACE SPECS

- This is Round 8 for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16. The combined Daytona Prototype/GT race is two hours and 45 minutes or 250 miles (111 laps), whichever comes first.

- The green flag for the race is scheduled to fly at 5:10 p.m. ET. The race will air live on SPEED, beginning at 5 p.m. (Leigh Diffey -- Play-by-Play; Dorsey Schroeder, Calvin Fish -- Analysts; Brian Till, Chris Neville -- Pit Reporters).

- All cars must make a mandatory pit stop prior to the 45-minute mark in the race, and each driver must complete 30 minutes of the race in order to earn points for their respective standings.

- 2007 EMCO Gears Classic race winners are Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty (Daytona Prototypes), and Andy Lally and RJ Valentine (GT).

ROLEX SERIES WEEKEND SCHEDULE (ALL TIMES EASTERN)

- Friday: Rolex Series GT Practice (9-9:30 a.m.); Rolex Series Combined Practice (9:30-10:30 a.m.); Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Practice (10:30-11 a.m.); Rolex Series Combined Practice (1:30-2 p.m.); Rolex Series Trueman/Akin Award Practice (2-2:30 p.m.); Rolex Series GT Qualifying (4:30-4:45 p.m.); Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Qualifying (4:55-5:05 p.m.)

- Saturday: Rolex Series Combined Practice (9:35-10:35 a.m.); Rolex Series Final Practice -- Combined (1:25-2:05 p.m.); EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank (5:10 p.m.; two hours and 45 minutes or 250 miles/111 laps)

2008 IN REVIEW

Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas hold a 36-point advantage in the Daytona Prototype point standings after four victories and second and third-place finishes in their first six starts. They won the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami, the Bosch Engineering 250 at VIR and the most recent Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley. Marc Goossens and Jim Matthews won the Mexico City 250 in the No. 91 Bob Stallings/Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley, while Ryan Dalziel and Henri Zogaib earned their initial Daytona Prototype victories in the No. 2 SAMAX BMW Riley at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Consistency and seven top 10s -- including three class victories this season -- have No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R co-drivers Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards atop the GT point standings, 35 points over their closest competitors, Rolex 24 At Daytona winners and No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 co-drivers Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham. However, No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3 pilots Spencer Pumpelly and Tim George Jr. led the series standings earlier this season and have four podium finishes, including three second-place results. No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R co-drivers Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis also won two straight races this season and No. 69 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 Jeff Segal, Emil Assentato and Nick Longhi won the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen.

NEWS & NOTES

- Home Track Race For Ohio Drivers: Several drivers were born or currently reside in Ohio. The Nonnamaker clan -- with father Joe and sons Wayne and Will -- all live in North Canton. Brad Jaeger grew up in Cincinnati, while Zach Schiff resides in Dublin. Bryan Sellers was born in Centerville.

- Home Race for Teams Too: Three Daytona Prototype teams will have a short drive to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and are looking for a home track victory as well. Michael Shank Racing is located in Pataskala, and will field two Ford Rileys this weekend. The team last won at Miller Motorsports Park in September 2006. Another Columbus-area team, Powell's Southard Motorsports, has the No. 3 Lexus Riley entered at Mid-Ohio, and the team is seeking its first ever victory. Cincinnati's Doran Racing will bring the Nos. 47 and 77 Ford Dallaras to the track in an attempt for the team's first victory since August 2004 at Watkins Glen International.

- Kimber-Smith to Substitute for Injured Bobbi: Driver Matteo Bobbi will be unable to compete at Mid-Ohio for the EMCO Gears Classic due to an unspecified training injury. The Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Pontiac-powered Coyote will be piloted by Spain's Antonio Garcia and Britain's Tom Kimber-Smith. Kimber-Smith most recently substituted for Garcia at VIR, and is making his second career Rolex Series start.

- Taylor Replaces Gardel at Doran Racing: Ricky Taylor has been signed to drive the No. 47 Doran Racing CDOC Roush-Yates Ford Dallara with Burt Frisselle in Rolex Sports Car Series competition, starting with the EMCO Gears Classic. Taylor replaces Gabriele Gardel, who has decided to pursue racing opportunities in Europe. The No. 47 CDOC Ford Dallara debuted at Mexico City. "I'm really excited to be getting this opportunity to race a Dallara with Burt for Doran Racing," said the 18-year old Taylor. "I've driven the Riley, the Crawford, and now I will get to race a Dallara, and I am really excited about this combination."

- Teams, Drivers to Visit Nationwide Children's Hospital: Several teams and drivers from both the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 and KONI Challenge Series will be on hand Wednesday to visit children at the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus. Eric Lux, Ed Zabinski and Joey Hand from the Rolex Series and Team Cobalt California from the KONI Challenge Series will talk to the children about racing. "Leh and I are very fortunate to be able to drive race cars and it means a lot to us to be able to share that with kids who aren't seeing the best side of life right now," Lux said. "They have their role models and action figures, so if we can include them in our racing, maybe it will give them something to smile about. I'm glad we have the opportunity to spend some of our time with them and just give them a brighter day."

- Starting up Front Has its Privileges in GT: Starting up front is the key to success, at least for drivers in the Rolex Series GT class. Sylvain Tremblay, Kelly Collins, Andrew Davis and Jeff Segal have all started in the front two rows in their co-victories in 2008. Meanwhile, the Daytona Prototypes have been on the opposite end. The best start any driver has won from was third (Pruett and Rojas) at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Other starts have been sixth (Pruett, Rojas, Juan Pablo Montoya and Dario Franchitti), 15th (Marc Goossens and Jim Matthews), 16th (Pruett and Rojas) and 17th (Pruett and Rojas after failing post-qualifying tech inspection; Ryan Dalziel and Henri Zogaib).

ROLEX SERIES POINT STANDINGS

- Daytona Prototype: 1. (tie) Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, (202); 3. (tie) Marc Goossens, Jim Matthews (166); 5. (tie) Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty (153); 7. (tie) Oswaldo Negri, Mark Patterson (146); 9. (tie) Nic Jonsson, Ricardo Zonta, Ian James, John Pew (136).

- GT: 1. (tie) Kelly Collins, Paul Edwards (219); 3. (tie) Sylvain Tremblay, Nick Ham (184); 5. (tie) Spencer Pumpelly, Tim George Jr. (177); 7. (tie) Andrew Davis, Robin Liddell (175); 9. (tie) Emil Assentato (166); 10. Tim Lewis Jr., Lawson Aschenbach (159).

- MESCO Building For the Future Rookie of the Year: 1. Tim George Jr. (177); 2. Lawson Aschenbach (159); 3. Jeff Segal (155); 3. Ted Ballou (149), 5. Ricardo Zonta (136).

MILESTONES

- Law Hits The Century Mark: Brumos Racing's Darren Law became the first driver in Rolex Series competition to earn the coveted 100th career start, as he garnered that mark in the Mexico City 250 with an 11th-place finish. Law has competed in at least nine Rolex Series races each season since the Rolex Series' inaugural season, and has eight class victories, yet is still looking for his first career overall win. Law also leads the Rolex Series in laps and miles completed.

- Pruett, Ganassi Continue Winning Record: Scott Pruett and Chip Ganassi continue to set records for overall wins in the Rolex Series. Pruett notched his 18th overall win in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, now five more than second-place James Weaver. In turn, Ganassi earned his 19th win -- all in Daytona Prototypes -- eight more than the SunTrust Racing team. Pruett has also finished in the top 10 in 25 consecutive Rolex Series Daytona Prototype races.

- Pontiac Owns Class Win Record: With six class victories this season, Pontiac has passed Porsche for all-time class wins. Pontiac owns 50 class wins, while Porsche, which has not won in either Daytona Prototype or GT in 2008, has 49.

SELECTED PRE-RACE DRIVER QUOTES

Marc Bunting (No. 06 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R): "I am excited for Mid-Ohio; it is a track that I like and have had good results at in the past. I am driving with Jan Magnussen this weekend and he is coming off of Le Mans, so this will be an easy stint for him. The Pontiac has been a good car at Mid-Ohio in the past. The track is technical and that suits the car very well. Even with the extra weight I think the car has enough adjustability to do well there. When I drove the GTO.R there two years ago we were good as well. Jan has had good finishes in the car this year. That puts some pressure on me to have a strong start and give him the car up front. Every time he is in the car, expectations are high for everyone."

Joe Nonnamaker (No. 43 Team Sahlen's Corvette): "We had some fantastic test sessions this spring and have made great improvements in speed. The GT class is very competitive, with cars from Mazda, Porsche, Ford, Pontiac, Ferrari and BMW. We always have a big party at Mid-Ohio with family [and' friends as well as our many of our partners, including Hawk, Corsa and Forgeline, who are all from Ohio. Hopefully the improvements we made will be just the thing to put us up front for our home track fans."

Brad Jaeger (No. 77 Kodak Doran Ford Dallara): "I was born and raised in Cincinnati, and Mid-Ohio is the home track for both myself and the Doran Racing team. It's where I started racing when I was 16 in my dad's old Sports 2000 car, and in recent years in F2000, the Star Mazda Championship and the Indy Pro Series (now the Firestone Indy Lights). It's a fun track because of the elevation changes, the long, flowing turns and the long back straight that lets you really build up some speed. This will be my first race there in a [Daytona Prototype], but we're carrying some momentum from our top-five finish at Watkins Glen, and the entire team is looking forward to the weekend."

Memo Gidley (No. 77 Kodak Doran Ford Dallara): "I've had a lot of success at Mid-Ohio, in everything from F2000 to Atlantics to Champ Cars to Daytona Prototypes. I really like this track for the elevations changes, the natural terrain, the facilities and the fans that come out to watch. Mid-Ohio has a combination of long-duration tight corners and fast high-speed corners that put a premium on both mechanical and aero grip. Our car was sensational in both these areas at Watkins Glen, and I expect that to be similar at Mid-Ohio. The last few races the Doran team has shown everybody that we are back to being a front runner...I'm ready for that podium finish."

Jon Fogarty (No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley): "Mid-Ohio is possibly my favorite track in the states. I think the circuit has a nice layout from a driving perspective, but more than anything I just have a lot of good memories from the place. My first race east of the West Coast was at Mid-Ohio when I traveled back to run the SCCA Run-Offs in 1995 in a Formula Vee. It was my first year racing cars and I had won the SCCA San Francisco region and earned enough national points to go to the Run-Offs. I qualified off pole and finished fourth. Not great but it seemed pretty huge at the time considering I was new to it all.

"Then my first victory in a pro series with paid prize money came at Mid-Ohio. It was the 1998 Barber Dodge Pro Series and it was a wet race. I spun on the formation lap and started dead last, and then passed the whole field, including my current teammate Alex (Gurney), to take the victory. My Dad's family is all from Ohio and they were all there, which made it better. Then, of course, our Grand-Am Rolex Series run there last year was great, definitely another fond memory. No doubt, we left Mid-Ohio feeling like we were hitting our stride. When you have a race like we had last year it really makes you feel that all of the hard work is paying off. We are going to use the race this year to get back on track and shake off some of the bad luck we have been having. It is a handling track so we will be good, and our Pontiac is giving us all of the horsepower it has."

-credit: garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya , Nic Jönsson
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing , Stevenson Motorsports , Doran Racing , Team Sahlen , SpeedSource , Michael Shank Racing