Mid-Ohio Marks A Homecoming For Lexus Teams, Drivers TORRANCE, Calif. (Aug. 3, 2004) - Summer always seems to be the time of year for family reunions and get-togethers. For two Ohio-based teams and a pair of drivers who help make up the Lexus...
Mid-Ohio Marks A Homecoming For Lexus Teams, Drivers
TORRANCE, Calif. (Aug. 3, 2004) - Summer always seems to be the time of year for family reunions and get-togethers. For two Ohio-based teams and a pair of drivers who help make up the Lexus Daytona Prototype sports car program, this weekend's EMCO Gears Mid-Ohio Road Racing Classic may be the closest thing they'll have this season for a homecoming.
After opening the season with races stretching from Daytona to Phoenix, and Quebec to Miami, for first-year sports car team Michael Shank Racing (MSR), Mid-Ohio doesn't mark a return home as much as it does simply remaining at home. Based less than an hour away in Columbus, Ohio, the squad has established itself as a consistent contender in the first half of the season with six consecutive top-eight finishes including third place at Homestead with drivers Oswaldo Negri and Burt Frisselle.
MSR won't be the only ones claiming the Mid-Ohio home-field advantage among the Lexus contingent. While not based quite as close to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, fellow Lexus-powered team Doran-Lista Racing hails from Lebanon, Ohio (just outside of Cincinnati). Like his fellow team owner Michael Shank, Doran-Lista's Kevin Doran also is a life-long Ohioan. Unlike the newcomers from Columbus, Doran-Lista lists a sports car resume that can match almost any in the sport - including wins at the Daytona 24 Hours and the 12 Hours of Sebring. Not ones to rest on their laurels, driver Didier Theys has led the team to a pair of second-place finishes and been a consistent threat for the top spot on the podium. Theys will join with Ben Leuenberger this weekend in the cockpit of the #27 Lexus.
The ties that bind to Mid-Ohio run even deeper for the Lexus corps as series co-leaders Scott Pruett and Max Papis each used to call Columbus home during their Champ Car days. Pruett began his full-time open-wheel career driving for the Truesports team founded by the legendary Jim Trueman, whose family still owns Mid-Ohio today. Papis stint in Columbus came while driving for Trueman protege and Indy star Bobby Rahal. In addition to driving for the local team, Papis also made his Champ Car debut at Mid-Ohio in 1996.
Of course, you might find a number of current Rolex Series competitors who wish both were still campaigning the open-wheelers as the Chip Ganassi Racing duo have driven their #01 CompUSA Lexus to a pair of wins (Mont-Tremblant and Watkins Glen) and two second-place finishes in their last four events to assume the top spot in the Daytona Prototype drivers championship. Pruett and Papis are just one-half of the Ganassi Racing Lexus stable as Jimmy Morales (currently seventh in points) will team with Luis Diaz in the #02 CompUSA Lexus.
The Mid-Ohio Grand Am is scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. start on Saturday evening. The race will be televised on a tape-delayed basis on SPEED later that night at 8 p.m.