News and notes 2004-07-20

Rolex Roundup -- July 20, 2004 News, Notes & Quotes from the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 20, 2004) -- Legendary motorsports journalist Chris Economaki has been named Grand Marshal for the upcoming ...

Rolex Roundup -- July 20, 2004
News, Notes & Quotes from the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 20, 2004) -- Legendary motorsports journalist Chris Economaki has been named Grand Marshal for the upcoming Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series VIR 400 at Virginia International Raceway on the weekend of October 1-3.

Economaki, 83, is the editor and publisher emeritus of National Speed Sport News and is widely known as the "Dean of American Motorsports Journalists." He has worked with NSSN since its founding in 1934 and assumed control of the weekly publication in 1950. He was the trackside announcer at VIR's inaugural race--an SCCA event won by Carroll Shelby in 1957--and has been one of the track's most ardent supporters and a frequent visitor since the track's reopening in 2000 by co-owners Harvey Siegel and Connie Nyholm.

"Having been the announcer at the very first race at VIR, it will be a pleasure to contrast what technology has achieved in the development of America's top-flight racing sports cars," Economaki said.

Just as Economaki is honored by his selection as Grand Marshal, so too is Nyholm that a racing icon will serve in the role.

"Simply put, we love Chris," Nyholm said. "He is a legend in our sport, he has been a part of VIR throughout its history and he's just a big sweetheart. He has been one of our biggest supporters, and we wanted to take this opportunity to express our appreciation and affection for him. We're thrilled that he has accepted our invitation to be Grand Marshal for the VIR 400, and we can't wait for October."

Tickets for the VIR 400 weekend--which features the Rolex Series on Sunday, October 3 and includes a 250-mile Grand-Am Cup Series event on Saturday, October 2--are available by calling 1-888-RACE-099, Ext. 116 and are also available online at Three-day Super Tickets are priced at $40, which includes a complimentary race program, and Sunday-only tickets are $30 if purchased in advance. At the gate, Super Tickets are $50, with single day tickets priced at $10 for Friday, $20 for Saturday and $40 for Sunday.


In the downtime between races, Daytona Prototype teams using the Riley Mk XI chassis got together at Barber Motorsports Park to get in some testing work. In attendance were the championship-leading No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley and drivers Scott Pruett and Max Papis, the No. 02 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley with co-drivers Luis Diaz and Jimmy Morales, the No. 9 Mears Motorcoach/SpeedSource Pontiac Riley with drivers Mike Borkowski and Paul Mears Jr., and the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley of Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor.

The Ganassi team worked on its suspension setups throughout testing last Tuesday and Wednesday, and all four drivers were in action.

"We just focused on getting our shock program together," reported Pruett. "Testing was good. We're real pleased with how everything went, and all four of us ran. We were able to run close to 600 miles, and we made a lot of progress."

While Pruett was pleased with the amount of work he and his teammates were able to get in, he was most pleased with the facility at Barber. He is definitely looking forward to returning for the penultimate round of the 2004 Rolex Sports Car Series, the Barber 250 at The Park on the weekend of October 8-10.

"Man, what a place!" Pruett said. "I'm very impressed with the facility. It's got to be--if not THE best--one of the best circuits in North America. I'm glad we're not racing there until October, because it was over 100 degrees, but I was very impressed. The layout of the track was great. It was a lot of fun and just has a good feel. The grounds are immaculate and the facilities and safety features are top drawer."

According to Riley Technologies Vice President Bill Riley, the No. 10 SunTrust team also had a successful outing as they worked on fine-tuning the car heading into the second half of the season.

"It was a really good test," Riley said. "We worked on a bunch of small things, trying to optimize the car. We were getting the drivers familiar with the track, and we worked on shocks, springs and bars. We had quite a few things. Another thing we worked on was fuel mileage, because the Crawfords seemed to be getting better mileage. We got that sorted out, and now we should be on par."

As the newest members of the Riley family, the No. 9 team capitalized on the opportunity to get themselves more familiar with the car after an impressive run at the front in the early stages of the Paul Revere 250 presented by Brumos Porsche earlier this month. The team reported two trouble-free days of testing and was pleased with the efforts of Borkowski and Mears despite the heavy workload.

"Every session we got more comfortable with the Riley," said SpeedSource team owner Sylvain Tremblay. "Our engineer, David Haskell, got more speed out of the setup and we left the track with a great baseline to start with on high-downforce tracks. There is little doubt the pace we showed at Daytona will be repeated for the rest of the season."


The Riley teams weren't the only ones on the testing trail last week, as the No. 81 Motorsports BMW Doran and co-drivers Brent Martini and Cort Wagner were on-track at Barber Motorsports Park and Virginia International Raceway. It was the team's first test with the car following extensive repairs by Doran Designs for damage from a crash during the Paul Revere 250 at Daytona.

The test not only provided an opportunity to shake the car down following the repairs, but it also gave Martini an opportunity to better familiarize himself with the Daytona Prototype. Martini--the 2003 Rolex Series GT co-champion with Wagner--missed the first three races of the 2004 season following surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff.

"Testing was great for the entire effort," Wagner said. "We found out a bit about the car, but mostly Brent got the track time he has been missing since the start of the year. Because we had a number of races that required three drivers since his return, Brent never really had a chance to find his groove in this type of car. This testing allowed him enough time to gather his thoughts and put his head down to do some seriously quick lapping, which is exactly what he did."


In addition to G&W Motorsports, Michael Shank Racing also used the opening in the schedule to test Virginia International Raceway last week. Sharing the controls of the No. 6 Lexus-powered Doran were the father and son team of Mark and Greg Wilkins and Bobby Julien, all of whom were getting their first exposure to a Daytona Prototype after driving in several other Grand American-sanctioned classes.

Julien was on the SGS class-winning team in the 2004 Rolex 24 At Daytona, while Mark and Greg Wilkins finished third in SGS at the Rolex 24. In addition to Rolex Series success, Mark Wilkins has also been atop the Formula Renault championship standings for much of the season. He was decidedly impressed by the MSR Daytona Prototype.

"The car has so much straight-line speed, it's unbelievable," Mark Wilkins said. "The brakes were really amazing and the car had a lot of impressive elements like the no-lift shift with the sequential transmission. It was over 90 degrees outside, with nearly 100 percent humidity, so it was probably as hot as I have ever been in a race car, but it was still a blast!

"For now, it was just to get an idea of what the car was like. If we could get sponsorship together, it would be great to go in this direction."

"All three of the guys did a really good job in the car," added team owner Mike Shank. "The feedback they had was excellent, and we were able to work through our development program and test out some new pieces for the car. It was a tremendously useful test day, and hopefully we can score a strong finish at Mid-Ohio as well."


Margraf Racing recently announced that it will participate in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series with a Pontiac-powered Riley. According to team owner Bill Margraf, the team expects the new chassis to arrive from the Riley shop in late August and should be on track testing shortly thereafter.

"We are very excited to be part of the Grand American Rolex Series," Margraf said. "The series' experienced personnel and rules stability makes the Grand-Am series very attractive. I am very impressed with the chassis and engine equality. Even though we picked the Pontiac-Riley combination, Grand-Am will make sure there is no clear-cut favorite in either category. The organizers are continually working to make sure that no engine and/or chassis combination will have any significant advantage. It makes for close and exciting racing for the competitors and fans. It puts a premium on strategy, preparation and driving. We can't wait to get to the first race."

The car will be driven by George Nolte and will be sponsored by Nolte Associates, a 400-person civil engineering company with offices in California, Colorado, Utah and Mexico. Potential co-drivers should contact Bill Margraf at (530) 268-6680 or via e-mail at

Margraf indicated that the team is planning to run at least one Rolex Series race toward the end of the 2004 season, with an eye toward a full-time program in '05.


Super Grand Sport (SGS) co-points leader Andy Lally, who shares the No. 38 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup with Marc Bunting, will be featured in his own "question and answer" section on beginning on July 26. "Through The Gears with Andy Lally" will provide visitors with the opportunity to submit questions to Lally about his personal experiences as a sports car racer-- Chris Gleason, who currently stands in a third-place tie in the 2004 Rolex Sports Car Series GT category alongside his No. 66 The Racer's Group Porsche GT3 RS co-drivers Ian James and RJ Valentine, will be inducted into the Cambria County (Pa.) Sports Hall of Fame Saturday night. Gleason's long-time friend, Daytona Prototype owner and Pittsburgh native Chip Ganassi, will present Gleason with his award-- As part of its ongoing Hispanic outreach initiative, the Grand American Road Racing Association began offering news in Spanish on its official web site, All news generated from series headquarters is being translated to Spanish in addition to team news that is relevant to the Hispanic community-- With more than two weeks remaining before the EMCO Gears Mid-Ohio Road Racing Classic, the Rolex Sports Car Series already has 34 entries for the Saturday, August 7 event. Included on the list are 17 Daytona Prototypes.


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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Max Papis , Scott Pruett , Wayne Taylor , Luis Diaz , Ian James , David Haskell , Andy Lally , Max Angelelli , Sylvain Tremblay , Chris Gleason , Jimmy Morales , Mike Borkowski , Brent Martini , Paul Mears Jr. , Greg Wilkins , Marc Bunting , Chip Ganassi , George Nolte , Mark Wilkins , Michael Shank , Cort Wagner
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing , SpeedSource , Michael Shank Racing