Trailing Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli by 38 points in the Rolex Sports Car Series drivers' championship with just two races remaining, Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz needed a win Sunday in the VIR 400 at Virginia International Raceway to keep their...
Trailing Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli by 38 points in the Rolex Sports Car Series drivers' championship with just two races remaining, Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz needed a win Sunday in the VIR 400 at Virginia International Raceway to keep their championship hopes alive. And win they did, as Pruett passed Matteo Bobbi's No. 77 Ford Doran with twenty-four minutes remaining to give the Ganassi Racing duo their third victory of the season in the No. 01 Lexus Riley. But even with the victory, the championship may still elude them. By finishing fourth, Angelelli and Taylor, driving the SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley, merely need to start the final race of the season, in Mexico City, to clinch the championship.
"We did everything we could," said Pruett, who shared last year's championship with Max Papis. "Our pit stops were fabulous. The Ganassi guys put us up front all day long and we made good calls. We had a good car. We went into the race very confident. Luis did a great job. He ran hard and brought the car in upfront. Towards the end we had some hard racing with the Doran guys, but this is all we could do to keep the championship alive.
"We're just going to go for it in Mexico. We are going to change things up a bit. I'm going to qualify and start the car and Luis is going to finish because he knows the track so well. But otherwise it's going to be business as usual for us. We've just got to for it. We have nothing to lose and we're going to run hard and try to make all the right moves and be smart. And hopefully we can get back to back wins."
With a commanding lead in the championship, the SunTrust team had hoped to wrap up the title this weekend, but that did not happen. "I think everybody came here with expectations that we were going to walk away and clinch the championship," explained Taylor. "That would have been a great thing to do. But in all of my years of racing, whenever people start talking about that - I wouldn't say it's the kiss of death - but championships are only won when they have been won. We had an unfortunate incident with Max out there and lost a lot of positions because of it. But the team did a good job to get us back. Now, effectively, we have to go to Mexico and start the race and I think that will be all we need to do there."
The unfortunate incident Taylor mentioned occurred on Lap 36 when J.C. France, who was well of the pace in the No. 59 Brumos Porsche Fabcar, rammed Angelelli from behind in Turn 1. "It was unnecessary," said an obviously frustrated Angelelli. "It put us at risk. I could have finished my race in that corner because I was completely sideways with a puncture in the tire. I don't know how I recovered the car. I don't know how I didn't go off. It was necessary. This is not the way a racing driver should perform on the race track. The overall is still good. We only have to do to Mexico and relax. But when you set up your mind to clinch the championship and you don't do it, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. We had a good result for the day we had. But I think the car could have won."
Though Angelelli may have been frustrated, Taylor was not that concerned. "I never saw the incident. I just heard Bill (Riley) and saw everybody freaking out. I don't know why I missed it. I didn't know. The way I knew that there was an incident was the data guy said that pressure on the rear tire was going down. But it didn't really worry me because I knew that with what was going on that we were going to have more cautions. But the little damage that it did do caused us to lose that edge."
Andy Wallace and Milka Duno finished second in the No. 2 Pontiac Crawford, followed by Bobbi and his co-driver, Fabrizio Gollin. Cort Wagner and Stefan Johansson rounded out the top-five in a second Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley.
In the GT class, the No. 21 PTG BMW M3 of Bill Auberlen and Tom Milner started 45th and finished first, giving the duo their third win of the year. "Tom was up to fourth or fifth in a matter of like five laps," said Auberlen. "I just got handed a car that was in second place, I think, right towards the front. By then the car was so good that it was easy to drive. It was nice; really nice."
"Before the race my dad gave us a whole spiel about no contact whatsoever - not with our own teammates and not with any other cars. I took that to heart a little bit, but I still took a few chances. I made short work of about half the field in the first few laps and then after that it got a little harder with some of the stronger cars. The car was great, but it seems like this is a running thing for me. I have a car that is not too good in practice but good in the race."
Justin Marks and Joey Hand in another PTG BMW M3 came home second in class, followed by the No. 65 Krohn Racing/TRG Racing GTO.R of Andy Lally and Marc Bunting, who now lead the GT class drivers' championship by one point over Craig Stanton.