The Ganassi Racing duo of Scott Pruett and Max Papis fended off challenges from both the championship contending SunTrust Pontiac Riley and the drastically improved Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford to win the EMCO Gears Mid-Ohio Road...
The Ganassi Racing duo of Scott Pruett and Max Papis fended off challenges from both the championship contending SunTrust Pontiac Riley and the drastically improved Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford to win the EMCO Gears Mid-Ohio Road Racing Classic at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The win was their third in the last four races and placed them solidly atop the Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype drivers' championship with five races remaining.
"The car was good all day long and, from when I last drove it on Thursday, Max made some changes to it that were improvements, and I was real pleased," said Pruett, who severely bruised his ribs Friday in a hard crash while practicing for the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "I asked the car to go fast, and it went fast. It was one of the easier cars to drive, but I still had to drive it right on the edge."
Indeed, driving his Lexus Riley on the edge also helped numb the pain that shot from his ribs throughout the race. "As long I was under green, there was enough adrenaline pumping that I couldn't feel the pain, but under the yellows I couldn't even warm up my tires. And at the end of the race, I needed a little help out of the car. But victory takes the edge off, that's for sure."
Early on, Papis, who qualified on the pole, had to drive extremely hard to keep Wayne Taylor and his Pontiac Riley behind him. "We had a very, very tough first stint," he explained. "We had an extremely close call in the early going when a Porsche spun in turn one right in front of us. We were very lucky because we missed him by millimeters. The guy didn't know whether he was going right or left. So I had to put half of the car in the grass. We were doing a really fast pace in the beginning and I was able to maintain a good rhythm, but (our encounter) started to cause a tire lock up." Eventually, Taylor was able to slide by Papis, but a short time later, mechanical problems forced Taylor's co-driver, Emanuel Collard, to make an unscheduled pit stop. This stop effectively cost the SunTrust car a shot at the overall win.
But as the SunTrust car fell off the pace, the Howard-Boss team of Andy Wallace and Milka Duno, the beneficiaries of two test sessions since the last race at Daytona, rose to the occasion, taking advantage of its Pontiac Crawford's newfound handling and braking to work its way from 12th to second. However, Pruett's Lexus engine simply had too much straight line speed for Wallace, who ended up 2.7 seconds behind the ailing Pruett at the finish.
The second Ganassi Racing entry of Jimmy Morales and Luis Diaz finished third, followed by the No. 58 Brumos Porsche of Darren Law and David Donohue, which ran as high as third, and the Pontiac Crawford shared by Chris Hall and Larry Huang.
In the GT class, Bill Auberlen and Justin Marks won for the second straight time in their Tom Milner-prepared PTG BMW M3. Auberlen, who now has six wins in six races, assumed sole possession of the top spot in the GT class drivers' championship. Aside from being hit by other cars on three different occasions, it was an uneventful race for the Californian. "No major issues," he said. "The car was great all day long and the team was perfect on their pit stops. All we had to do was put our heads down and run hard."
The G&W Motorsports Porsche, driven by Mark Greenberg and Spencer Pumpelly, came home second in class, followed by Chris Gleason, RJ Valentine and Ian James in the Racer's Group Porsche.
The Orison-Planet Earth Racing Porsche of Wayne Nonnamaker, which had to start second-to-last after it failed post-qualifying inspection, won the SGS class for the second consecutive race. Yet, according to Wayne, going from the back to the front was not that tough. "There was a lot of traffic, but it was fun," he explained. "It's always fun to move up through the pack. We had a good set up for long runs, so I didn't feel it was too bad."
However, with less than a lap remaining, Nonnamaker had to work hard to keep the TPC Porsches of Andy Lally and Jean-Francois Dumoulin at bay. "At the end there, Dumoulin was just relentless. Dumoulin and I were battling and then Lally caught up to us, and all three of us were going door-to-door. I used every inch of the road I could and every last ounce of energy I had. But we held him off. And TPC is a great team, so it's fun to be able to beat a really great team like that.
"And it's our 20th anniversary as a team, 50th professional race win and 150th professional podium," he added. "To do it here at home in front of our friends and family is so awesome."
At the checkered, Lally and co-driver Marc Bunting finished 13.318 seconds behind Nonnamaker, and .177 seconds ahead of Dumoulin and Michael Levitas. By finishing second, Bunting and Lally retained their lead in the SGS class drivers' championship.
The Rolex Sports Car Series will return to the track Friday evening at Watkins Glen International.