Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant Kicks Off Four-Race Stretch to Decide 2006 Championships DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 25, 2006) -- With a 31-point lead in the Daytona Prototype driver standings and four races remaining on the schedule, ...
Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant Kicks Off Four-Race Stretch to Decide 2006 Championships
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 25, 2006) -- With a 31-point lead in the Daytona Prototype driver standings and four races remaining on the schedule, German racer Jörg Bergmeister in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley finds himself in the catbird seat heading into Sunday's Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant at the state-of-the-art Barber Motorsports Park (SPEED, Live, 3 p.m. ET).
What has given Bergmeister such a substantial lead and ranked his 17-year-old co-driver Colin Braun sixth in the Daytona Prototype championship despite missing two races is the fact that neither driver has finished worse than eighth in a feature race this season. The run includes victories for Bergmeister and the No. 76 team in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen and the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona last month--the latter of which made Braun the youngest winner of a major league auto race in North America--and a second-place showing for Bergmeister and Braun in the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio. However, the No. 76 duo cannot afford to let its guard down now against a hungry and talented field.
No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley co-drivers Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz are tied for second behind Bergmeister and lead the series with three feature race victories. The No. 01 team--and the rest of the Lexus-powered teams--will debut a new, five-liter engine in this weekend's Porsche 250 and it will be interesting to see what effect that will have on the final four races. Certainly, Pruett and Diaz will get the most out of the new powerplant and will challenge for the victory and the championship if the engine is equal to the task.
Over the past seven feature races, no driver has had a better record than defending Daytona Prototype co-champion Max Angelelli. The Italian has shared the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley with both Jan Magnussen and car owner Wayne Taylor throughout the season, and Magnussen will once again get the nod this weekend. Since Round 5 at Virginia International Raceway, Angelelli has not finished lower than fourth and earned a victory alongside Magnussen in May's Road & Track 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The No. 10 team heads to Barber as defending race champions, and a repeat victory would solidify Angelelli's bid to successfully defend his title.
No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford co-drivers Mike Rockenfeller and Patrick Long got their season back on track with a second-place showing in the Brumos Porsche 250. The duo had won the VIR 400 and the Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami but hit a tough patch with mechanical problems in Rounds 5-8. If their performance at Daytona last month was any indication, Rockenfeller and Long will be among the favorites this weekend.
Mid-Ohio winners Adrian Fernandez and Mario Haberfeld could also be contenders in the Porsche 250 aboard the No. 12 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Pontiac Riley. It has been an up-and-down season for Fernandez and Haberfeld, what with six feature race finishes of 11th or lower, but the EMCO Gears Classic victory and a fifth-place outing at Phoenix International Raceway (where Fernandez also won the qualifying race) proves that this team is capable of running up front.
Among the teams most likely to win in 2006 but haven't done so yet are co-drivers Jon Fogarty and 2005 Barber polesitter Alex Gurney in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley. Gurney and Fogarty have finished inside the top-eight positions in each of their past five feature race starts, with second-place results at both Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, and a third-place run at Mid-Ohio. It appears to be only a matter of time before the No. 99 team earns its maiden victory, which could come as soon as this weekend.
Like Fogarty and Gurney, No. 19 Playboy/Uniden Racing Ford Crawford co-drivers Michael McDowell and Memo Gidley have not yet visited Victory Lane in a feature race this season, although McDowell did win the VIR qualifying race. Unlike the No. 99 teammates, however, McDowell and Gidley have earned an overall victory in Rolex Series competition, and would love nothing more than to relive their experience from last year's season finale in Mexico City this weekend in Birmingham.
Another team to watch this weekend will be Christian Fittipaldi and 2004 Daytona Prototype co-champion Max Papis in the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve/Cheever Racing Porsche Crawford. Fittipaldi's car has qualified on the outside of the front row in both of his previous Rolex Series appearances at Barber, but may have his best chance yet to earn a Porsche 250 victory with Papis as his co-driver. The Italian--who welcomed a newborn son last Friday--started from the pole and finished third in his lone previous appearance at the venue during his championship-winning 2004 season.
Andy Wallace and Butch Leitzinger also cannot be discounted in the No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford for Howard-Boss Motorsports. Both drivers rank among the all-time leaders in Rolex Series career victories, and Leitzinger co-drove the No. 4 machine to victory in 2004 alongside then-co-driver Elliott Forbes-Robinson.
Others who have shown flashes of brilliance this season and could challenge for the victory include Shane Lewis and Craig Stanton in the No. 3 Southard Motorsports BMW Riley, Michael Valiante and Rob Finlay in the No. 5 Make A Wish/Z-Line Designs/Finlay Motorsports Ford Crawford, David Donohue and Darren Law in the new No. 58 Red Bull Porsche Riley for Brumos Racing, Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri Jr. in the No. 60 Flight Options/Net App Lexus Riley for Michael Shank Racing, Tracy Krohn and Nic Jönsson in the No. 75 Krohn Racing Ford Riley, and Alex Figge and Ryan Dalziel aboard the No. 89 Team Vonage/Playboy/Palms Casino Pontiac Riley.
The 26-car Daytona Prototype field will be further strengthened by 2000 NASCAR champion Bobby Labonte and co-driver Guy Cosmo in the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Racing Pontiac Crawford, three-time Rolex Series overall race winner Milka Duno and sports car racing ace Olivier Beretta in the No. 11 CITGO Racing by SAMAX Pontiac Riley, Tommy Constantine and Mike Borkowski in the No. 6 Playboy Racing/Mears Motor Coach Lexus Riley, Brian Tuttle and Jonathan Cochet co-driving the No. 7 Tuttle Team Racing Pontiac Riley, Matthew Alhadeff and two-time Rolex Series GT champion Bill Auberlen in the No. 30 Sigalsport/Motul/GRW.com.mx/enVista BMW Riley, Randy Ruhlman and Chris Bingham sharing the No. 40 Derhaag Motorsports Pontiac Riley, BJ Zacharias and Rob and Charles Morgan in the No. 47 Querencia Golf Club/TruSpeed Motorcars/Wright Motorsports Porsche Riley, sports car legend Hurley Haywood and co-driver JC France in the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar, 2003 Daytona Prototype champion Terry Borcheller and co-driver Harrison Brix in the No. 77 Kodak/Amp'd Mobile/Sirius Ford Doran, and Tony Ave and Skip Cummins in the No. 97 CyberSpeed Racing Pontiac Riley. The No. 8 Synergy Racing Porsche Doran has also been entered with drivers still to be announced.
The battle for supremacy in the GT class has become a fight between TRG's pair of Pontiac GTO.Rs and the No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3 of Tafel Racing. No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R co-drivers Marc Bunting and Andy Lally continue to lead the GT driver standings and gave themselves a bit more of a gap with a class victory in the Brumos Porsche 250.
They now lead No. 72 co-drivers Robin Liddell and Wolf Henzler by eight points, 407-399, but the No. 72 duo kept the pressure on with a second-place performance at Daytona last month. Neither team has finished outside the class top nine, and both have three feature-race GT victories, as does the No. 64 TRG/iRise duo of Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins. With that said, those three teams should be battling at the front throughout the Porsche 250 and for the remainder of the season.
Others who could challenge include Rolex 24 At Daytona GT winners Michael Levitas and Spencer Pumpelly, who will be sharing the No. 35 Turbo Performance Center Porsche GT3 and their Rolex 24-winning teammates, Ian Baas and Randy Pobst in the No. 36 TPC Porsche GT3. No. 80 Synergy Racing Porsche GT3 co-drivers David Murry and Leh Keen and two other entries from Atlanta's Tafel Racing also cannot be overlooked. In Tafel's No. 73 NEC Porsche GT3 are Jim Tafel and Andrew Davis, with Eric Lux and Ian James slated for the No. 74 Rembrandt Charms Porsche GT3.
In addition to Sunday's Rolex Series Porsche 250, the Grand-Am Cup Series also returns to action at Barber Motorsports Park for Saturday's Grand-Am Cup 200. No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 driver Anders Hainer leads the Grand Sport class driver standings by one point over a six-way tie for second, while No. 01 Clearscada/GM Performance Division Chevrolet Cobalt SS co-drivers Jamie Holtom and Eric Curran own a comfortable lead in the Street Tuner championship heading into Round 7 of 10 in the 2006 Grand-Am Cup Series.
After a promoter test day on Thursday, the weekend activities get underway with a full day of practice for the Rolex Series and Grand-Am Cup on Friday. Rolex Series qualifying and the Grand-Am Cup 200 headline Saturday's activities, with the Grand-Am Cup race taking the green flag at 2:15 p.m. CT. The race will be televised on SPEED beginning at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, August 5.
Sunday's schedule features Round 11 of the 14-race 2006 Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve, the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant, which begins at 2 p.m. local time in Birmingham. The race will be televised live on SPEED beginning at 3 p.m. ET.
Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant Fast Facts
Who: Grand American Road Racing Association
What: Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve
Where: Barber Motorsports Park; Birmingham, Ala.
When: Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant Sunday, July 30 at 2:00 p.m. local time
Grand-Am Cup 200 Saturday, July 29 at 2:15 p.m. local time
TV: LIVE on SPEED, July 30 at 3:00 p.m. ET
Grand-Am Cup 200 Tape Delayed on SPEED, Saturday, August 5 at 1:00 p.m. ET
Schedule of Events:
Friday, July 28
9:10 a.m. -- 9:40 a.m. Rolex Series GT practice
9:49 a.m. -- 10:40 a.m. Rolex Series practice
10:40 a.m. -- 11:10 a.m. Rolex Series Daytona Prototype practice
12:50 p.m. -- 1:35 p.m. Grand-Am Cup Series practice
1:45 p.m. -- 2:45 p.m. Rolex Series practice
3:35 p.m. -- 4:20 p.m. Grand-Am Cup Series practice
Saturday, July 29
9:00 a.m. -- 9:50 a.m. Grand-Am Cup Series practice
10:00 a.m. -- 11:00 a.m. Rolex Series practice
11:10 a.m. -- 11:25 a.m. Grand-Am Cup ST qualifying
11:35 a.m. -- 11:50 a.m. Grand-Am Cup GS qualifying
1:00 p.m. -- 1:15 p.m. Rolex Series GT qualifying
1:30 p.m. -- 1:45 p.m. Rolex Series Daytona Prototype qualifying
2:15 p.m. START -- Grand-Am Cup 200 (200 miles/87 laps/2 ½-hour time limit)
Sunday, July 30
10:00 a.m. -- 11:00 a.m. Rolex Series practice
2:00 p.m. START -- Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant (250 miles/109 laps/2 ¾-hour time limit)