Tight Daytona Prototype Points Battle Heads to Mid-Ohio for EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 20, 2006) -- With six races remaining on the 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown ...
Tight Daytona Prototype Points Battle Heads to Mid-Ohio for EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 20, 2006) -- With six races remaining on the 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve calendar, the stretch drive gets underway in the Daytona Prototype title chase with Saturday's EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (SPEED, June 25, 3:00 p.m. ET).
Bolstered by his first victory of the season earlier this month in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley driver Jorg Bergmeister holds a slim, four-point advantage over No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz, 291-287. After sharing the No. 76 machine with road racing great Boris Said at Watkins Glen, Bergmeister will be joined once again this weekend by 17-year-old co-driver Colin Braun. Bergmeister has not finished worse than eighth in any feature race this season, but the German knows that more victories are likely needed if he is to maintain his position atop the points chart.
For Pruett and Diaz, the trip to Mid-Ohio is undoubtedly welcome given the No. 01 machine's record of success at the venerable road circuit. In 2004, Pruett and then-co-driver Max Papis claimed the victory en route to their 2004 Daytona Prototype title, and Pruett and Diaz finished second in a thriller at Mid-Ohio last year. The duo already leads the series with three feature race victories from the first eight rounds, but like Bergmeister, Diaz and Pruett's championship aspirations would be aided considerably by another win this weekend.
Just seven points behind the CompUSA co-drivers and 11 out of the lead is No. 19 Playboy/Uniden Racing Ford Crawford driver Michael McDowell, who welcomed regular co-driver Memo Gidley back at the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen. McDowell has finished inside the top eight in all but one race this season and won the qualifying race at Virginia International Raceway. However, he and Gidley have yet to visit Victory Lane following a feature race this season, and both drivers know that victories are needed to be considered serious championship contenders.
Defending Daytona Prototype co-champion Max Angelelli and the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley team return to Mid-Ohio looking for a much less stressful weekend than they had in 2005. Last year, the No. 10 machine caught fire with Wayne Taylor behind the wheel during qualifying, forcing the team to work around the clock to have the car ready in time for the race. The team was rewarded handsomely for their efforts, as Taylor and Angelelli brought the car home in third place and likely cemented their championship in the process.
This year, Angelelli will share the SunTrust car with Danish racer Jan Magnussen, with whom he co-drove to his lone victory of the season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last month. Since a second-place run in April's VIR 400, Angelelli has not finished worse than fourth in a feature race and the Italian is still very much alive in the championship battle. He currently ranks fifth with 266 points, and he and Magnussen must be considered among the favorites for victory this weekend.
Michael Valiante and Rob Finlay, who co-drive the No. 5 Make A Wish/Z-Line Designs/Finlay Motorsports Ford Crawford, are currently tied for sixth in the points race, but both drivers are still looking for that elusive first Daytona Prototype victory. Valiante has fond memories of Mid-Ohio, having won the Toyota Atlantic race in his last appearance at the venue in 2003, which could bode well for the No. 5 teammates come Saturday evening.
Since taking the lead in the Daytona Prototype driver standings following their second victory of the season in the VIR 400, little has gone right for No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford co-drivers Patrick Long and Mike Rockenfeller. The Alex Job Racing duo has finished 15th or lower in each of their last three feature races, dropping them to a tie for eighth in the championship. Nevertheless, Rockenfeller and Long cannot be counted out of the championship picture and remain a threat to win on this or any other Rolex Series weekend.
Joining the aforementioned teams as solid contenders for victory in the EMCO Gears Classic are the No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford pairing of Andy Wallace and Butch Leitzinger with Howard-Boss Motorsports. Last year, Leitzinger passed Pruett in Turn 1 on a late-race restart to take the victory for himself and then-co-driver Elliott Forbes-Robinson in the No. 4 machine, while Wallace finished second in 2004.
With second-place results in two of their last three races, Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney are also poised to break into the Rolex Series Victory Circle in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley, while the No. 89 Playboy/Vonage/Palms Casino Pontiac Riley pairing of Ryan Dalziel and Alex Figge have also shown the ability to challenge at the front of the field. Another Pontiac Riley, the No. 12 Lowe's Fernandez Racing machine of owner/driver Adrian Fernandez and Brazilian Mario Haberfeld has been strong of late as well.
Ohio-based teams will undoubtedly have hometown support. That coupled with talented driver lineups may be just the ticket to win the EMCO Gears Classic. With a pair of podium finishes already under their belts this season, the Powell-based Southard Motorsports with driver Shane Lewis and a co-driver to be announced could factor in the outcome in the No. 3 BMW Riley.
Reynoldsburg's Michael Shank Racing has two fast race cars, the No. 6 Playboy Racing/Mears Lexus Riley to be driven by Mike Borkowski and a driver to be named, and the No. 60 Flight Options/Net App Lexus Riley in the hands of Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri. Lebanon's Feeds The Need/Doran Racing also brings a strong entry with 2003 Daytona Prototype champion Terry Borcheller and Daytona Prototype rookie Harrison Brix in the No. 77 Kodak/Amp'd Mobile/Sirius Ford Doran.
Bolstering the 27-car Daytona Prototype field further are the No. 97 CyberSpeed Racing Pontiac Riley of Tony Ave and Skip Cummins, owner/driver Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonsson in the No. 75 Krohn Racing Ford Riley, the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar duo of JC France and sports car legend Hurley Haywood, the No. 58 Red Bull/Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar of David Donohue and Darren Law, the No. 50 Rocketsports Racing Ford Crawford with drivers still to be announced, Rob and Charles Morgan in the No. 47 Querencia Golf Club/TruSpeed Motorcars/Wright Motorsports Porsche Riley, the No. 40 Preformed Line Products/Key Bank Pontiac Riley of Randy Ruhlman and Chris Bingham, Christian Fittipaldi and Eddie Cheever Jr. in the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve/Cheever Racing Porsche Crawford, the No. 30 Sigalsport/Motul/enVista BMW Riley in the hands of Bill Auberlen and Matthew Alhadeff with Sigalsport BMW, Doug Goad and Larry Oberto in the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Racing Pontiac Crawford, Burt and Brian Frisselle in the No. 8 GlycoMax Porsche Doran for Synergy Racing and Brian Tuttle and Jonathan Cochet in the No. 7 Tuttle Team Racing Pontiac Riley.
Marc Bunting and Andy Lally continue to lead the GT driver standings and will top a 20-car GT entry for the EMCO Gears Classic. Bunting and Lally are once again slated to share the No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R with RJ Valentine, and must be considered among the favorites to take the class victory.
Joining the No. 65 trio among the GT front runners will undoubtedly be Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards in the No. 64 TRG/iRise Pontiac GTO.R, as well as Robin Liddell and Wolf Henzler in the No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3 for Tafel Racing. Bunting and Lally hold a 10-point lead over Liddell and Henzler in the GT championship, 342-332, with Collins and Edwards tied for fifth with 326 points.
While the Rolex Series takes center stage on Saturday evening, the Grand-Am Cup Series takes its turn in the spotlight on Sunday afternoon with the Grand-Am Cup 200. Lally and Spencer Pumpelly, who co-drive the No. 49 Marcus Motorsports Porsche 997, share the points lead in the Grand Sport class, with No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS teammates Jamie Holtom and Eric Curran sharing the Street Turner points lead.
After a day of testing on Thursday, the weekend's official activities get underway on Friday with practice for Grand-Am Cup and practice and qualifying for the Rolex Series. Saturday will see the Grand-Am Cup Series qualifying session followed by the EMCO Gears Classic, Round 8 of the 14-race 2006 Rolex Series, beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET. The scheduled distance is 250 miles (111 laps) and is subject to a two-hour and 45-minute time limit.
Sunday's Grand-Am Cup 200, Round 6 of the 10-race Grand-Am Cup Series, takes the green flag at 1:00 p.m. with a scheduled distance of 200 miles (89 laps) and a two-and-a-half hour time limit. SPEED will provide tape delayed coverage of the EMCO Gears Classic at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 25, as well as the Grand-Am Cup 200 at 11:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, July 9. Live coverage of the weekend's activities, including Live Timing & Scoring data and audio webcasts, is available on the official web site of the Grand American Road Racing Association, www.grandamerican.com.
EMCO Gears Classic Fast Facts
WHO: Grand American Road Racing Association
WHAT: Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve
Grand-Am Cup Series
WHERE: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course; Lexington, Ohio
WHEN: EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank (250 miles/111 laps/2 ¾-hour time limit) Saturday, June 24 at 5:30 p.m. ET
Grand-Am Cup 200 (200 miles/89 laps/2 ½-hour time limit) Sunday, June 25 at 1 p.m. ET
TV: EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank
Tape Delayed on SPEED, Sunday, June 25 at 3 p.m. ET
Grand-Am Cup 200
Tape Delayed on SPEED, Sunday, July 9 at 11 a.m. ET
Friday, June 23
9:30 a.m. -- 10:00 a.m. Rolex Series GT practice
10:00 a.m. -- 11:00 a.m. Rolex Series practice
11:00 a.m. -- 11:30 a.m. Rolex Series Daytona Prototype practice
12:30 a.m. -- 1:30 a.m. Grand-Am Cup Series practice
1:40 p.m. -- 2:25 p.m. Rolex Series practice
3:45 p.m. -- 4:15 p.m. Grand-Am Cup Series practice
4:25 p.m. -- 4:40 p.m. Rolex Series GT qualifying
4:55 p.m. -- 5:10 p.m. Rolex Series Daytona Prototype qualifying
Saturday, June 24
9:00 a.m. -- 10:00 a.m. Grand-Am Cup Series practice
10:10 a.m. -- 10:50 a.m. Rolex Series practice
1:00 p.m. -- 1:45 p.m. Grand-Am Cup Series practice
2:55 p.m. -- 3:10 p.m. Grand-Am Cup Series ST qualifying
3:25 p.m. -- 3:40 p.m. Grand-Am Cup Series GS qualifying
5:30 p.m. START -- EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank (250 miles/111 laps/2 ¾ hour time limit)
Sunday, June 25
9:00 a.m. -- 9:30 a.m. Grand-Am Cup Series practice
1:00 p.m. START -- Grand-Am Cup 200 (200 miles/89 laps/2 ½ hour time limit)