Diaz & Pruett Look to Extend Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Points Lead; Defend 2005 Victory in VIR 400 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 18, 2006) -- For Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve ...
Diaz & Pruett Look to Extend Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Points Lead; Defend 2005 Victory in VIR 400
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 18, 2006) -- For Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve Daytona Prototype points co-leaders Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz, a return to Virginia International Raceway for this Sunday's VIR 400 (SPEED, Live, 1:00 p.m. ET) is welcome news given their past record at the 3.27-mile road course.
Diaz and Pruett--who co-drive the No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley--return as defending champions of the VIR 400, which was the penultimate round of the 2005 Rolex Series championship but has been moved to April this year and is Round 5 of the 14-race 2006 Rolex Series championship. Neither driver has finished outside the top five in their two Rolex Series starts at VIR, as Pruett finished second alongside then-co-driver Max Papis in 2004 en route to the Daytona Prototype championship and Diaz finished fifth with Jimmy Morales, also in 2004.
In 2006, the No. 01 co-drivers have found their way to the top of the points table on the strength of podium finishes in each of the past three races. Included in the run are victories in the Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach two weeks ago and the Mexico City 250 last month, as well as a third-place outing in Round 3 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. They currently lead No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley driver Jorg Bergmeister by six points (111-105).
However, the points race could change significantly this weekend as the Rolex Series introduces 30-minute qualifying races. The qualifying races will award full points (35 for first, 32 for second, 30 for third, etc.) toward the driver, team and manufacturer championships. The qualifying races will not include driver changes, but all entered drivers will earn the same points as the qualifying driver, providing they drive under green flag conditions in the feature race. Additionally, the driver who contests the qualifier cannot be the starting driver in the feature.
The VIR 400 will be the first of three consecutive races to use qualifying races, joining next month's events at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Phoenix International Raceway. Qualifying races are also scheduled for Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in June and Barber Motorsports Park in July.
With the qualifying races in mind, plenty of drivers and teams may present a challenge to Pruett and Diaz this weekend and for the rest of the season. Chief among those teams is the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Porsche Crawford pairing of Mike Rockenfeller and Patrick Long with Alex Job Racing/Emory Motorsports. Rockenfeller and Long have finished on the podium in all three of their 2006 Rolex Series starts to date, including a victory in the Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami in late March.
Although they missed Round 2 in Mexico City, Rockenfeller and Long are currently tied for fourth in the Daytona Prototype standings, just 14 points in arrears of Diaz and Pruett. The No. 23 machine has also started from the front row in all three of its starts, including pole positions for the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami.
Despite a slow start in their Daytona Prototype title defense, 2005 co-champions Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli must also rank among the favorites in their No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley, as they won the VIR 400 in 2004 and finished fourth last year. With their past record and obvious knowledge of the "quick way around" VIR, this could be the weekend that Angelelli and Taylor get their season on-track. Taylor is returning to the cockpit of the No. 10 machine this weekend after sitting out the Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach in favor of Dutchman Jan Magnussen.
For a number of teams and drivers, the VIR 400 is something of a "home game." Synergy Racing, which fields the No. 8 GlycoMax Porsche Doran for co-driver Burt and Brian Frisselle, is based at VIR. That in itself could bode well for the Frisselle brothers, who will be in a substantially rebuilt car after the No. 8 machine was heavily damaged in a crash at Long Beach. VIR is also home to ADi Motorsports, which fields the No. 33 M-L Lifestyle/Great Eastern Securities BMW Picchio for co-drivers Tim Hubman and Shawn Bayliff.
It will also be a relatively short commute for several teams based in the Charlotte, N.C. area, including Howard-Boss Motorsports, Playboy/Uniden Racing, Finlay Motorsports, and CyberSpeed Racing. All are looking for their first victories of the 2006 season and would love nothing more than to win in front of their home fans.
Howard-Boss Motorsports is led by co-drivers Andy Wallace and Butch Leitzinger in the No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford. Wallace has finished on the podium in both of his previous Daytona Prototype appearances at VIR, including a second-place outing last year, while Leitzinger finished fourth in 2004. The Howard-Boss team also welcomes the return of the No. 16 Thetford/Norcold Pontiac Crawford for the first time since Round 3 at Homestead with co-drivers Chris and Rob Dyson. Chris Dyson and Wallace co-drove to the overall and SRP-class victory at VIR in 2002.
Playboy/Uniden Racing fields the No. 19 Playboy/Uniden/Palms Ford Crawford, which will be co-driven by Guy Cosmo and Charlotte's Michael McDowell. Cosmo is standing-in for Memo Gidley, who was injured in a crash during practice at Long Beach. In a sister car to the No. 19, team owner Rob Finlay and Michael Valiante will co-drive the No. 5 Make A Wish/Z-Line Designs/Finlay Motorsports Ford Crawford for Essex Racing. CyberSpeed Racing returns to action this weekend at VIR with Skip Cummins and Tony Ave co-driving the team's No. 97 Pontiac Riley. The CyberSpeed team made its debut at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
On the heels of an impressive, third-place performance at Long Beach, Ohio's Southard Motorsports looks to continue its momentum with regular driver Shane Lewis being joined for the weekend by sports car legend Elliott Forbes-Robinson in the team's No. 3 BMW Riley. The Southard team is one of four Daytona Prototype organizations from the Buckeye state entered for the VIR 400, and any of the four could take the victory this weekend.
Harrison Brix and 2003 Daytona Prototype champion Terry Borcheller will once again share the No. 77 Kodak/Amp'd Mobile/Sirius Ford Doran for the Lebanon, Ohio-based Feeds The Need/Doran Racing team. Borcheller is another former VIR winner in this weekend's field, claiming the overall victory in 2003 as part of his championship-winning season.
From Reynoldsburg, Ohio comes both Graydon Elliott Fusion Racing with MSR and Michael Shank Racing. Mike Borkowski and Paul Mears Jr. have been entered to share the No. 6 Graydon Elliott Capital/Mears Motor Coach Lexus Riley, while Oswaldo Negri Jr. and Mark Patterson are teamed-up once again in the No. 60 Flight Options Lexus Riley for Michael Shank Racing.
Joining the aforementioned teams as strong contenders in a deep Daytona Prototype field are Brian Tuttle and Jonathan Cochet in the No. 7 Tuttle Team Racing with BAM BMW Riley, Doug Goad and Larry Oberto in the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Racing Pontiac Crawford, Milka Duno and Marino Franchitti in the No. 11 CITGO Racing by SAMAX Pontiac Riley, Adrian Fernandez and Mario Haberfeld in the No. 12 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Pontiac Riley, Christian Fittipaldi and Eddie Cheever Jr. in the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve/Cheever Racing Porsche Crawford, Chris Bingham and Greensboro, N.C. resident Randy Ruhlman in the No. 40 Preformed Line Products/Coyote Pontiac Riley for Derhaag Motorsports, David Donohue and Darren Law in the No. 58 Red Bull/Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar, Hurley Haywood and JC France in the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar, Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonsson in the No. 75 Krohn Racing Ford Riley, Bergmeister and 17-year-old Colin Braun in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley, Alex Figge and Ryan Dalziel in the No. 89 Playboy/Vonage/Palms Casino Pontiac Riley for Pacific Coast Motorsports, and Alex Gurney and new co-driver Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley.
The Rolex Series GT class returns to action this weekend for the first time since the Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami last month. Leading the 20-car field to Virginia are No. 64 TRG Pontiac GTO.R co-drivers Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards, who have used class victories in Round 2 at Mexico City and Round 3 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to take over the class points lead.
Collins and Edwards hold a four-point advantage (88-84) over their teammates in the No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R, Marc Bunting and Andy Lally. Bunting and Lally own a pair of podium finishes and will once again share the No. 65 machine this weekend with RJ Valentine.
Just one point back of Bunting and Lally are No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3 co-drivers Robin Liddell and Wolf Henzler with Tafel Racing. Currently tied for seventh in the GT standings are David Murry and Leh Keen in the No. 80 Shoes For Crews/Synergy Racing, with Robert Nearn and Steve Johnson tied for ninth. Nearn and Johnson have moved from TRG to Synergy Racing this weekend and will co-pilot the No. 81 Comfort Systems USA/Johnson Commercial Development Porsche GT3.
After nearly a three-month break, the Grand-Am Cup Series resumes this weekend with Saturday's VIR 200, Round 2 of the 10-race championship. With an entry list of 91 cars, Saturday's VIR 200 will undoubtedly be action packed. By virtue of their victory in the season-opening Grand-Am Cup 200 at Daytona International Speedway in January, Tafel Racing co-drivers Eric Lux and Charles Espenlaub stand atop the Grand Sport (GS) class point standings and will share the No. 175 Rembrandt Charms Porsche 996 this weekend. John Schmitt and Dave Roush lead the way in the Street Tuner (ST) class in the No. 92 Red Line Oil/Honda of America Honda Accord following their class victory at Daytona for the HART team.
SPEED Channel will provide live coverage of Sunday's VIR 400 beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET, while the Grand-Am Cup Series VIR 200 will air on SPEED at 1:00 p.m. ET on April 29. Live Timing & Scoring data and audio webcasts in English and Spanish will be provided on the official web site of the Grand American Road Racing Association, www.grandamerican.com.