One way or the other, Mother Nature seems determined to play a role in the outcome of the Rolex Sports Car Series Miami 250 at the Homestead Miami Speedway. Last weekend, the damage caused by Hurricane Frances necessitated the postponement of the...
One way or the other, Mother Nature seems determined to play a role in the outcome of the Rolex Sports Car Series Miami 250 at the Homestead Miami Speedway. Last weekend, the damage caused by Hurricane Frances necessitated the postponement of the race by one week.
Then, the threat of Hurricane Ivan smashing into South Florida prompted Rolex Sports Car Series to condense a planned three-day weekend into two days. In doing so, race officials decided to cancel qualifying and set the field for Sunday's race based on owner points.
As a result, series points' leaders Scott Pruett and Max Papis were awarded their eighth pole of the year. "We have every intention of winning," said Pruett. "We are in a pretty good run with the No. 10 (SunTrust Racing) car. Head-to-head, they are a bit quicker than we are because of their engine package. Consequently, we have to try to outsmart them. We have to get a good consistent car so that we can run hard all day long."
Speaking of SunTrust Racing, Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli will line up second for the fifth time this season in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley. "We've been starting second all year it seems," said Taylor, who currently lies third in the Daytona Prototype drivers' championship, 19 points behind Pruett and Papis. "We would prefer to start in the lead. But, we have four races to go and there's a 19-point differential between us and the No. 01 car, which theoretically we can overcome. But it's very hard when the No. 01 car is always right up there with us. We really need to have someone else get in between the two of us so I can gain some points. Even if we win the last four races, and they finish second, we would not win the championship. However, we are really just focusing now on winning as many races as we can."
The No. 02 Howard Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford, shared by Andy Wallace and Milka Duno, will start third. Wallace and Duno drove to victory earlier this season at Miami Homestead Speedway after Papis and Jan Magnussen, driving the No. 27 Lexus Doran, crashed while dueling for the race lead. "It's obviously very, very hot at the moment," said Wallace, who is fourth in the Daytona Prototype drivers' championship.
Indeed, now that the hurricanes have passed, at least for the time being, the drivers must contend with some scorching heat, from which there is seemingly no escape in the treeless expanse of the Homestead Miami Speedway. Thus, Sunday's race may come down to which team can manage its tires the best. And Wallace thinks that he knows just how to do that.
"The key is to get a car that will lap consistently," Wallace added. "It's very easy to do a quick lap time in the first couple of laps and then the grip level goes down. So we're working very hard on the setup. And if we get it right, or whoever gets is right, will probably win the race."
The cash-strapped Michael Shank Racing Lexus Doran of Burt Frisselle and Oswaldo Negri will roll off the grid in fourth.
Didier Theys and Kelly Collins will round out the top-five in the No. 27 Lexus Doran, which won the most recent Rolex Sports Car Series race at Watkins Glen, thanks in part to some crafty late-race pit strategy. "We have improved the setup a little bit since (the last race here in) March," said Theys. "And we discovered one thing today during the morning practice session. But the track is very slippery, almost like Daytona was in November. So we have had to change the setup completely from Watkins Glen. We actually went completely opposite of what we had at Watkins Glen. We were not that fast this morning, but we know the problem because we have had it before. So we should be able to fix it in time for the race."
In the GT class, the No. 21 PTG BMW M3 of points' leader Bill Auberlen and Justin Marks will start from the pole. Auberlen is shooting for his seventh win in eight races, while Marks is seeking his third win in the last four races. The No. 66 Racer's Group Porsche and the second PTG BMW M3 will line up second and third in class, respectively.
Andy Lally and Marc Bunting will lead the SGS class to the green flag in the No. 38 TPC Racing Porsche. Lally and Bunting currently have a 28-point lead over their teammate, Michael Levitas, in the SGS drivers' championship. Levitas will start third Sunday. "The car has been handling pretty decently, considering the heat and how greasy the track is right now," Lally said. "But we've got a pretty good baseline on it. We're looking forward to starting from the pole since we're the points leaders. Right now, with four races to go, we have to be smart and try to conserve enough to win the championship. We've got a big points lead right now, so we just want to pad that and bring it on home. Our biggest competition right now is ourselves. We just can't beat ourselves."
The Miami 250 will begin Sunday morning at 11 a.m., and it will be carried live on the SPEED Channel.