DISAPPOINTING AND CONTROVERSIAL CHAMPIONSHIP OUTCOME FOR TELMEX TEAM Tooele, Utah (Saturday, September 15, 2007)-- Plenty of drama and controversy permeated the final laps of the 1000K (7.5 hour) endurance race and season at Miller Motorsports...
DISAPPOINTING AND CONTROVERSIAL CHAMPIONSHIP OUTCOME FOR TELMEX TEAM
Tooele, Utah (Saturday, September 15, 2007)-- Plenty of drama and controversy permeated the final laps of the 1000K (7.5 hour) endurance race and season at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah for what was touted as the closest championship battle in motorsports history, but ended with disappointment for the No.01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team.
Scott Pruett took the pole position, the team's 14th, and entered the season finale just one point behind the No. 99 Gainsco car of Jon Fogerty and Alex Gurney, and two points ahead of Max Angelelli in the No. 10 SunTrust Daytona Prototype. Michael Valiante, in the team's sister car, qualified the No.19 Z-Line Lexus-Riley 12th and paired up with rookie Dane Cameron (in for Rob Finlay who was still nursing a shoulder injury).
The final shootout for the championship began to play out with 25 laps left as Scott Pruett, after taking over from stints by co-drivers Memo Rojas and Salvador Duran on the 4.486 mile track, came out of the pits in second place, behind race leader Angelelli (10 car) and with Fogarty (99 car) closing the gap just behind. The No.10 car was forced to pit when their fender began rubber on a tire dropping them back to seventh place after an unplanned pitstop.
Meanwhile, the No.99 car attempted to overtake the TELMEX machine for both the race and championship lead by making controversial contact that sent Pruett wide, blew out the left rear tire and caused extensive damage to the Lexus-Riley while the No.99 car sustained a flat left front. While both cars limped to the pits, debris from the incident in turn damaged a tire on the No.10 car, ruptured an oil hose that set the car on fire, and ended the SunTrust team's race and championship aspirations in the pits.
Without a penalty assessment to the No.99 car for what had been deemed incidental contact, the no.01 TELMEX DP began to fight its way back into contention for the championship. While attempting to get by the 99 car on Lap 132, Pruett made contact with the rear of the No.99 DP, dropping it to 11th while Pruett climbed up to eighth place and back into the Championship lead.
Grand Am race officials ruled the contact could have been avoidable and assessed Pruett a drive through penalty for the incident. Under protest, the penalty was served with three laps remaining, and as a result, set the team back two positions behind their championship rivals. The TELMEX Lexus-Riley improved to ninth position by the time the checkered flag was waved, but was one spot behind the no.99 car, and a disappointing runner-up finish for the Championship.
The race win was claimed by the No.91Riley-Matthews Motorsports DP while the team's No.19 Z-line CGRFS entry finished 17th after mechanical problems set them back eight laps.
The No.01 TELMEX team closes out the 2007 season with two victories and eight podium finishes and a pole position in 14 races.
CHIP GANASSI RACING WITH FELIX SABATES QUOTEBOARD:
CHIP GANASSI: "Championship are won and lost over an entire season and not in one race. It's just unfortunate that it came down to the way it did at the end and I don't think anyone can be proud of how that race finished today. I look forward to next year. I hope it gets here soon to wash the bitter taste away from today. I'll look forward to defending our Rolex 24 hour at Daytona.
SCOTT PRUETT:" The first contact he (99 car) just dropped me. He hit me so hard that I think my helmet left a dent in the back of the firewall. He tore up our Lexus-Riley but we recovered from that.Then we were racing coming around the back and Negri got around him and I was going inside of him, he ducked down on me a little bit. We touched just briefly and got up on the line. No spin or nothing he just got off the line. It's unfortunate that Grand Am felt that incidental contact merited a penalty when then allowed the first deliberate contact. This team has a lot to be proud of. We worked hard all year and race clean all year. We could have dropped them anytime but we don't take guys out. We race clean and when things happen like that it just doesn't seem right."
MEMO ROJAS:"First of all I have to thank the TELMEX team and the Chip Ganassi Racing organization because we had a really tough season since the start. The team was not sure if they would be able to battle for a championship with a rookie driver and we were worked hard and did it all year. We led most of the season. I have no words for what happened today in this race. I think everyone saw what happened. I just have to thank the team and TELMEX for believing in me and supporting me. Like Chip Ganassi said in our post race team meeting, we shouldn't feel ashamed for what happened here. I have to thank Scott Pruett especially. He had one of the best drives I have ever seen in my life today. He deserved the drivers championship and the team deserved better."
SALVADOR DURAN: "The TELMEX car was awesome to be honest. This team did such an outstanding job preparing this car. Everytime I have driven this car it has been in perfect condition to be driven at the front. I really enjoyed coming here and racing with the Chip Ganassi Racing team again. It's hard to say how I feel right now because everyone here worked so hard here today, and every day since the Daytona 24. To see the race decided in the last couple of laps was just so difficult. It doesn't matter now what happen out there. The whole team is leaving here happy because we were the best out there. We just have to keep working."