FOGARTY PUNTS PRUETT; COSTS PRUETT RECORD EIGHTH SPORTS CAR TITLE TOOELE, Utah (Sept. 15, 2007) -- Scott Pruett was leading the Sunchaser 1000 in the final 30 laps on the verge of a record eighth major sports car title when he was punted from...
FOGARTY PUNTS PRUETT; COSTS PRUETT RECORD EIGHTH SPORTS CAR TITLE
TOOELE, Utah (Sept. 15, 2007) -- Scott Pruett was leading the Sunchaser 1000 in the final 30 laps on the verge of a record eighth major sports car title when he was punted from behind by the #99 Jon Fogarty, cutting Pruett's tire and giving Fogarty and teammate Alex Gurney a controversial Daytona Prototype championship.
Pruett was in the lead and needed to make only a quick stop-and-go pit stop, while the other championship contenders would need to make full pit-stops and a driver change when Fogarty's right front hit Pruett's left rear, cutting a tire on the #01 TELMEX Lexus and knocking him off the track. Despite Pruett falling more than a minute down and five positions behind the #99, Pruett passed four cars, finally passing the #99 after a slight tap while the #99 was being passed for position by Oswaldo Negri. It appeared for a moment that Pruett had done the impossible and reclaimed the championship before a questionable call by Grand-Am officials declared that the second contact between the #01 and the #99 to be "avoidable" despite the fact that the #99 had only a slight bobble.
"Cheap shot, a big cheap shot," said Pruett. "He (Fogarty) just came in and cleaned me out right on my back end. Congratulations to Bob Stallings, but the drivers there have no class. And then I'm coming up on the inside of the #99 and we rubbed a little bit and I get called for avoidable contact. I just think it was a call that shouldn't have been made. He didn't get off, he got a little off-line, but no harm, no foul. A disappointing end. I expected a lot more out of those guys, but stupid people do stupid things."
Team owner Chip Ganassi, who's team lost a fourth team title in the past five years, with the controversial ruling was no more pleased.
"I've enjoyed a great career in racing and we've won a lot of championships, but in the last two weeks, we've lost two championships to skull-duggery and team tactics," said Ganassi. "I think people need to take a real good look at racing and see if they're going to let them make that a part of it in the future."
Pruett, who co-drove with Memo Rojas and Salvador Duran, eventually finished ninth -- still only one spot behind the #99.J
"It's just disappointing that Grand-Am couldn't be consistent with the rulings when it was at a point when they needed to be most consistent," said Gary Reed, TRD vice-president of special projects, who oversees the Lexus Grand-Am engine program.
The controversy overshadowed a terrific run by Shane Lewis and Eric Lux, who placed fourth in the #3 PLP Lexus-Riley. The run was their best of the season. Among the Lexus-powered cars they were followed by the #6 Playboy Lexus-Riley driven by Ian James, John Pew and Henri Zogaib in seventh; the #01 in ninth; the #60 Michael Shank Racing Lexus piloted by Negri, Justin Wilson and Mark Patterson in 10th, the #61 Exchange Traded Gold entry from AIM Autosport, driven by Mark Wilkins, Brian Frisselle and Burt Frisselle, and the #19 Z-Line Designs Lexus with Michael Valiante and Dane Cameron behind the wheel in 17th.
- Despite the disappointing finish, the #01 Telmex Lexus closed out the season by finishing in the top-10 in all 14 races. Overall, the team has now earned 19 consecutive top-10 finishes dating back to June 2006.
- With his ninth-place finish today, Memo Rojas earned the Rolex Series Rookie-of-the-Year.
- The fourth-place finish by Southard Motorsports surpassed their previous best finish of the season -- an eighth at Iowa.
- With their 10th today, Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson closed the season with eight consecutive top-10 finishes for Michael Shank Racing.
- Three Lexus-powered teams finished the season in the top-10 in the point standings. The #01 Chip Ganassi Racing team placed second, followed by the two Michael Shank Racing efforts, with the #60 in a tie for sixth and the #6 in eighth. AIM Autosport finished just outside of the top-10 in the 11th position in their first full season of Daytona Prototype competition. The Shank teams also finished the season as the two highest-placed teams campaigning a sportsman driver.
- Salvador Duran's run in the #01 Lexus maked his first Grand-Am appearance since winning the Rolex 24 in January.