VIR VICTORY EXTENDS COMPUSA'S CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE TO MEXICO CITY ALTON, Va. (October 9, 2005) -- Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz of CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates had to gain at least five points on Rolex Series challenger SunTrust...
VIR VICTORY EXTENDS COMPUSA'S CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE TO MEXICO CITY
ALTON, Va. (October 9, 2005) -- Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz of CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates had to gain at least five points on Rolex Series challenger SunTrust Racing at Virginia International Raceway in order to give the team a chance to repeat as Daytona Prototype champions heading into next month's season finale at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City. The CompUSA tandem was again able to extend the fiercely-contested two-horse race, gaining seven championship markers on their rivals-- and did so in fine fashion, crossing the VIR finish line 2.181 seconds ahead of the no.2 CITGO Pontiac-Crawford of Andy Wallace to win their third race of the 2005 Grand American season.
Diaz started the race from the front row based on championship point standings after Saturday's qualifying session was nixed due to inclement weather, but dropped to third on the start. The Mexico City native was able to recover, pedaling his 500hp Lexus-powered machine back up to second by Lap 6 of 74. By Lap 10 he was hounding his aforementioned championship foe for the point, and bossed his way by the no.10 car for the lead on Lap 12, but not before some door-to-door contact.
Diaz pushed on to Lap 30 when the CompUSA team made their first of two perfect pit stops, and co-driver Pruett took the helm. The Californian took on four fresh Hoosier tires and a full load of fuel and reentered the fray looking to rule the Rolex Series roost after the pit cycle shuffled through. The turning point of the race came on Lap 37 when the SunTrust machine was forced to make an unscheduled stop for a flat left rear tire while turning comparative lap times just two positions in arrears of Pruett, dropping them to 20th.
While in second, the pit cycle came back around to Pruett on Lap 53, and the no.77 Daytona Prototype was the only thing standing between him and the team's third victory of the season (Fontana, Laguna Seca). But the veteran pilot remained calm, consistently turned the fastest laps of the race, and bided his time before making a bid for the top of the scoring pylon.
The move of the race came for Pruett on Lap 63 when he overtook the no.77 car in Turn 11, getting on the inside and executing a clean pass of the raceleader. Making look it easy, as he's often done over his illustrious career, the defending Rolex Series champion went on to stretch his legs to the tune of 2.181 seconds for a stellar seventh career win in just 25 Grand American starts.
The rival SunTrust machine finished fourth, and now stand 32-markers ahead (407-375) of the CompUSA team as they enter the season finale in Diaz' native Mexico City for the series' first trip South of the Border. 35 points are awarded to the winner in Rolex Sports Car Series competition.
"This CompUSA car was just really awesome today," said Pruett, who notched his second VIR podium after finishing second in 2004. "I had great pit stops from my guys, and that's what got it done for us. We were able to pick our spots on the track and make our moves in a very calculating fashion. We felt we had all of our bases covered coming into the race, and it paid off this afternoon. Luis did a fabulous job again and I can't wait to get to Mexico City to what I think will be a groundbreaking event for the Rolex Sports Car Series."
The win for Diaz is the third of his Rolex Series career (24 starts), and gives him a tremendous amount of momentum and confidence heading to Mexico. As the only full-time Mexican in the series, he will undoubtedly be among the headlining drivers on a weekend that runs in conjunction with the popular Champ Car World Series.
"I can't tell you how happy I am for this result today," said Diaz. "We have a championship battle heading into the season finale, and that's all I could have hoped for. It's great for CompUSA, Telmex and our sponsors to be a part of the Mexico City race, and having a shot at the championship will bring that much more excitement to the race. You can expect about half a million people for the weekend, so be prepared for a great show if you've never seen a race in my country."
Fans of CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates can follow the no.01 CompUSA Lexus-Riley all season long by logging onto the Rolex Sports Car Series website at www.grandamerican.com for free live timing, and keep up with the team's successes throughout the 2005 season by logging onto the official website at www.chipganassiracing.com for news, features, photos and much more. Next up for the team is the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriquez in Mexico City, Saturday, November 5th (LIVE, SPEED Channel, 4:00 pm ET) for the final round of the 2005 Rolex Sports Car Series.