LEXUS, GANASSI GO FROM LAST TO FIRST TO WIN VIR ALTON, Va. (April 27, 2008) -- Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas culminated an eventful weekend by leading the final 20 laps today in their ...
LEXUS, GANASSI GO FROM LAST TO FIRST TO WIN VIR
ALTON, Va. (April 27, 2008) -- Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas culminated an eventful weekend by leading the final 20 laps today in their #01 Telmex Lexus on the way to winning the Grand-American Rolex Sports Car Series' Bosch Engineering 250 at the Virginia International Raceway. The weekend started off on a high note with Rojas apparently winning his second consecutive pole, only for the car to fail technical inspection and be forced to start from the rear of the field. With a thought toward saving fuel and making up track position, the car started from the pit lane and then made an early pit-stop to top off their fuel tank. The move proved to be the correct one as a full-course yellow came out shortly after and put Rojas into the top-five.
While battling for second, Rojas made contact with the #10 car driven by Michigan Valiante, bringing out a full-course caution on Lap 31. After a driver change, Pruett climbed into the car running in the top-five. The 2004 Rolex Series champion moved up to second, but was caught behind lapped traffic and, after slight contact with another car, made what would turn out to be the race-winning move by pitting early for his final stop of the day. By dropping back in the field, Pruett had a clear track and after re-emerging 11th-place, quickly climbed back into second within 10 laps. He then assumed the lead on Lap 58 and was never headed the rest of the way despite a strong challenge from former Toyota Atlantic star Ryan Dalziel.
The win is the third in four races this season for the Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus machine and extends the duo's series points lead. In addition, it gave Lexus its 20th Daytona Prototype victory since entering the series in 2004 and extended Lexus' championship lead to 12 points.
The Southard Motorsports #3 Lexus driven by Shane Lewis and Bill Lester had a solid effort today to earn their second top-10 finish in the last three races. The pairing qualified ninth on Saturday and then placed 10th today.
Memo Rojas, #01 Telmex Lexus: "It was a pretty good stint. We started from the back and then pit strategy put us up in the front of the pack. Our early decision to pit was done with track position in mind. I just got into a battle for second with the #10 car and unfortunately, we made contact at the end of the back-straight. I gave him room at the outside of one of the corners and then he just chopped me at the next one. It was sad we had contact because they are very good competitors and Michael Valiante is a good friend of mine. That's the last car I would have wanted to make contact with. (On running the fastest lap of the race when he exited) The car was pretty good. Toward the end of my stint, we didn't have the freshest tires and we were still running pretty quick."
Scott Pruett, #01 Telmex Lexus: "For all the bad luck I had getting here (he missed Sat.'s first session due to weather-related flight problems connecting out of Chicago), it was sure nice to finish it up this way. It was just a great race. Ryan Dalziel and those guys did a terrific job. The guys on the team did a great job, what more can you say when we went from the back of the pack to first? (About choosing to pit early on his last stop) We had a little fender-bender up there and we didn't know how bad it was, so we came in early and it turned out to be a good choice. As always, Lexus gave us a great engine again. Great job by TRD, I'm just real pleased with it."
Shane Lewis, #3 Southard Lexus: "It was a good run. The best part was the track stayed dry. We were just looking to stay in the top-10 and to stay in the top-10 was a pretty good finish for us. Congratulations to the Ganassi guys, who finished upfront -- and our goal is to be smelling their tail-pipe in the next couple of races. We have some chassis work to do upfront. It's very drive-able and we're making good horsepower, but we've got to work on our aero package and gain some low-speed mechanical grip. We also need to keep the tire under us a little better on our long runs and really learn this tire a little better."