VIR: Series race report

Pruett, Rojas Post Third Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Victory of 2008 Season at Virginia International Raceway Tumultuous week ends with win; Stevenson Motorsports makes it two straight in GT ALTON, Va. (April 27, 2008) -- After a weekend...

Pruett, Rojas Post Third Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Victory of 2008 Season at Virginia International Raceway

Tumultuous week ends with win; Stevenson Motorsports makes it two straight in GT

ALTON, Va. (April 27, 2008) -- After a weekend which included limited practice time for one driver and probation placed on another, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas extended their Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Daytona Prototype point lead in Sunday's Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway.

Pruett held onto a .548-second victory over Ryan Dalziel in the 77-lap on the 3.27-mile, 17-turn track, pushing himself and Rojas to a 21-point lead (137-116) after the team's third series victory in only four races this season. Pruett, who won at VIR in 2005, originally took the lead on Lap 58, the first time the car led all day. He held the point until the checkered flag.

The victory capped a weekend filled with challenges. Pruett, who resides in Sacramento, Calif., didn't arrive to VIR until midway through Saturday's practice session due to problems with his flights. Rojas, who set the fastest qualifying lap in Saturday's 15-minute session, had his time disallowed in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley and started from pit lane. Rojas was also placed on probation before the race after contact with another car last week at Mexico City.

The No. 01 Lexus Riley's right front was also damaged in a Lap 31 incident with Michael Valiante, whose No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara spun after contact for the third straight race. Rojas and Valiante each tried to make racing room for each other in Turns 14 and 15, but contact between Rojas' right front and Valiante's left rear sent Valiante spinning. Rojas continued to the pits, where the crew made repairs and a driver change. Valiante and Max Angelelli went on to finish 17th after starting on the pole.

Pruett got in and tried to put together a decisive victory, but like everything else for him, Rojas and the team -- it didn't come easy. He had to hold off Dalziel, who cut into the lead due to a line of traffic. Dalziel tried an outside pass on Pruett on Lap 76, his final attempt at the lead, but came up short. The duo weaved through traffic on the final lap, and Pruett distanced himself enough not to be challenged anymore.

Dalziel and Henri Zogaib, who drove the No. 2 SAMAX Motorsport BMW Riley, tied the team's and Dalziel's best career finishes and was Zogaib's first career podium. Dalziel also led one lap after the No. 2 Pontiac Riley started 15th.

Though they couldn't inch closer to the series point lead, Marc Goossens and Jim Matthews scored their second straight podium finish -- third place -- after winning last weekend at Mexico City. Matthews led four laps early as the first round of pit stops cycled through before Goossens took over the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley.

Ian James and John Pew scored their best finish of the season -- fourth -- in the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley, while Matt Plumb and Gene Sigal tied their best finish of the season -- fifth -- in the No. 7 Rum Bum Racing BMW Riley.

Three cautions -- all for cars off the track -- slowed the race's overall average speed to 96.669 mph.

Stevenson Motorsports Wins Second Straight GT Event

For the second straight event, Robin Liddell led the GT field to the checkered flag, as he teamed with Andrew Davis in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Stevenson Automotive/BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R to win in Rolex Series competition.

Liddell led the final 20 laps of the GT event after passing Paul Edwards and the No. 07 Banner Racing Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R. From there, he held off Spencer Pumpelly, who ran some of the car's fastest laps in the final third of the race, by 6.172 seconds.

The Stevenson Motorsports team again ran on a different pit strategy, with Davis starting the car second and pitting on Lap 10 for the first time. He pitted again on Lap 32 to give way to Liddell, and the Scotsman brought the car in on Lap 48 while running fourth.

As the remainder of the GT competitors pitted on Lap 59 under the last of the race's three caution periods, Liddell stayed out and was never challenged heavily after picking up the point. The Stevenson Motorsports team also moved into third in the standings.

Pumpelly and George returned to the podium, their third in four races, and are back within six points of the GT driver point lead, held by fourth-place finishes Edwards and Kelly Collins (119-113). Collins started the No. 07 Pontiac GXP.R at the tail of the field after a post-qualifying tech infraction, and pitted on the first lap before coming through the field and leading 19 laps. Edwards led 16.

Finishing third were Leh Keen and Eric Lux in the No. 86 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3. The pair started seventh and ran as high as second, despite a spin and stalled pit stop. The third-place finish was their first podium of their careers. Joe Foster and Charles Espenlaub rounded out the GT top five in the No. 40 Hyper Sport Made of Honor Mazda RX-8.

Rolex Series competitors continue action with Round 5 on May 17 with the RumBum.com 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif.

NEWS & NOTES

- The victory was Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas' third victory this season and extended their lead to 21 in the Rolex Series Daytona Prototype point standings. The TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley team also won its third race in four tries this season.

- For Pruett, it was his series-leading 17th career victory and Rojas' fourth career -- all in Daytona Prototypes. It was also the 18th triumph for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

- Scott Pruett and the No. 01 have finished in the top 10 in 23 consecutive Daytona Prototypes, dating back to Mid-Ohio in 2006.

- The victory is Lexus' 20th Rolex Series Daytona Prototype win since 2004. Pontiac is the only other power plant to win this season in Daytona Prototype competition.

- Riley has won all four Daytona Prototype races and 14 straight dating back to Watkins Glen International in June 2007.

- The second-place finish for SAMAX drivers Ryan Dalziel and Henri Zogaib was both drivers' career-best finish and tied the SAMAX team's finish, set multiple times previously.

- The third-place finish for Marc Goossens and Jim Matthews was their second straight podium finish and the duo's eighth straight top-10 finish.

- Ten Daytona Prototypes finished on the lead lap.

- No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley teammates Ian James and John Pew recorded fourth, tying their best career Daytona Prototype finishes (set twice in 2007).

- While leading, Jon Fogarty spun and made contact trying to avoid the already spinning car of JC France in the No. 59. The cars made contact, forcing repairs to the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley. While Gurney got in and raced until the checkered flag, the team couldn't regain its lost lap and finished 14th, the team's first finish outside the top 10 in 15 races.

- The top four Daytona Prototype cars were powered by different manufacturers -- Lexus, BMW, Pontiac and Ford. BMW put two cars in the top five. The highest running Porsche was seventh.

- The No. 10 SunTrust Racing team, which started competing in the Rolex Series in 2004, has finished outside the top 10 in three straight races for the first time ever. The team finished outside the top 10 four times in 2006, the most ever in a season.

- Seven drivers led in Daytona Prototype competition, with Scott Pruett leading 20 laps, Jon Fogarty 18, Nic Jonsson 15, Bill Auberlen 10, Michael Valiante eight, Jim Matthews four and Ryan Dalziel and Mark Wilkins one each.

- The GT wins were Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis' second straight victories and second straight and ever for Stevenson Motorsports.

- Liddell now has seven career GT class victories, while Davis now has two.

- Pontiac has won three of the four GT races this season; Mazda won the other race (Rolex 24 At Daytona).

- Three of the four GT races this season have been won from the front row (Mexico City 250 won from fourth).

- After its fourth class win of the season, Pontiac now has 48 career Rolex Series victories, one behind Porsche's 49. Porsche, on the other hand, has yet to win a Rolex Series race in 2008.

- Spencer Pumpelly and Tim George Jr. tied their season-best finish of second. The duo have podium finishes in three of the four races this season.

- Leh Keen and Eric Lux finished third, their first podium of their careers.

- Banner Racing teammates Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins have finished in the GT top 10 in seven straight races.

- Hyper Sport co-drivers Joe Foster and Charles Espenlaub scored their team's best career finish -- fifth.

POST-RACE QUOTES

Scott Pruett (No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley): "Congratulations to Henri, Ryan and SAMAX, this was fantastic for what they did. It was not just the last couple of laps, it was the last 20, 25 laps. It was a race, absolutely, from 20, 25 to go. We were racing hard. Sometimes I got the break in traffic, sometimes he did, but we'd always end up right together. He had a little more downforce than I did; he could carry a little more speed in some of the race track and get right up underneath me and start taking a look, but once we got on the straight, we had a little more leg. It was a fantastic day. The TELMEX car, and what Lexus has given us, has been fantastic this season. We've got to keep doing what we've been doing. I didn't think we'd end up on the podium after starting last today. To come back and rebound like we did was quite an achievement for the team."

"When I got in the car after the contact, first, I wanted to see how the car was. There was a little damage on the front of the car. And, for me, the challenges of getting here; I had a layover when all my flights were cancelled and I didn't get here until midday on Saturday, so I only had two or three laps in the car before the race. Then, it was get down to business, do my job, run hard and carve my way through traffic without any contact. We really turned the corner with the improvement with Lexus on the drivability of the engine. That's something we've really struggled with since Salt Lake City. Now, especially working our way through traffic, from what we had to deal with in the past to what we're dealing with now is night and day. It's so much nicer to drive, it's so much more response."

Memo Rojas (No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley): "It went well for us; thanks to the job the team did with its strategy and Scott's driving. Unfortunately, I had contact with the No. 10 car; we ran side-by-side and he chopped me. I don't know what happened, but I'm sad because Michael's a friend of mine. It was a racing incident."

Ryan Dalziel (No. 2 SAMAX BMW Riley): "I think, realistically, we had the legs on him a little bit as far as lap time went, but we just didn't really have the straight line speed. We ran a little more downforce. I think that was the right thing to do, to get any confidence. It's Henri's first time here; he struggled a little bit with the track time. I told him last night to give me the car on the lead lap and we'll go on from there. He's done a spectacular job this year for somebody who's in his first year of racing, staying out of trouble and giving me the car in one piece. This, I think, will be the turning point for us. There's one I always like following Scott, is that's a guy I can learn from, it's somebody like me looks up to, and you know it's always clean racing. I knew if I could get up alongside him, he'd let me have the corner. You saw today it could be done without banging into each other, and the top cars today had no damage."

Henri Zogaib (No. 2 SAMAX BMW Riley): "The car felt good. We struggled quite a bit here yesterday. I had never raced here before, so I had one day to figure it all out, and obviously that's not a reasonable time."

Marc Goossens (No. 91 Bob Stallings/Riley Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley): "I think the team, especially in a race like today, showed very clearly that they are one of the better if not the best teams in the paddock. If you look at how that played it, strategy-wise, to get us up front and score a podium finish for us. On pure speed I'm not saying we weren't strong enough to be third but we definitely didn't have the speed like the first two guys had. It took quite a maneuver on Ian James to take away that third place. It's all down to the team. We've got a good program running here. We've kept going from the momentum at the end of last year. Everybody's keeping their heads down and working hard, and that's what's needed to be a front runner in this competitive championship.

"Jim led the race for a little bit today. A lot of it was down to strategy. The Riley-Matthews team was strong on that end, and I'm so glad to be part of it, being up on the podium twice in a row with Jim next to me. That's what he's doing it for, and I'm here to help him."

Robin Liddell (No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Stevenson Automotive/BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R): "It's somewhat of a surprise, but it proves that winning wasn't a fluke last weekend. We're delighted to be back on the podium again, up on the top step. We made a brave call by not taking tires, for just stopping for fuel, at that yellow. We had the oldest tires of the front runners at the end of the race, but we managed to hold the tires underneath us. Andrew did a great job at the start. All the guys did a good job, as usual. The strategy was good. It was an awesome job by everybody."

Andrew Davis (No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Stevenson Automotive/BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R): "We were able start on the front row and I was able to keep it near the front until our first pit stop. Our pit stop wasn't the best, so we fell back a little bit, but I was able to claw my way back up, handed it off to Robin and now we're just doing pit strategy like Mike Johnson knows how to do here. We should be in good shape."

Spencer Pumpelly (No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3): "It was a great job by Tim (George, Jr.) and TRG. We had what I thought was a terminal issue through the first stint. They told me just to hang on to it. The brake for the right front was inoperable, so we were on three brakes for the first two-thirds of the race. I told the guys, if you could get this fixed for me I'll get you a podium because I knew that cars was that good -- it just wouldn't stop. Sur enough, I brought the car in and the guys fixed it--we didn't lose a lap--and it was an incredible job by TRG. I had to live up my end of the deal and I was running down Robin (Liddell, No. 57) looking for a win for TRG this year, but with two laps to go I lost some electrical functions in the dash, so I went into 'just get it home mode'. We're happy with second. We're happy to close the gap in the championship."

Leh Keen (No. 86 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3): "We finished on the podium, but it feels as good as a win. The team did such an awesome job, the car was awesome and everything ran so smoothly. Eric did a great job -- he was hauling! I'm just ecstatic! I got spun out by the car that won and I was 'way back, then we got a caution and I got some tires, but I ran the tires off the car in about 10 laps, so it was everything I could do to hold on. I gave it everything I've got and we were just able to stay in front."

Eric Lux (No. 86 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3): "The car was pretty good right out of the box. Luckily, I managed to stay out of trouble, and just picked them off one by one as they made mistakes or had some kind of issues. I came in and gave the car to Leh in second, but we had an issue with a lug nut getting stuck in the gun. But Leh did an awesome job. One of the other cars turned him around out there, but he just fought the whole way back. He was second at one point, but we'll settle for third."

Ian James (No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley): "The car was just great up until that last yellow. I was really fighting it at the end, but up until then the car was very racey and I made a lot of passes with it. The team strategy was spot-on, really well executed, and John (Pew) got things off absolutely on the right foot at the start for us as well, so it was a good weekend. I was hoping to be able to keep it in contention for a podium, but this is still a great result."

John Pew (No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley): "This is starting to feel good. We were hoping for a podium, but fourth is a great result and really helps us out in the championship standings. Ian did another great job, one of the best races I've ever seen him run. Now I am looking forward to getting to Laguna and the rest of the tracks this season where I already have experience, and hopefully that will help put us in this position more often."

Gene Sigal (No. 7 Rum Bum Racing BMW Riley): "We've been struggling with the car since the accident at Mexico City. The guys did a great job putting the Rum Bum BMW back together. That was our biggest task. The guys gave me a great car. I've been fighting a cold all week. Today I was just hoping to keep it clean and give it to Matt (Plumb) and hopefully, have him work for his pay."

Matt Plumb (No. 7 Rum Bum Racing BMW Riley): "I want to thank my team for a fantastic job. We came here with a car in 50 pieces after the Mexico City accident and we finished fifth! Gene did a great job despite the fact that he was sick (cold) and hand the car to me after an hour in a very competitive position. Thanks to another brilliant race strategy from our rum bum racing engineer Brian ma we pitted for tires and fuel at the right time. Our goal was a strong top ten to keep our top ten championship position. We just did that and are now ranked 8th. Our sponsor Luis Bacardi never made it to the track because he had a last minute fishing tournament but we really want to thank him for his support which allow us today to score another great success. I also want to thank Gene Sigal for giving me this opportunity to run in Daytona Prototypes and next race we are going to the rumbum.com 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. This is our home race and everyone is already excited to be there."

Brian Frisselle (No. 61 AIM Autosport Exchange Traded Gold Ford Riley): "The Exchange Traded Gold team has given Mark and I a great car all weekend. We unloaded fast, stayed fast and it's been a fast car in the race. Mark did been doing a great job out there."

Oswaldo Negri (No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley): "I was really frustrated when the (No.) 59 car spun right in front of me because I had to come to a complete stop so I lost so much ground, but it was just another part of the day where we were playing catch-up after the tire went down. I wanted to be careful with the leader and not mess up his race, but at the same time I wanted to get by to get my lap back so I had to pick my spot and once I got past him, I was able to take off and work back into the top ten. It was a lot of work! But I also kept the championship in my mind the whole time. Obviously we were hoping to finish better than ninth, and had the car to do that, but this was a great comeback to take another top ten and I'm happy to be back to third in the points."

Mark Patterson (No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley): "The on-track behavior of some of the Daytona Prototype drivers was pretty disappointing in some spots, but it was great to run up front and battle with John (Pew) and Jim (Matthews) after the restart. These two-day events really reward teams that unload cars with the right set up because you only have so much time to improve on these weekends. Even though we weren't entirely happy with what we had yesterday, fortunately we speculated what the track was going to be like and made some significant gains for today. Oz drove a heck of a race and it's great to move to third in the championship standings as we look ahead to the race at Laguna Seca, which is a special place for me having made my first Daytona Prototype start there."

Jared Beyer (No. 19 Beyer Racing Ford Crawford): "It was awesome. It's such a relief to finally get the first one out of the way. I basically tried to keep it on the lead lap, hit my marks and be consistent, be smooth. I got it done! We plan to run our next race at Watkins Glen in the Sahlen's Six Hours."

Ricky Taylor (No. 19 Beyer Racing Ford Crawford): "I think we proved that the Crawford can be up front. That's really good for all the guys on the crew who worked so hard at Beyer Racing and Crawford Motorsports. I'm really happy. Me and JC France got together. That's OK; it's just racing. We'll go get them later in the race. The car was really competitive. We came to the track not really knowing where we would be at, but the car can run up front, and we proved the Crawford can do that."

Jon Fogarty (No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley): "It is unfortunate, my emotions are at the bottom of the barrel right now. I got the greatest job in the world, and the greatest team in the world and the greatest sponsor in GAINSCO, but it is hard to be stoked right now. We were going to win. I had a clean pass but we got hit from behind. He was on the outside of me and I went underneath him and I was well on my way exiting the corner, accelerating hard. I hit the apex of the turn and was tracking out and then just 'bang,' from behind. I have no idea what happened."

"We have been down before and we have come back, so on to Laguna Seca. It is a West Coast race for Alex and I and we will have a bunch of friends and family there. We will be fine."

Tom Kimber-Smith (No. 16 Cheever Racing Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Pontiac Coyote): "We've got great front-line speed, but I think we've got lower downforce than anyone. It's fine when you've got new tires, but at the end of a stint, it's impossible to defend anything. We just want to finish, and work on it from there."

Michael Valiante (No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara): "Rojas tried to pass on the outside, and I was on the inside. We went into the second corner and he wasn't past. He just kept his foot on it, and I was right there. I tried to give him room. He hit me once; I slid wide. He hit me again, and hit me again and spun me out. I came in right away and I'm not sure how badly it's damaged. It was fine before that. Our biggest problem is keeping the tires on it. I think we had a podium car."

Brad Jaeger (No. 77 Doran Racing Kodak Ford Dallara): "Initially, when we made our first pit stop for the 45-minute rule we had an incident on pit lane with the nitrogen bottles, so the car wouldn't raise fully up under the jacks. That put us in the back of the Daytona Prototype field. From that point on, it was working forward. I had a decent stint, working it way back up I think I was 10th when I brought it in. Right now, we're having problems, but we're trying to get it back on track so Memo can go get some points."

David Donohue (No. 58 Brumos Porsche Riley): "We had a problem with the ring and pinion and had to go behind the wall. It seems whenever we have a really good car, something gets in our way. I was biding my time. Valiante was really tossing the car around. I wasn't going to make to make a serious move. I wanted to run a comfortable pace, and felt I could close the gap up if I wanted to. I have to commend the No. 61 car I think it was Brian Frisselle he could have had me at one spot but it could have put us both in a very bad situation. But he thought better of it and pulled back. He did a good job there."

Emil Assentato (No. 69 SpeedSource FXDD Mazda RX-8):"Jeff's doing a great job right now. He's really keeping us in it. He's running top-rate laps and we're right in the midst of it. The first part of my stint was very good. The second was a little more defensive, the car was two seconds slower, but we kept it in the hunt and we're still here."

Dominik Farnbacher (No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3): "I had an issue with another driver who was already lapped two times. I think he didn't see me, but he closed the door going into the fast esses and I had to brake. He was braking in a zone where you don't usually brake and I had to go around him on the grass and I damaged my radiator. I was at the wrong spot at the wrong time. The crew did an awesome job -- they definitely earned a win."

Dirk Werner (No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3): "It looked like we had a good chance to fight for the win -- the car was really good. I can't blame anyone -- it was one of these race incidents that can happen. It's a bad day for the team, but we still have some races to go. I think we should be optimistic for the next races. I'll go on, keep my motivation high and do the best I can."

Steve Johnson (No. 88 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3): "We started at the back because our car was one pound light, so we were back there where we shouldn't have been. Things happen when you're in the back and trying to get to the front. We tangled up with a few guys going into [turn] one. Everybody's probably got a little bit of fault -- everybody wants the corner and you can't always get what you want. Too bad we're not still running; I think we would have had a pretty good day. But we'll get 'em next time."

-credit: garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Nic Jönsson
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Stevenson Motorsports , Doran Racing , Rum Bum Racing , SpeedSource , Michael Shank Racing