Grand-Am Rolex Daytona Prototype Title Stays Tight as Competitors Head to Crown Royal 200 at The Glen A number of teams remain mathematically in contention with just three races remaining for the 2007 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented...
Grand-Am Rolex Daytona Prototype Title Stays Tight as Competitors Head to Crown Royal 200 at The Glen
A number of teams remain mathematically in contention with just three races remaining for the 2007 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve Daytona Prototype driver's championship, but four drivers -- two former champions and two first-time hopefuls -- control still their own destiny in the race for the championship entering Friday's Crown Royal 200 at The Glen.
Scott Pruett, the 2004 champion, holds a slim two-point lead over Max Angelelli (324-322), the 2005 Rolex Series titlist. Both drivers are gunning to become the first two-time Daytona Prototype champions since the class's inception. Pruett has teamed with Memo Rojas, fifth in points, in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Racing TELMEX Lexus Riley for every race except for the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. Pruett captured wins in the season-opener with Salvador Duran and Juan Pablo Montoya and at Iowa Speedway with Rojas.
Angelelli has used a number of co-drivers to climb into his championship position, and will team this weekend with Memo Gidley in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley. Angelelli and co-driver Jan Magnussen battled for a hard-fought victory last week at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, the second win of 2007 for both drivers.
Like Pruett and Angelelli, the duo of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty can still win the championship without help. Three consecutive wins to end the season, regardless of finish by any other competitor, would close the nine-point edge to tie Pruett and give the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley teammates the championship based on victories. The duo leads the series with five wins, one shy of the Rolex Series Daytona Prototype record of six in a season set by Terry Borcheller in 2003.
If history is any indication, Friday's race may do little to separate the championship contenders. At the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen in June, all three championship contending teams finished on the podium -- with the No. 99 GAINSCO duo edging Pruett and Rojas. The No. 01 crossed the stripe just ahead of Angelelli and then-teammate Jonathan Cochet.
That doesn't mean others can't win the title, but help will be needed. Sitting sixth in the championship standings is 18-year-old Colin Braun, who has teamed with Nic Jonsson for the past two races in the No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley after spending the first part of the season co-driving with Max Papis. The trio actually raced together at The Glen in June, finishing fifth. Papis sits 12 points behind Braun in seventh and will drive this weekend in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley with team owner Tracy Krohn.
The No. 58 Red Bull/Brumos Porsche Riley of David Donahue and Darren Law are currently riding a streak of 10 consecutive top-10 finishes. The duo currently sits eighth in the championship, seven points in arrears of Papis. The No. 58 team is also joined again this weekend by team car No. 59 Brumos Porsche Riley driven by Hurley Haywood and JC France.
Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Lexus Riley complete the current championship's top-10, boosted by a podium finish earlier this season during the U.S. Sports Car Invitational delivered by Luggage Express at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and a string of five consecutive top-10 results. The No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Lexus Riley entry is piloted by John Pew and Ian James, whose successful ventures include a pair of fourth-place finishes, one coming at Watkins Glen. Both Michael Shank Racing cars led laps during the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen and are looking for more success this weekend.
No. 23 Alex Job Racing Ruby Tuesday Porsche Crawford regular driver Patrick Long will team this weekend with Emmanuel Collard, as previous commitments will keep defending champion and regular driver Jorg Bergmeister from competing at Watkins Glen this weekend. The pair had a first lap incident during June's trip to The Glen, but was able to rebound for an eighth-place finish.
Patrick Carpentier is coming off somewhat of a storybook weekend in front of his home fans at Montreal. The French Canadian drove the No. 11 SAMAX Pontiac Riley with Kris Szekeres to a 10th-place finish, and then followed that up with a pole position and runner-up finish in his first career NASCAR Busch Series appearance. The No. 61 AIM Autosport entry is another that found a bit of luck in their homeland, where Mark Wilkins and Brian Frisselle drove the No. 61 Exchange Trader Gold Lexus Riley to their best finish since the season's first two races. Each team is searching for its first win of 2007 this weekend.
In the last Rolex Series appearance at The Glen, the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley of Marc Goosens and co-driver Jim Matthews led 25 laps of the six-hour race, and the duo is coming off its best finish of the season with a runner-up performance in Montreal. The No. 05 Luggage Express Team Sigalsport BMW Riley of Bill Auberlen and Matthew Alhadeff are also searching for a strong finish this weekend to accompany their early-season victory at the Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami.
The No. 39 Cheever Racing Crown Royal Special Reserve Pontiac Fabcar of Christian Fittipaldi and Antonio Garcia seem to be just waiting for a win, finishing a season-best fourth a week ago after running with the leaders on a number of instances in the previous weeks. The No. 3 Southard Motorsports Preformed Line Products Lexus Riley of Shane Lewis and Randy Ruhlman also continue to find improvements as the season moves along, with just a bit of good luck separating the team from a great finish.
One team warranting attention is the No. 16 Howard Motorsports Thetford/Norcold Porsche Crawford, co-driven by Rob Dyson and defending Rolex GT Champion and current contender Andy Lally. Lally has not driven a Daytona Prototype since 2003, but has won five GT races and sits just five points behind leader Dirk Werner in that class.
Other teams making a return to Rolex Series Daytona Prototype competition at this weekend's Crown Royal 200 at The Glen are the No. 8 Synergy Racing Porsche Doran is co-driven by Rick Knoop and David Murry, the No. 31 Matt Connolly Motorsports Pontiac Chase piloted by Matt Connolly, Mike Halpin and Shawn Price, and the No. 7 Tuttle Motorsports Pontiac Riley, with Brian Tuttle as the team's lead driver.
Crown Royal 200 at The Glen Fast Facts
What: Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve
Who: Daytona Prototypes, featuring several top American and international sports car driving stars
Where: Watkins Glen International -- Watkins Glen, New York
When: Friday, Aug. 10, 2007 -- 6:30 p.m.
TV: SPEED, Same Day, Friday, Aug. 10, 2007 -- 8 p.m.
Schedule of Events (All times local, Eastern Time):
Thursday, Aug. 9
11:30 AM - 12:30 PM Practice -- Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes
12:45 PM - 01:45 PM Practice -- Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes
03:45 PM - 04:30 PM Practice -- Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes
04:30 PM - 04:45 PM Qualifying -- Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes
07:00 PM - 08:00 PM Final Practice -- Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes
Friday, Aug. 10
06:30 PM START -- Crown Royal 200 at The Glen (200 miles/82 laps/2-hour time limit)
TIME CERTAIN SCHEDULE -- All sessions to start and finish as shown