Grand-Am Rolex Series Victory Saturday at Infineon
Ganassi seeks to rebound in Armed Forces Grand-Am 250 after finish of 13th at Watkins Glen
Brian Frisselle and Mark Wilkins look to capture their third consecutive Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 victory Saturday in the Armed Forces Grand-Am 250 at Infineon Raceway while Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas seek to regain championship form (SPEED, noon ET Sunday).
The breakout team of 2008 has been AIM Autosport, with Frisselle and Wilkins winning the two most recent races in the No. 61 Ford Riley. Wilkins went from fourth to first on the final lap to win at Montreal in the closest finish in Rolex Series history, then joined pole-winning Frisselle to dominate the Crown Royal 200 at The Glen. The surge began in the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona in July, where Wilkins won the pole and the team ran competitively before suspension issues cost them a podium finish. Frisselle passed both Gurney and Pruett late in the race at Barber to take the lead in the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant, only to suffer engine failure while leading with 13 laps remaining.
Following Saturday's race - a 102-lap, 250-mile sprint with a two-hour, 45-minute time limit for the Daytona Prototypes - only two races remain on the 2008 schedule. Pruett and Rojas have six victories and finished on the podium in all but one of the opening nine races of the season in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley. However, the pair finished fifth at Montreal and 13th at Watkins Glen, seeing their championship lead trimmed from 63 to 49 points.
A native of Sacramento now living in Auburn, Pruett won the 2006 Daytona Prototype race at Infineon, considered his home track. Another victory would tie he and Rojas with Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty for the most Daytona Prototype victories in a single season.
"It's been nothing short of a fabulous year for us," Pruett said. "The crew, Memo, all the Ganassi guys and the whole organization has been fabulous. There are two things coming into Infineon. One, with the way we've been running, we're looking forward to that and more so, it's my home track. I'll have a lot of friends and family here, along with a lot of Scott Pruett fans."
Gurney and Fogarty are running second in the team championship in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley. Last year, they won the Armed Forces Grand-Am 250, scoring their seventh victory of the season and taking the point lead for the first time in their successful bid for the title. However, they have won only one race this season. The pair of California natives scored their third runner-up finish of the year in the most recent race at Watkins Glen.
Brumos Porsche is looking to score its first Rolex Series triumph since 2003. The team suffered a heartbreaking loss in last year's Armed Forces Grand-Am 250, when David Donohue led 29 laps down the stretch in the No. 58 Porsche Riley, only to be passed by Gurney on a restart only two laps from the checkered flag. Co-driver Darren Law suffered another heartbreaker earlier this month, leading 12 laps down the stretch only to run out of gas 200 yards shy of the finish and place third in the closest 1-2-3 finish in Rolex Series history. The Brumos Racing No. 59 Porsche of JC France and Joao Barbosa is also on a roll, finishing in the top 10 in six of the last seven races. Barbosa has recorded the fastest race lap three times this season, including both of the last two races.
Memo Gidley, who lives only a few miles from Infineon Raceway in Novato, Calif., is paired with Brad Jaeger in the No. 77 Doran Racing Kodak Ford Dallara. The team also fields a second Ford Dallara, the No. 47 Brach's/CDOC entry, for Ricky Taylor and Burt Frisselle.
Looking to get back on track are Mexico City winners Jim Matthews and Marc Goossens in the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley, who failed to finish three of the last four races after opening the year with three podium finishes.
Californians Bill Auberlen (Redondo Beach) and Joey Hand (Sacramento) have been close to victories this season, but are still seeking that initial victory for Alex Job in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Pontiac Riley this season. The team campaigned old and new Crawford chassis bodywork earlier in the season, but switched to the Riley chassis last month.
Other teams seeking their first triumph of the season include Cheever Racing with Christian Fittipaldi and Antonio Garcia sharing the No. 16 Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Pontiac Coyote; Max Angelelli and Michael Valiante in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara; Michael Shank Racing, with a pair of Ford Rileys for drivers Oswaldo Negri, Mark Patterson, Ian James and John Pew; the two-car Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola team of Ricardo Zonta, Nic Jonsson, Eric van de Poele and Tracy Krohn; Bill Lester and Shane Lewis in the No. 3 Southard Motorsports Lexus Riley; and Gene Sigal and Matt Plumb in the No. 7 Rum Bum Racing BMW Riley.
Practice for the Armed Forces Grand-Am 250 begins at 4:45 p.m. Thursday, with qualifying set for Friday at 4:30 p.m. The race takes the green flag at 3 p.m. PT Saturday.
- This is Round 13 for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16. The Daytona Prototype race is 250 miles (102 laps) or two hours and 45 minutes, whichever comes first.
- The green flag for the race is scheduled to fly just after 3 p.m. PT on Friday. The race will air on SPEED, beginning at noon ET Sunday (Leigh Diffey - Play-by-Play; Dorsey Schroeder, Calvin Fish - Analysts; Brian Till, Chris Neville - Pit Reporters).
- All cars must make a mandatory pit stop prior to the 45-minute mark in the race, and each driver must complete 30 minutes of the race in order to earn points for their respective standings.
- The 2007 Armed Forces Grand-Am 250 race winners were Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty.
ROLEX SERIES WEEKEND SCHEDULE (ALL TIMES PACIFIC)
- Thursday: Rolex Series Practice (4:45-6:45 p.m.)
- Friday: Rolex Series Practice (9:15-9:45 a.m.); Rolex Series Jim Trueman Practice (4-4:15 p.m.); Rolex Series Qualifying (4:30-4:45 p.m.)
- Saturday: Rolex Series Final Practice (10:45-11:15 a.m.); Armed Forces Grand-Am 250 (3 p.m.; 250 miles/102 laps/two-hour and 45-minute time limit).
2008 IN REVIEW
Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas hold a 63-point advantage (321-258) in the Daytona Prototype standings after six victories in 10 starts. They won the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami, the Bosch Engineering 250 at VIR, the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, the Brumos Porsche 250 and the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley. In the Brumos Porsche 250, Pruett passed Gurney on the final lap to win the Brumos Porsche 250. Defending series champs Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty won the rain-soaked EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley. Marc Goossens and Jim Matthews won the Mexico City 250 in the No. 91 Bob Stallings/Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley, while Ryan Dalziel and Henri Zogaib earned their initial Daytona Prototype victories in the No. 2 SAMAX BMW Riley at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Mark Wilkins and Brian Frisselle earned their initial triumphs in the Montreal 200, the closest finish in Rolex Series history, and backed that up with a victory in the Crown Royal 200 at The Glen.
NEWS & NOTES
- Home Empire: Several drivers call California home. Scott Pruett and Joey Hand (Sacramento), Bill Auberlen (Redondo Beach), Alex Gurney (Irvine), Memo Gidley (Novato) and Gene Sigal (Los Angeles) all live their now, while Shane Lewis (Lancaster) and Jon Fogarty (Palo Alto) were born there. Bill Lester earned his degree from the University of California.
- Despite Leading, Gurney Not Getting Victories: While Alex Gurney has led the most laps in three of the last four Rolex Series races, the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley failed to win any of them. Gurney was slingshot at the finish of the Brumos Porsche 250 by Scott Pruett, resulting in a second place finish. Then, he led the most laps in the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant at Barber Motorsports Park, only to lose the clutch late in the race and finish 16th. At Montreal, Gurney fell from first to seventh when he went off-track to avoid a spinning GT car, and was later collected by a Daytona Prototype that lost its brakes, resulting in an eighth-place finish.
- Gidley Looks for Home Victory: How close does Memo Gidley live to Infineon Raceway? "About six minutes, 32 seconds," responded the Novato driver. He's got plenty of experience here in all forms of racing, dating back to his opening days in the sport. Last year he finished fourth in the Armed Forces Grand-Am 250, co-driving the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley with Max Angelelli. This season, Gidley shares the No. 77 Doran Racing Kodak Ford Dallara with Brad Jaeger, scoring four top-10 finishes.
Close Finishes Dominate Rolex Series: The Rolex Series has had close finishes all season. While the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona had a two-lap margin of victory, the 10 Daytona Prototype races since then have been decided by a total of approximately 12 seconds. In addition, the nine "sprint" races were decided by 1.986 seconds or closer - with five races decided by less than one second. In addition, the Series has recorded its two closest finishes in the last four races, with both the Daytona and Montreal events decided on last-lap passes executed only a few feet prior to the checkered flag.
- Brumos Continues to Surge: The No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley of David Donohue and Darren Law opened the year with four finishes of 11th or worse, putting the drivers outside the top 20 in the standings. Since then, the pair has reached the podium five times, and in the Montreal 200, Law ran out of gas shortly before the finish line and took third. The pair has moved up to a tie for fifth in the standings. Last year, Donohue was passed by Gurney two laps from the finish, giving the No. 58 started by Law its best finish of the season. The No. 59 Brumos Porsche Riley of JC France and Joao Barbosa have also been surging, with the two tied for ninth in the standings. They have finished in the top five in three of the most recent four races, with Barbosa setting the fastest race lap in the past two races.
ROLEX SERIES POINT STANDINGS
- Daytona Prototype: 1. (tie) Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas (339); 3. (tie) Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty (290); 5. (tie) Darren Law, David Donohue (270); 7. (tie) JC France, Joao Barbosa (256); 9. Mark Patterson (253); 10. (tie) Brian Frisselle, Mark Wilkins (252).
- MESCO Building for the Future Rookie of the Year: 1. Tim George Jr. (265); 2. Ricardo Zonta (251); 3. Ted Ballou (249); 4. Matt Plumb (227); 5. Jeff Segal (224).
- Pruett, Ganassi Continue Winning Record: Scott Pruett and Chip Ganassi continue to set records for overall wins in the Rolex Series. Pruett notched his 20th overall win in the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant at Barber Motorsports Park, now seven more than second-place James Weaver. In turn, Ganassi earned his 21st win - all in Daytona Prototypes - 10 more than the SunTrust Racing team.
- Pontiac Owns Class Win Record: With eight class victories this season, Pontiac has passed Porsche for all-time class wins. Pontiac owns 52 class wins, while Porsche, which won for the first time in 2008 in the GT class at Mid-Ohio, has 50.
SELECTED PRE-RACE DRIVER QUOTES
Max Angelelli (No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara): "I have a very interesting reason for thinking that we will have a very good weekend in Sonoma. Infineon is a race track that never brought to us a good result, so far. Now, I have looked back at all the race tracks we have gone to this season where we always seemed to have good results in the past, and where we expected to have good results this year because of that, and we have come away disappointed. So, if Sonoma has not brought us good results, and if we go there thinking it will be very difficult again for us this weekend, then I think this time we will have a good result. That makes sense, doesn't it? Seriously, we are still working hard and fighting our way through various things that need to be worked out with our new car. It's been hard and it's been a difficult season, as everybody knows. A lot of times, it seems we are still fighting an uphill battle. But I know I have to be positive. I am positive. It's just that we keep saying ‘you'll see, you'll see, you'll see.' Hopefully, this weekend we can have that great result where we can finally say, ‘you see?"
Christian Fittipaldi (No. 16 Cheever Racing Pontiac Coyote): "We have new suspension bits for Infineon. I'm excited especially because the car ran very good last year. Hopefully we can get more mechanical grip out of the car. If possible, then we should be able to reduce downforce making it quicker on the straights."
Tracy Krohn (No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola): "Infineon, as a driver, is always so fun because of the elevation changes. You have to put the car the proper apex to exit at several blind corners. Infineon, as a spectator, is one of those rare road courses where, at certain vantage points, you can see most of the track. Our goal is to show the rest of the paddock what the Proto-Auto DP Lolas are capable of doing. We are committed to excellence and feel that the car we deliver will be at the top of the podium for a long time to come. We want to deliver the message that when we begin selling these cars to other teams, it will be a very positive situation in that we will have an "open paddock" regarding parts and developmental pieces we discover for the car. We want the cars to be equal and may the best drivers and teams win through their efforts and hard work!"
Ricardo Zonta (No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola): "Yes, it will be nice returning to a track Nic and I have driven together again. It makes it a lot easier for us - both in setting up the car and for the race. I know and am a little better prepared for what happens in the race at this circuit. We should be able to use this as an advantage. I only have one thought - it is winning!"
Memo Gidley (No. 77 Doran Racing Ford Dallara): "I have many reasons to like racing at Infineon. It's a good track, and it's been around a long time. It's really challenging with a lot of blind corners, and I really enjoy driving on it. Also, it's about six minutes, 32 seconds from my home. I like being able to sleep in my own house and more importantly, being able to have a lot of friends and family who don't normally come to races come out to this one. That makes it a lot of fun and I look forward to it. I've been coming here since I started racing, hanging around and hoping to impress someone to get me a ride. I've had a lot of success in other cars here, so I'm hoping to translate that into the Daytona Prototype this year."
Marc Goossens (No. 91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley): "I really like the track because of the elevation changes and therefore the difference to other tracks in the way the corners are laid out. There is a high speed part to the track and on the other side the slower turns make it a challenge to either attack the corners and braking zones or to finesse and be really clean in other corners in order to be fast. Again here it's the compromise in setup for the different type of corners. We were not very lucky in the race last year, but we were definitely able to show the speed of our car. Hopefully things come our way again and we are aiming for a good result in California."
Jon Fogarty (No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley): "Watkins Glen was a great event, that track seems to be good to us. We anticipated that both there and Daytona would be difficult events and we were able to come through with seconds in both races. There has been a lot of heartbreak this year, so anytime a race goes according to plan we are happy and when things go according to plan we always seem to do well, imagine that. It has been up-and-down and the only consistent thing has been the inconsistency in our finishing positions. We just need to relax and do our thing and finish the year with some solid results and remind ourselves that we know how to win championships.
"It should be a great track for us as it is mostly a handling circuit- but that hasn't always meant good results, so I am going to say it should be difficult just like Daytona and Watkins. All kidding aside we have been strong here in our previous two visits and I think this year should be no different. I really would like to get the pole, it has been a long time and my opportunities are starting to run out.
"My first race ever in a car was at Sonoma back in 1994. It was when Skip Barber had a school there and we were in Formula Fords. I don't remember where I finished, but I think I led for awhile. My first non school type of race was in a Formula Vee, and we ran in mixed wet dry conditions and I won, that was the first race of the 1995 Formula Vee SCCA San Francisco regional championship, which I ended up winning.
"I can't recall my first trip to Infineon, but I know I went to quite a few of my brothers races when I was in Junior High. He was racing Vees and then Formula Mazda. I had fun, but at that point I was more into rally racing and pitching cars sideways as often as possible, so watching the tidy lines of formula cars wasn't super exiting to me.
"Infineon is a great track. It has so many linked corners that require a lot of thought to get right. You need to be aggressive, but it is not always where you think. Technical is the best description, but it offers just about everything to challenge the driver and engineer. I feel fortunate to have run a lot of laps there, it was the first track I ever drove on so I thought they were all as difficult. Now I am glad I am not having to learn it when in the middle of a championship."