Grand AM » 28 February 2007
Grand-Am: Pruett leads record field to Mexico.
Daytona Prototype points leader Scott Pruett will lead a record field of 38 cars to Mexico City's famed Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez this weekend for Saturday's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Mexico City 400k.
Pruett, the 2004 Daytona Prototype co-champion, leads the 2007 Daytona Prototype driver standings by virtue of his victory in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona alongside co-drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Mexican rising star Salvador Duran. With Montoya focusing on NASCAR competition and Duran involved in various other forms of international motorsport and not entered to compete this weekend, Pruett essentially stands alone atop the points table.
The Rolex 24 victory was the 13th overall triumph in Rolex Series competition for the Californian, tying him with James Weaver for most career overall victories. This weekend, Pruett will be joined in the #01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley by his full-time co-driver for the remainder of the season, Mexican racer Memo Rojas. Last year in Mexico City, Pruett started from the pole position and combined with then-co-driver Luis Diaz to lead every lap in the race en route to a wildly popular victory.
A repeat this weekend, however, is anything but a certainty for Pruett, Rojas and the Ganassi team. Leading an extremely talented list of drivers with the potential to dethrone the #01 team are Italian racing standout Max Angelelli and Danish speedster Jan Magnussen in the #10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley. Angelelli and Magnussen combined with team owner Wayne Taylor and NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon to finish third in the Rolex 24 despite battling various mechanical issues for a goodly amount of the twice-around-the-clock event. Absent mechanical problems this weekend, Angelelli and Magnussen would be tough to beat.
Rolex 24 runners-up Patrick Carpentier and Milka Duno also cannot be overlooked in the #11 CITGO/SAMAX Pontiac Riley. While Carpentier is considered a Rolex Series “rookie,” the Canadian is no stranger to Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez with three Champ Car starts at the historic circuit. He and Duno - a three-time winner in Rolex Series competition - could also prove to be a formidable combination.
On the heels of a fourth-place performance in the Rolex 24 and armed with a potent Porsche Riley combination, JC France and sports car racing legend Hurley Haywood also head south of the border looking to continue their momentum in the #59 Brumos Racing machine. Haywood is in his final season of full-time Rolex Series competition, while France was involved in a memorable altercation following an on-track incident with driver Chris Bingham in last year's visit to Mexico City. That being the case, a strong performance this weekend would be popular for several reasons.
The upstart AIM Autosport team - with youngsters Mark Wilkins and Brian Frisselle sharing the #61 Exchange Traded Gold Lexus Riley - also looks to build more momentum following a fifth-place performance in the Rolex 24. Last year, Frisselle turned in a career-best second-place qualifying performance at Mexico City, proving he knows the quick way around the 2.5-mile road course. That could bode well for the #61 team, which is competing in just its third Rolex Series event this weekend.
While a top-five finish in the Rolex 24 was a great way to start the season for those teams mentioned previously, there are several other talented combinations that will undoubtedly play a role in the outcome of the Mexico City 400k. Certainly, one cannot look past Americans Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney in the #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley.
Gurney started the Rolex 24 from the pole position, proving yet again that he and the #99 team are among the quickest in the Rolex Series. However, Gurney and Fogarty head to Mexico still looking for their first career Rolex Series victory after coming tantalizingly close on several occasions last season.
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