Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Pruett has secured a record breaking 14th Rolex Series overall win after taking the honours in the inaugural race at the Iowa Speedway.
Partnered by Memo Rojas in the #01 Lexus Riley, the team took victory by just 0.325secs from the sister car of Rob Finlay and Michael Valiante – giving the Ganassi team its first 1-2 finish in the process.
Pruett averaged 105.490mph in the 192-lap race, which had only two caution periods. He took the lead from Jörg Bergmeister on lap 88 coming out of the pits and fended of the strong challenge of firstly Alex Gurney and at the end by Valiante, leading the final 105 laps. The #01 Lexus Riley had only led 13 laps since winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona going into the weekend.
Pruett and Valiante battled through traffic for the final 10 laps, trying desperately to garner breathing room for a clean shootout. However, lapped traffic didn't budge, and Valiante had a last-ditch passing opportunity when Pruett's car hiccupped in the final corner.
However, Valiante also checked up and didn't force an attempt, giving Pruett just enough to secure the victory and improve his championship points lead to 15 over Max Angelelli (272-257) with five series races remaining.
“We had rules not to take each other out,” Pruett said. “It was good and bad. Everything was good until the last lap when we started running out of fuel and coughing. Luckily, the car picked it up and we didn't miss coming onto the straightaway. We unloaded strong, and we each tried some things that helped us out throughout the evening. It is a strong finish for Ganassi. We've been very fortunate with Ganassi, Lexus and Carlos Slim [of TELMEX]. Michael and Rob have been a strong addition to the team, and all in all, we just try to do what we know how to do – go out and win races. Tonight was a lot better than I expected. I hope we put on a strong race for the fans.”
Finlay had posted a career-best starting position of fifth in the second car and kept his place in the top-five for much of his stint before Valiante took over during the first round of pit stops. Valiante set the race's fastest lap on lap 173 and quickly shortened a three-second advantage to about six tenths of a second soon after. Valiante closed in as the lead duo approached slower traffic, and decided against possible contact with Pruett to improve his position on the final lap.
“When Scott bobbled, I checked up, and if it was anyone else I would have tried to make that winning move,” he said. “It was going to be our best finishing position anyway, so it just wouldn't have been a smart move to make and maybe take both of us out. Second was good for us. We all do a good job sharing information [within Ganassi], and this relationship has just grown very well. We are extremely happy with this result.”
Polesitter Jon Fogarty and co-driver Gurney in the #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing GAINSCO Pontiac Riley had their three-race winning streak snapped after hanging strong all evening. Fogarty led the first 34 laps before dropping to second, and Gurney ran there for much of his stint as well.