Oswaldo Negri held off Max Angelelli by just 0.459secs to win the first big time race at New Jersey Motorsports Park to give the Michael Shank Racing team its first victory of the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Series campaign.

While the Supercar Life 250 went down to the wire at the Thunderbolt Raceway, however, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas ensured that at least one championship title was headed for the Chip Ganassi Racing team, as they clinched the Daytona Prototype teams' crown with a ninth-place finish in a back-up car.

In a race with five cautions for 25 laps, many of them for debris and gravel following off-course excursions, it came down to a two-lap sprint, with Negri holding on after Joao Barbosa lost second position on the final lap.

Negri led the final 45 laps in the #60 Ford Riley, taking the second career victory for himself and co-driver Mark Patterson nearly two years on from their maiden success at the 2006 finale at Miller Motorsports Park. It was their first podium finish since they placed third at Homestead-Miami Speedway at the start of the year.

"It is amazing to get back to the top step of the podium again with Mark and Michael Shank Racing," Negri enthused, "It was a very hard race and I'm so happy to take another win.

"It was tough at the end of the race because there was so much pick-up out there, and the track was breaking up on some of the corners, so you had to place the car very carefully. I also sort of had to play cards with the cars behind to protect my position with the GT traffic - but it ended up perfectly. I wasn't worried about anything on that last lap, I was just trying to work on the tyres as much as I could before the restart and it worked out perfectly. I just focused forward and brought it home."

Angelelli came up short in a bid for the second consecutive triumph for the #10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley, as he and Michael Valiante took a third podium finish for the former champions.

"I could have overtaken him, but I would have had to push him out of the way and that would not have been fair," Angelelli said of his battle with Negri, "Instead, I just parked myself behind him. It was a wild race, but it is normal for a Grand-Am race. This is the way we race here.

"It's very difficult. I went off a couple of times and recovered, and a lot of people did the same. Everybody is so tight together. There are a lot of good cars, good drivers, good teams, and different winners. That's what makes Grand-Am racing so great."

Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand took third place in the #23 Alex Job Racing/Ruby Tuesday Porsche Riley, taking their second podium finish of the season and best outing since placing second, ahead of the MSR duo, at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"The last few laps were madness - it was crazy," veteran Auberlen commented, "On restarts, we had a tough time picking up rubber, so that was really bad for us. Joey did an awesome job and, Ruby Tuesday, I can't say enough about them. The only reason we are here is because our guys gave us a fantastic car this weekend, and it's probably the best it's been all year. That's hope it's that way going to Utah."

Barbosa and JC France finished fourth for the fourth time this season in the #59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley, but Barbosa had been running second at the final restart with two laps remaining before being bumped off course and passed by both Angelelli and Auberlen.

Reigning champion Alex Gurney finished fifth in the #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley he shares with Jon Fogarty, but also went off course in the closing laps after contact with the #10 machine. The #99 was followed by Brian Frisselle in the polewinning #61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley started by Mark Wilkins, while the #6 Michael Shank Racing entry crewed by John Pew and Ian James came home seventh, ahead of the #75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola of Tracy Krohn and Eric van de Poele and the #01 Pruett and Rojas car.

Pruett had destroyed the team's primary TELMEX/Ganassi machine in a testing accident on Thursday, forcing the team to go back to its Indianapolis base to prepare the car that last competed in their Rolex 24 at Daytona victory. The ninth-place finish - coupled with the fifth-place finish by Gurney and Fogarty - opened a 38-point lead in the team standings with only the 20 September finale at Miller Motorsports Park, and 35 points, remaining on the schedule.

Darren Law and David Donohue rounded out the top ten in the #58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley, having led 38 laps early in the event by passing Patterson for the lead on lap 20 and remaining out front through Donohue's pit-stop on lap 57. Law took over, but was held up in traffic and could not work his way back into position to challenge. Gurney led three laps after Donohue's stop, with Negri taking over on lap 61 and pacing the final 45 circuits.

The GT class saw rookie Tim George Jr score his first Rolex Series victory, and co-driver Andy Lally his 19th, as their TRG-run #67 Johnny Love Vodka/994 Magazine Porsche GT3 took the lead from Robin Liddell's Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac and hold on by 1.776secs at the line.

"It's a brand new track, and it was very treacherous," George reported, "I felt like I was back at Skip Barber Racing since we weren't allowed to drop tyres or you'd get called in, so it was a pretty big deal. I felt like I put a pretty good first stint in, and we were just fighting some gas issues toward the end but, other than that, we came out on top. I'm pretty happy."

"It was definitely a battle [with Liddell]," Lally added, "We've had a lot of good battles in the past and this was just another one. Just like at Barber [earlier this year], it came down [to the wire] and we got a late yellow and then went green-white-chequer. I knew it was all going to hit the fan as soon as the green flag dropped, and we just had to keep him behind us.

"I learned on the restart before that we really had to keep our tyres clean, because there was a lot of pick-up here - more than usual - and Robin made a real good move and got by, but I was able to hang on his back for a little while and get back by. I knew they were thinking championship, so I could take a little bit of a risk, but at the same time, I'm thinking championship for Tim because that was big points for the Rookie of the Year."

The second-place finish for Liddell and Andrew Davis tightened the GT points race heading into the season finale. The pair entered the event third in the team points, trailing Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards by 16 points, but when the Banner Racing duo finished only ninth the gap closed to just five.

"We knew it was going to be a crazy race, so I got in and took it easy the first part of my stint and just let things happen," Liddell revealed, "The second half of my stint, I began to charge and was able to overtake the #67 at the exit of turn one and lead - but he got by me again on power down the front straight. I thought I had a good run on him later and then, with ten laps to go, I got pushed wide in the last turn by two Daytona Prototypes and that was it. But we had a great points finish, the car was excellent and now we go into the last race with a chance at the championship."

Nick Ham and Sylvain Tremblay entered the event second in the team points, but struggled with an oil leak and only placed 16th in the #70 SpeedSource Castrol Mazda RX-8. They now head to the final round twelve points behind the leaders.

Ryan Phinny led 34 laps early in the event in the #21 Matt Connolly Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R, with Diego Alessi taking third on the final lap to give the team its third third-place finish of the campaign.