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."
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