Grand AM » 17 September 2008
Grand-Am crown to be decided at Miller.
The Daytona Prototype and GT championships will be on the line as the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series visits Miller Motorsports Park for the season-ending SunRichGourmet.com 1000 presented by the Grand and Little America Hotels this weekend.
TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team-mates Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas need to drive at least 30 minutes each in the #01 Lexus Riley to share the Daytona Prototype championship. Pruett, who shared the 2004 title with Max Papis, is looking to become the first repeat champion in the Grand-Am Rolex Series' premier division. The Ganassi team has already locked up its third title, leading the #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley team of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty by 38 points.
The GT championship is expected to come down to the final lap of the season, with Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins - drivers of the #07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R - leading #57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R co-drivers Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis by six points. Also in contention are Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham, who are 13 points out of the lead in the #70 SpeedSource Mazdaspeed Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8.
Pruett and Rojas opened the year by winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona - joined by Juan Pablo Montoya and Dario Franchitti - and added five additional victories on their march to the championship. Gurney and Fogarty won only one race this year after winning seven races and the title in 2007, but are guaranteed second place in the team championship and a tie for third in the driver points.
With the top two positions in the Daytona Prototype team championship locked up, third place is up for grabs as six teams are within 18 points. The #58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley of David Donohue and Darren Law leads team-mates JC France and Joao Barbosa in the #59 by one point. Two teams - the #60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley of Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri, along with the #61 AIM Autosport Exchange Traded Gold Ford Riley of Mark Wilkins and Brian Frisselle, are six points out of third. The #10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara of Michael Valiante and Max Angelelli is 17 points out of third, and one point ahead of the #76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola of Ricardo Zonta and Nic Jonsson.
The two prior runnings of the SunRichGourmet.com 1000 have featured first-time Rolex Series winners. Patterson and Negri teamed to give Michael Shank Racing its first Grand-Am victory in the 2006 inaugural event, while Jim Matthews, Marc Goossens and Ryan Hunter-Reay gave Riley-Matthews Motorsports its initial triumph last year.
Among the teams looking for its first victory is Cheever Racing with drivers Christian Fittipaldi and Antonio Garcia in the #16 Crown Royal Cask #16 Pontiac Coyote. Other pairings yet to win include John Pew and Ian James in the #6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley, and #7 Rum Bum Racing BMW Riley teammates Matt Plumb and Gene Sigal. In addition, the Lola chassis is looking to break through. Krohn Racing is fielding a pair of Pontiac-powered Lolas, with Tracy Krohn and Eric van de Poele in the #75 and Zonta and Jonsson in the #76.
Also up for grabs is the prestigious Jim Trueman Award. France enters the finale with a 59-point lead over Patterson in the competition among Daytona Prototype drivers who do not earn their primary income from racing.
Since the SunRichGourmet.com 1000 is the second-longest race on the Rolex Series schedule, a number of teams have added third drivers to their line-ups. Hunter-Reay returns with the defending race winners, joining Matthews and Goossens in the #91 Pontiac Riley. AIM Autosport, winners of two of the last three races, adds 2002 Champ Car titlist Cristiano da Matta to the lineup of the #61 Ford Riley, joining Wilkins and Frisselle. Brumos adds a pair of stars, 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice to the #58 and five-time Rolex 24 winner Hurley Haywood to the #59.
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