As expected, Telmex Chip Ganassi Racing duo Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas duly lifted the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Series championship title at Miller Motorsports Park, creating a number of new marks in the process.
The pair teamed up with Ganassi's under-employed IndyCar protégé Alex Lloyd for the series finale in Utah, and fulfilled the 30 minutes per driver that they needed to clinch the crown after a stellar season. All three drivers kept the #01 Riley-Lexus out of harms way en route to ninth place, enabling them to add the drivers' championship to the teams' crown taken two rounds ago.
“I am so proud to represent Mexico with this championship," Rojas commented, "Everyone back home follows this series closely and I know they are extremely excited. I have to thank Chip, Felix [Sabates], and Carlos [Slim] for giving me an opportunity to work with this Telmex team for two years. Today is so special to me as we fought hard all season and our efforts and attitude was shown with what we achieved. Last year was disappointing, so today is so special.”
From second on the grid, Pruett drove for the first 33 laps while he reached his time requirement and consistently maintained a top five position before Rojas took over at the first change. Although he encountered light rain around lap 53 - and even spun four laps later after contact was made with the #76 car - officials eventually threw a yellow flag on lap 60 that allowed the Ganassi team to make a second driver change, giving the helm to Lloyd.
The Briton persevered through further rainy conditions after the lap 66 restart, and kept the #01 among the top eight while setting lap times comparable to the race leaders.
The rain became more intense around lap 78, when the team put Rojas back at the wheel and fitted rain tyres that allowed the Mexican to advance to first place within four laps, but cleared just as quickly, allowing the #01 to go back to slicks as the track dried. Rojas continued to run among the leaders before pitting on lap 107 for the final driver change. With a full tank of fuel, Pruett ran the last 30 laps, getting as high as eighth place before the #58 made contact with the #01, dropping it to ninth for the run to the chequered flag.
Despite not reaching the podium, the Telmex duo rewrote several record books with the championship win. Pruett became the first two-time Grand-Am Rolex Series champion and the first American to score eight major sportscar championships, breaking a tie he previously held with the late Peter Gregg. Rojas, meanwhile, became the first Mexican driver to win a major racing championship in the United States.
“I can not say enough about the entire Telmex team and the organisation that Chip and Felix have put together," Pruett said, "It was great having everyone here from Mexico to celebrate this special moment. We worked hard and had our highs and lows this season, so I just can't say enough about how great this feels.”
With six wins in 2008, including an unprecedented three-straight Rolex 24 at Daytona victories, the team added to the Ganassi operation's mantle of Rolex Series successes, including the 2004 title double, with Pruett and Max Papis at the wheel, and 2006 teams' championship, both of which were achieved with five wins in the year.
The sportscar crown also completes a successful season for the Ganassi camp, coming just a couple of weeks after Scott Dixon took its sixth open-wheel title by winning the IndyCar championship.
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