Coming off a very successful event at Virginia International Raceway, the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series races for the second straight week when it visits New Jersey Motorsports Park for the Verizon Wireless 250.
Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson teamed up to win the inaugural race on the 2.25-mile Thunderbolt Raceway last August, and return in the #60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley looking to repeat. Team-mates Michael Valiante and John Pew might have something to say about the victory bid, however, having finished second in last weekend's Bosch Engineering 250, when Valiante took the chequered flag 0.705secs behind Alex Gurney, who triumphed in front of a record Virginia International Raceway crowd.
"It will be great to go back to New Jersey, not only because I won last year's race, but because I really enjoyed the layout," Negri said, "It's got a great mix of high-speed corners and is very technical. They've done some work to it, and it will be even more of a pleasure to go back and race there."
Over the winter, the facility worked on kerbing and run-off areas, in addition to planting extra grass to alleviate problems with dust. Improved spectator amenities include the doubling of grandstand seating.
"They've done a lot of work," admitted David Donohue, who won the 2009 season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, "They've had a challenge because we were there late last summer and now we're back in early spring with the schedule change. But they've done the best they can in the given time frame."
Donohue and #58 Brumos co-driver Darren Law lead the Daytona Prototype standings with 60 points heading to New Jersey, but are only one ahead of Gurney and Jon Fogarty after the 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Porsche Riley triumphed in round two. JC France and Joao Barbosa, in the second Brumos Porsche Riley, are third overall and further six points adrift, followed by defending DP champions Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas.
The GT class enters the Verizon Wireless 250 with a two-way tie between Pontiac GXP.R teams in the standings. Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell, winners of the Bosch Engineering 250, are tied with defending GT champions Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards, all with 60 points.
TRG is the defending GT winner at Thunderbolt Raceway, but 2008 winners Andy Lally and Tim George Jr will be driving in separate Porsche GT3s this weekend. Lally, winner of the 2009 Rolex 24, will share the #67 with Justin Marks, while George, now a regular in the ARCA RE/MAX Series, returns to co-drive the #68 with New Jersey Motorsports Park principal RJ Valentine. TRG also fields the #66 Porsche GT3 for Rolex 24 runners-up Spencer Pumpelly and Ted Ballou, who are third in the standings, three points out of the lead.
The GT field also features Mazda RX-8s for SpeedSource, Racers Edge and Dempsey Racing, where owner/driver/actor Patrick Dempsey is scheduled to return to the # 40 Mazda with Joe Foster.
"New Jersey was special for me," Dempsey said, "It was the first race that I led, so I like that track a lot and it will be fun to go back there. There's always a good crowd there. It's nice to see a track that's that close to Philadelphia and New York."