Experience is a key for the three teams battling for the 2009 Daytona Prototype championship in Saturday's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series finale at the Grand Prix of Miami, as the trio battling for top honours at Homestead-Miami Speedway have captured the past five team titles between them.
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty enter the finale with an eight-point lead over SunTrust Racing drivers Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle, with TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas another two points back ahead of the two-and-a-half hour event.
The Ganassi operation won the teams' championship in 2004, 2006 and 2008, and finished second in 2005 and 2007, with the #01 Lexus Riley, while SunTrust Racing won the 2005 title in addition to finishing second in 2004 and third in both 2006 and 2007. Current leaders GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, meanwhile, was the 2007 champion and finished second in 2008 with the #99 Pontiac Riley.
In addition, five of the six drivers battling for the crown shared in four of the past five titles. Pruett and Rojas won the 2008 title, while Pruett was the 2004 champ with Max Papis and was second in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Angelelli was the 2005 champion with Wayne Taylor, and was third in both 2006 and 2007, while Gurney and Fogarty were the 2007 champions and finished second last season. The lone newcomer to this year's title chase is Brian Frisselle, who joined Angelelli in the #10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara this season.
"The lead we have going into this finale gives us a little breathing room, but really not too much," Gurney admitted, "There are just too many variables and too much craziness goes on during a Grand-Am Rolex Series race to be overconfident of any kind of finish. We have no idea what the weather will be like, but we know it could be a factor as well. We've had a great year where we feel we've done so much as a team to maximise our package and it's definitely very exciting to be on the cusp of another championship."
There are a number of potential spoilers in the mix. Penske Racing is looking for its first victory for Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, who have been very competitive in the #12 Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley. Brumos Racing is looking for its best showing since winning the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, with David Donohue and Darren Law racing in the #58 Porsche Riley. Michael Shank Racing is looking to capture its third season finale in four years, with a pair of Ford Rileys entered for Oz Negri, Mark Patterson, John Pew and Michael Valiante.
Late entries include the #13 Beyer Racing Chevrolet Riley, with brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor driving together for the first time in a sprint race; Carlos de Queseda, Terry Borcheller and Tomas Enge in the #22 Gatorade BMW Riley; and the #95 Supercar Life Racing BMW Riley for IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay and SCCA national champion Scott Tucker.
The Acxiom GT title will also be decided in the finale, although all Leh Keen and Dirk Werner need is to run 30 minutes each in the #87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3 to eliminate defending champion Kelly Collins and the #07 Team Drinkin' Mate Pontiac GXP.R. Stevenson Motorsports also has an outside shot at the team championship, although the #57 BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R of Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis will be eliminated at the drop of the green flag.
Miami driver Jeff Segal, meanwhile, is looking for his second consecutive victory in the #69 FXDD Mazda RX-8, where he will be joined by Emil Assentato. That car is part of the two-car SpeedSource Mazda effort, with Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham in the #70 Castrol Syntec car.