Grand AM » 14 May 2006
Pruett, Diaz take point lead in Phoenix.
Like the bird after which the host city was named, the #01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing crew of Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz rose back to the top of the Grand-Am Rolex Series standings with victory under the lights at the GAINSCO Grand Prix.
Pruett claimed the lead on lap 95 in Phoenix, as Max Angelelli - who had won the race off pit-road as all the leaders pitted on the previous lap - was forced to return to the pits after the right front wheel on the #10 SunTrust Racing entry was found not to be properly attached. The #01 machine was not seriously challenged from that point onward, and Pruett went on to record a 9.026secs victory over Ryan Dalziel's #89 Playboy/Vonage/Palms Casino entry run by Pacific Coast Motorsport.
It was a Rolex Series-record tenth career Daytona Prototype victory for Pruett, and helped to elevate the American and co-driver Diaz back to the top of the points, ahead of Krohn Racing's Jorg Bergmeister Playboy/Uniden Racing's Michael McDowell.
"Luis and the whole CompUSA team did a great job this weekend," Pruett said, "The competition was tough, and the track was challenging, but I would like to thank Grand-Am for making the early decision to split the two classes for restarts. I believe this helped increase the level of racing throughout the race and lowered the numbers of yellows."
Pruett and Diaz added the Phoenix win to success in the Mexico City 250 and the Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach, winning three of the seven events to date as the season reaches its halfway point.
"I was able to make clean passes and keep the car out of trouble early on," Diaz said, "The CompUSA guys did a great job keeping the car running really good all day. Even though it's still relatively early in the season, the championship is always on my mind, and it's awesome to get a win to put us back in the lead."
Despite mechanical problems midway through the race, Dalziel managed to work his way forward in the closing stages. He was running fourth with eleven laps remaining, when second-placed Adrian Fernandez and third-placed McDowell made contact and slid off course. That opened the door for Dalziel to take over second and score career-best Rolex Series results for himself and co-driver Alex Figge.
"When Alex handed the car over to me, it was running great," the Scot said, "We hit a little bit of bad luck in the middle of the race, when we lost a cylinder, and there were so many things that went against us during the race, but we've been fast out there pretty much all season, so this is the finish that the team deserves."
Shane Lewis and Craig Stanton matched the best-ever result for the #3 Southard Motorsports Riley-BMW with a third-place performance, with Stanton earning his best overall result in Rolex Series competition since 2003. The pairing also won the SunTrust Improve Your Position Award for their charge from 13th on the grid.
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