Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz kept their Grand-Am Rolex Series title hopes alive with victory in the Sonoma 250 at Infineon Raceway on Saturday, the #01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing pair also tying a record for the number of victories in a single season.

It is testament to the sort of form and fortune the Ganassi crew has enjoyed this season to realise that, despite taking five race wins, it remains an outsider for the Daytona Prototype crown. Victory at Infineon, coupled with a ninth-place finish for erstwhile points leader Jorg Bergmeister and co-driver Nic Jonsson, has moved Diaz and Pruett to within 19 points of the German heading to the season-ending Discount Tire Sunchaser at Miller Motorsports Park while, in the team standings, the #01 machine has moved to the top of the table, albeit with a slim, four-point lead over the #10 SunTrust Riley-Pontiac.

Californian resident Pruett took control of the #01 during a lap 22 caution and charged to the front from 15th place, eventually inheriting the lead on under green flag pit-stops on lap 74. Although the car was forced back down pit-road late on for a splash of fuel, the Ganassi crew made quick work of the stop, sending Pruett out just ahead of Andy Wallace's #4 Boss Snowplow Crawford-Pontiac, and he held off the Englishman to score a popular victory.

The 'splash and dash' hadn't been the only concern faced by the #01 crew, as Diaz survived an early race incident when Tracy Krohn's #75 Riley-Ford dove to the inside of turn seven, sending both machines spinning. Diaz recovered and turned the car over to Pruett during the subsequent full-course caution, allowing his team-mate to begin the fightback that eventually led to victory.

"It was a very hard stint for me," Diaz admitted later, "We got hit from behind and had to come back from that, but this team is the best in the world, and Scott is the best team-mate I could ask for. Everyone on this did a great job the whole day and this is a great win."

The victory tied the record set by defending Daytona Prototype champions Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor last season, and also marked the twelfth victory of Pruett's Rolex Series career, tying him with Wallace's co-driver, Butch Leitzinger, for second-most of all-time. The victory also secured another manufacturers' title for Riley, which can no longer be caught by Crawford.

"We got put behind a little bit early on in the race," Pruett confirmed, "but we dug deep to pull a strategy that would give us the best chance to win, and the guys did a great job on the pit-stop, sending me out there in front. It feels great to get this win in front of the home crowd - there's nothing like winning on your home court. All these things together make this sweet."

Leitzinger and Wallace earned the best result of the season for the Howard-Boss Motorsports team, improving on their previous best of fourth from both Mexico City and Long Beach.

"It's about time," Leitzinger smiled, "The start of the race was great. There was a train of about six or seven cars running nose-to-tail but, on almost one lap, three of the cars had problems, which sent us closer to the front with nothing I did. The crew did a great pit-stop and put us out ahead of the #10 car. Andy just drove the wheels off of it and it was very exciting to watch."

The #12 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Riley-Pontiac of Adrian Fernandez and Mario Haberfeld finished third, their best finish since taking victory in June's EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio. Haberfeld qualified the machine sixth, but handed control to owner/driver Fernandez during the race's first caution period.

"It's just great to finish races," the Mexican said, "This shows us that, if we can finish races, we can get podiums. There was a very fast pace out there today and everybody was very strong, but I was getting stronger and stronger during my stint. The Ganassi strategy was very good, and a little bit of traffic caught us out so we weren't able to catch him."

Angelelli and co-driver Jan Magnussen started from pole and led a race-high 60 laps, but had to settle for fourth place in the #10 entry. The Italian's ninth-straight top four finish keeps his hopes of defending the championship alive, as he heads into next weekend's nine-hour finale only four points behind Pruett and Diaz and 23 adrift of Bergmeister.

Only those four drivers are still mathematically eligible to win the 2006 crown, although Bergmeister's advantage took a hit when his #76 Krohn Racing Riley-Ford was forced to give up a front row grid slot and start from pit-road due to an engine change after the morning warm-up.

Although he and temporary team-mate Jonsson battled through to ninth, Bergmeister served a stop-go penalty after he hit Guy Cosmo's #19 Playboy/Uniden Ford Crawford and was also hit with an additional 30 seconds penalty for 'avoidable contact and dangerous re-entry'.

Patrick Long escaped injury when he pulled out from his pit-stop with the fuel hose still connected. A blaze ensued which was quickly extinguished.

With several frontrunners hampered, Ryan Dalziel and Alex Figge rounded out the top five in the #89 Pacific Coast Riley-Pontiac, securing the best finish for the machine in seven races.

Christian Fittipaldi took the chequered flag in sixth position overall, but was penalised 30y seconds after the race for 'avoidable contact' with Michael Valiante. This dropped the Cheever Racing pairing of Fittipaldi and Hoover Orsi to twelfth overall, and Valiante and co-driver Rob Finlay moved into sixth position.

Patrick Carpentier ran as high as third overall in his first ride with the CITGO Racing by SAMAX team, before the driver change with Milka Duno. They finished seventh.

Wolf Henzler and Robin Liddell scored their third GT class victory of the season ensuring that they head into next weekend's finale just eight points behind standings leaders Andy Lally and Marc Bunting.

Liddell started from the class pole and led throughout his opening stint, handing the #72 NEC Porsche to Henzler during the same lap 22 caution that saw Pruett assume control of the winning prototype. The Scot, however, climbed back into the cockpit for the finish, inheriting the lead again on lap 83 when Lally had to pit the #65 TRG Pontiac GTO.R for fuel. Liddell then held off a late charge from the American after a final full-course caution to score the third victory of the year for the Tafel Racing Porsche.

"I didn't really make a fantastic start, but I was able to make the correct line on the first turn," Liddell revealed later, "However, after two laps, my lead was completely gone with a little bit of understeer. The track was extremely difficult to manage today - it's very twisty and, on the straights, there was really only one good line. The Daytona Prototypes did a great job today, and I was able to avoid any issues."

Liddell and Henzler have now swept the GT races in California this season, also winning at Laguna Seca in May., and head into the final race of the year within shouting distance of the championship leaders.

"It's a great win for us," Henzler noted, "The team has worked really hard to come back in this race. Everything was pretty perfect today and now we're back in the championship race. It was a good finish for the points and it will be a good fight for the championship at Miller."

The runners-up finish for Lally and Bunting was the tenth podium of the finish for the locally-based TRG team, but any hope of victory disappeared when Lally, having led twelve laps late on, had to pit for fuel.

"Marc did a good job to have a really uneventful stint," the American reported, "He turned the car over to me in excellent shape and towards the front of the field, but traffic was really tough today - the DP cars were all over and some of the GT guys were not too polite. However, we steered clear of all of the mayhem and came home second, although I really didn't have anything for the #72 car at the end because we got a loose. Utah is going to be exciting!"

David Murry and Leh Keen finished third in the #80 Shoes For Crews Porsche, the best finish for the duo since round two in Mexico City. Burt Frisselle and Tommy Kendall finished fourth in the #98 Ironclad/Pacific Coast Pontiac GTO.R, followed by Eric Lux and Ian James' #74 Rembrandt Charms Porsche.