LEXINGTON, OHIO (June 20, 2009) - Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas needed five races into the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 to win their first race of the season. They didn't have to wait long to post victory number two, driving to victory in Saturday's EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The defending Daytona Prototype champions dominated the latter half of Round 6, leading the final 35 laps in the No. 01 TELMEX Lexus Riley before Pruett held off Ricardo Zonta in a fight to the finish to win by .491 seconds.
Meanwhile, the Farnbacher Loles Racing team came back from a post-qualifying penalty in the Rolex Series GT class to see Leh Keen and Dirk Warner give the team its second consecutive victory, second straight triumph at Mid-Ohio and third win of 2009.
"My hat's off to Ricardo Zonta," Pruett said after scoring his 22nd Rolex Series victory, following up the team's triumph in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen. "We were both driving like it was qualifying. It was an unbelievable event. It was crazy, because we were trying to race as fast as we can, carving our way through traffic and trying not to hit anyone. It's a good thing we had a fast car that ran well all day long. But it was a real nail-biter at the end."
The winners had to come from a lap down. Rojas was penalized for improper fueling following a pit stop on the first lap, and then had to pit after contact with another car.
"We had a really quick car," Rojas said after his ninth career victory. "Fortunately, some good calls by the crew and some luck with cautions put us back on the lead lap, and Scott did a great job turning fast laps in traffic to get the win."
A turning point came when Pruett anticipated a full course caution when he saw the No. 2 Childress Howard Motorsports Pontiac Crawford stranded near pit entrance, and quickly pitted before the third of four full course cautions. Pruett then inherited the lead when leaders Max Angelelli and Burt Frisselle pitted, and held it the rest of the way.
Zonta took second in the No. 76 Krohn Aviation Ford Lola started by Nic Jönsson, giving the team its second podium finish of the season. The team won last month's race at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, seeking their third consecutive Mid-Ohio victory in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley, placed third. Pruett and Rojas took sole possession of the Daytona Prototype point lead, 11 points ahead of Gurney and Fogarty (175-164). No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara drivers Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle entered the event with a share of the lead, but are now third, 12 points behind.
Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas placed fourth in the Penske Racing No. 12 Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley, and are now fourth in the points, 13 points behind.
Joao Barbosa finished fifth in the No. 59 Brumos Porsche Riley started by JC France, followed by John Pew and Michael Valiante in the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley. Seventh-place finisher Mark Wilkins led 24 laps in the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley, while Angelelli led 27 circuits en route to seventh place. Also leading the race was Darren Law, who paced 13 laps in the 10th-place No. 58 Brumos Porsche Riley co-driven by David Donohue.
While the race was accident-free, it was slowed four times for 17 laps under caution.
Keen, Werner Last to First to Win Third GT Race, Extend Lead
Starting last in the Acxiom GT class after a post-qualifying inspection nullified Leh Keen's apparent pole-winning run, Keen and co-driver Dirk Werner came back to lead 45 laps to capture their third victory of the season in the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3.
Keen led two laps at the end of his run before turning the car over to Werner, the 2007 GT champion. Werner then paced the final 43 circuits. It was the fifth victory for Keen and fourth for Werner. Keen won the 2008 race at Mid-Ohio for Farnbacher Loles with Eric Lux. It was also the second consecutive victory for Keen and Werner, and third in the last four races.
Werner won by 2.839 seconds over Robin Liddell, who drove the No. 57 BryanMark Financial/Stevenson Automotive Pontiac GXP.R started by Andrew Davis, who led 11 laps early in the event. A similar Pontiac also finished third, with defending series champions Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins debuting Drinkin' Mate sponsorship on the No. 07 Pontiac.
"The end of the race was pretty easy for me, because Lehman did a real good job taking the car up to the front," Werner said. "That helped me in my stint. The only thing I had to do was take care of traffic. The car was so good, it wasn't too hard for me to stay up front, because the guys behind me were fighting so hard."
Tom Sutherland and Dane Cameron finished fourth in the No. 30 3Dimensional.com Mazda RX-8, with the drivers combining to lead a race-high 47 circuits. Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato took fifth in SpeedSource's No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8, while Patrick Dempsey placed a career-high sixth in the Dempsey Racing No. 40 El Grado Tequila Mazda RX-8 he shared with Joe Foster.
Dominik Farnbacher fell from second to seventh in the closing laps after cutting a tire after contact with a Daytona Prototype in the No. 86 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3 started from the pole by Lux.
Nick Ham led three circuits in the No. 70 SpeedSource/Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8 co-driven by Sylvain Tremblay, but mechanical problems dropped the team to an 11th-place finish.
The next action for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series will be the July 4 Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway, Round 7 of the 12-race season. The KONI Challenge ST cars take the track for their race today at 1:30 p.m. Also racing on the final day of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course’s opening weekend are the clean diesel machines of the VW Jetta TDI Cup. They take the track at 10:45 a.m.
A comprehensive motorsports facility, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course features a permanent road-racing circuit with two primary configurations: a 2.4-mile, 15-turn, and a 2.25-mile, 13-turn circuit. The park-like, 330-acre complex in Lexington, Ohio also features an amateur motocross venue. Located 60 miles north of Columbus and 75 miles south of Cleveland near Mansfield, the track has been called the most competitive in the U.S. and annually hosts a diversity of locally, regionally and nationally sanctioned racing events for amateur, club and professional drivers and riders. Tickets are available online at www.midohio.com or by phone 1-800-MID-OHIO.