Homestead: Round three preview
Ganassi Team Looking to Stay Hot as Rolex Series Heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 21, 2006) -- After missing out on a second-consecutive Daytona Prototype title last year, the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates ...
Ganassi Team Looking to Stay Hot as Rolex Series Heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 21, 2006) -- After missing out on a second-consecutive Daytona Prototype title last year, the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team came out with both guns blazing in 2006 and is looking to continue its hot streak this weekend as the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve visits Homestead-Miami Speedway for Saturday's Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami (SPEED, 8 p.m. ET).
The vaunted Ganassi operation--which owns championships in IndyCar and Champ Car competition in addition to its 2004 Daytona Prototype title and numerous victories in IndyCar, Champ Car and NASCAR racing--opened the 2006 campaign by adding another jewel to its crown with a victory in the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona with No. 02 Target Lexus Riley drivers Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon and Casey Mears.
While the team's No. 01 CompUSA Lexus Riley did not finish the Rolex 24 owing to a mechanical problem, co-drivers Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz returned to victory lane in a dominating performance in the Mexico City 250. The Mexico triumph moved Pruett and Diaz to within 12 points of Daytona Prototype co-leaders Jorg Bergmeister and Colin Braun, who share the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley. The No. 01 co-drivers are looking to continue the Ganassi win streak and their ascension in the championship standings this weekend.
Between the Ganassi teammates and the points leaders, however, are two other sets of teammates that are also hungry to pull into victory lane on Saturday evening. Harrison Brix and 2003 Daytona Prototype champion Terry Borcheller, who co-drive the No. 77 Kodak/Amp'd Mobile/Sirius Ford Doran for Feeds The Need/Doran Racing, are just eight points out of the championship lead (58-50). A victory this weekend would be a first for Brix and would also return Borcheller to the top step of the podium for the first time since an overall victory in the 2004 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
No. 19 Playboy/Uniden/Palms Ford Crawford co-drivers Memo Gidley and Michael McDowell are also well within striking distance. The Playboy/Uniden Racing teammates trail Brix and Borcheller by a scant two points and 10 points out of the championship lead. McDowell and Gidley know what it takes to win, as evidenced by their performance in the 2005 season finale at Mexico City, and an early victory in 2006 would go a long way toward a championship bid.
Defending Daytona Prototype co-champions Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli must also rank among the favorites in the Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami. The No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley teammates claimed their second of a series-leading five victories at Homestead-Miami Speedway last year, and are looking to get their season back on track after a DNF in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and a ninth-place performance in the Mexico City 250. Joining Taylor and Angelelli on the No. 10 entry is past Rolex Series Daytona Prototype and GT race-winner Jan Magnussen.
Howard-Boss Motorsports has a history of strong performances at Homestead-Miami Speedway, with two victories and a second-place result from the previous three Rolex Series events at the venue. That said, look for a strong performance by No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford co-drivers Butch Leitzinger and Andy Wallace, as well as Chris Dyson and Guy Smith in the team's No. 16 Thetford/Norcold Pontiac Crawford.
If the team's performance in the Rolex 24 At Daytona is any indication, one cannot overlook Mike Rockenfeller and Patrick Long in the No. 23 Alex Job Racing/Emory Motorsports Porsche Crawford. Rockenfeller and Long teamed up with Lucas Luhr in the Rolex 24 and was one of the fastest cars on track throughout the twice-around-the-clock classic. If the team can avoid mechanical troubles in South Florida, Long and Rockenfeller will factor in the outcome on Saturday night.
While Rockenfeller and Long are carrying the flag for the No. 23 team, Luhr is part of another powerhouse Porsche Crawford lineup. Luhr is listed as a third driver on the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve/Cheever Racing Porsche Crawford alongside 1998 Indy 500 winner and team owner Eddie Cheever Jr. and South Florida-resident Christian Fittipaldi. This is another strong combination, and the possibility exists that the No. 39 and No. 23 machines could play starring roles at Homestead.
Michael Shank Racing has opened the year with back-to-back podium finishes, and either one of the team's two cars are candidates for the victory as well. Co-driving the No. 6 Graydon Elliott Fusion Racing with MSR Lexus Riley are Canadian Kenny Wilden and Miami Beach's Mike Borkowski, with Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri Jr. sharing the No. 60 Flight Options Lexus Riley.
There are plenty of other fast combinations on the deepest Daytona Prototype entry list the Rolex Series has seen at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Synergy Racing's No. 8 GlycoMax Porsche Doran with co-drivers Burt and Brian Frisselle started from the front row in the Mexico City 250, while Milka Duno is a two-time winner at Homestead-Miami Speedway and shares the No. 11 CITGO Racing by SAMAX Pontiac Riley with Scotland's Marino Franchitti.
Mexico's Adrian Fernandez and Brazilian Mario Haberfeld have shown the ability to run up front already in their new No. 12 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Pontiac Riley, as have 2005 Homestead polesitter Darren Law and David Donohue in the No. 58 Red Bull Porsche Fabcar for Brumos Racing. No. 75 Krohn Racing Ford Riley co-drivers Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonsson already have one Rolex Series race victory under their belts, while Alex Figge and Ryan Dalziel certainly have what it takes to pull the No. 89 Playboy/Vonage Pontiac Riley into victory circle as well.
The Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami will also see the return of some familiar faces to Rolex Series competition. Jimmy Vasser, the 1996 Champ Car champion, has been entered alongside co-drivers Alex Gurney and Bob Stallings in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley. Vasser last drove with Stallings and Gurney in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and also has a long history at Homestead-Miami Speedway, albeit on the oval in a Champ Car.
Popular Brazilian racer Roberto Moreno also returns in a substitute role, as he will be filling-in for the suspended J.C. France alongside sports car legend Hurley Haywood in the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar. France and Chris Bingham were suspended from this weekend's event following their physical altercation in the Mexico City 250. Both drivers were also placed on probation for the remainder of the 2006 season and Bingham was fined $2,000 for instigating the altercation. Taking Bingham's spot alongside co-driver Randy Ruhlman in the No. 40 Preformed Line Products/Coyote Pontiac Riley for Derhaag Motorsports will be Justin Bell, who also raced with the team in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Completing the 28-car entry at Homestead-Miami Speedway will be Shane Lewis and John Pew in the No. 3 TrueChoice Motorsports/Southard Motorsports BMW Riley, Rob Finlay and Michael McDowell in the No. 5 Make A Wish/Z-Line Designs/Finlay Motorsports Ford Crawford for Essex Racing, Brian Tuttle and Jonathan Cochet in the No. 7 Tuttle Team Racing BMW Riley, Doug Goad and Larry Oberto sharing the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Racing with Bobby Labonte Pontiac Crawford, Tim Hubman and Alex Ciompi in the No. 33 ML Lifestyles/ETA BMW Picchio for ADi Motorsports, Rob and Charles Morgan in the No. 47 Querencia Golf Club/TruSpeed Motorcars/Wright Motorsports Porsche Riley, Paul Gentilozzi and Tomy Drissi in the No. 50 Nacho Libre The Movie Ford Crawford for Rocketsports Racing and Tony Ave and Skip Cummins co-driving the No. 97 CyberSpeed Racing Pontiac Riley.
The GT field is equally strong, with 21 cars set to do battle on the 2.3-mile, 11-turn Homestead-Miami Speedway road circuit. Marc Bunting and Andy Lally return as the race's defending champions, and will share the No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R with RJ Valentine. If the No. 65 trio is to find their way to victory lane, however, they will have to top their teammates in the No. 64 TRG Pontiac GTO.R, Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards, who earned the GT class victory in the Mexico City 250.
Also among the GT front runners are Rolex 24 At Daytona class winners Michael Levitas and Randy Pobst in the No. 36 Turbo Performance Center Porsche GT3, and their TPC Racing teammate, Spencer Pumpelly with an as-yet-unnamed co-driver in the team's No. 35 Porsche. Other strong Porsches include the No. 80 Shoes For Crews/Synergy Racing machine of David Murry and Leh Keen, the No. 81 Synergy Racing Porsche GT3 of Steve and Danny Marshall, and Tafel Racing's three-car stable.
Robin Liddell and Wolf Henzler lead the Tafel brigade in the No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3, with team owner Jim Tafel and co-driver Andrew Davis in the No. 73 NEC machine and Eric Lux and Charles Espenlaub co-driving the team's No. 74 Rembrandt Charms Porsche GT3. The South Florida-based SAMAX team will also bring a pair of Porsche GT3s, with Greg Wilkins and Dave Lacey sharing the No. 71 Minestar Solutions/Tim Hortons/SAMAX machine and Robert Bell and John Dalziel in the team's No. 17 entry.
Emil Assentato and Nick Longhi will co-drive the No. 22 Hazardous Sports/FXDO/Denon Porsche GT3 for Fiorano Racing, while Steve Johnson and Robert Nearn round out the Porsche contingent in the No. 66 Comfort Systems USA/Johnson Commercial Development GT3.
Sigalsport BMW will field a pair of BMW M3s, with two-time Rolex Series GT champion Bill Auberlen and Matt Alhadeff set to share the team's No. 05 Alhadeff Motorsports/Motul/GRW.com.mx/enVista machine. Team owner Gene Sigal and co-driver Peter MacLeod will share the No. 04 Motul/GRW.com.mx/enVista/OMP BMW M3.
The Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami will also feature a pair of South Florida-based Mazda RX-8s. Sunrise-based SpeedSource will field the No. 70 Mazdaspeed Motorsports/Mazda USA RX-8 for Grand-Am Cup Series champions Sylvain Tremblay and David Haskell, while the Miami-based Goldin Brothers Racing will see Steve and Keith Goldin in the No. 08 CCM Cellular RX-8.
Zach Arnold and Johnny Miller will co-drive the No. 55 ASCmotorsports.com/Rubb'n Repair/Arnold Machine Inc. Corvette for ASC Motorsports, while Tommy Riggins, Vic Rice and John Stevenson will share the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Corvette. The No. 06 Banner Racing Corvette and the No. 21 Matt Connolly Motorsports BMW M3 have also been entered, although drivers have not yet been named.
The Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami, Round 3 of the 14-race 2006 Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve, will take the green flag at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 25. SPEED Channel will provide tape-delayed coverage beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET. Live coverage via webcasts in English and Spanish, as well as Live Timing & Scoring data, is available on the official web site of the Grand American Road Racing Association, www.grandamerican.com.
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