Fontana: Round three preview
GRAND AM CUP
No. 10 SunTrust Team Goes For Three-In-A-Row and Piece of Rolex Series History at California Speedway
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 29, 2005) -- With more Daytona Prototypes on a race-to-race basis than at any time in the category's existence in Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series competition, it would seem to be more difficult than ever for one team to enjoy a winning streak.
Nevertheless, No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley co-drivers Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor are in precisely that position--having won the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona and Round 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway--and they lead a field of 22 Daytona Prototypes and 24 GT cars to California Speedway for Sunday's Grand American 400 (SPEED Channel, Live, 4 p.m. ET).
With the Miami victory, Angelelli and Taylor became just the second set of teammates in series history to win the first two races of a Rolex Series season, joining Didier Theys and Mauro Baldi who accomplished the feat in 2002. If Angelelli and Taylor win again this weekend, they will join Theys as the only Rolex Series drivers to open a season with victories in the first three races.
There are a host of teams, however, that could bring the SunTrust win streak to an abrupt end this weekend. While the SunTrust team has grabbed most of the headlines with their back-to-back wins, no driving duo in the Rolex Series is hotter heading to California than No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford co-drivers Butch Leitzinger and Elliott Forbes-Robinson with Howard-Boss Racing. Leitzinger and EFR have finished second in each of their past three races--including a second-place performance in the 2004 season finale at California Speedway--and have finished on the podium in five of their past six Rolex Series starts dating to a third-place run at Miami last September.
In fact, the Howard-Boss team in total has given SunTrust Racing all it can handle through the first two races of 2005, and the team brings a three-car assault this weekend. In addition to the No. 4 team that currently trails Angelelli and Taylor by just six points in the championship standings (70-64), the team is bringing both its No. 2 and No. 20 CITGO-sponsored Pontiac Crawfords. The CITGO machines will be shared among some combination of drivers Milka Duno, Andy Wallace and Californian Paul Edwards as the team looks to break through for its first win of the season.
The two-car Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team is another likely candidate for stopping the SunTrust juggernaut this weekend. Last year at California Speedway, the team clinched the 2004 Daytona Prototype title with a victory by co-drivers Scott Pruett and Max Papis and had a second car driven by IRL IndyCar stars Scott Dixon and Darren Manning finish third. This year, Pruett shares the No. 01 CompUSA Lexus Riley with Mexican Luis Diaz and California residents Stefan Johansson and Cort Wagner co-drive the team's No. 02 New Century Mortgage Lexus Riley. Both cars clearly rate among the favorites this weekend.
The California-based Krohn Racing/TRG team is another one to watch based on its early performances in 2005. In just the team's second Daytona Prototype race in Miami last month, Papis and Jorg Bergmeister finished third in the No. 66 Pontiac Riley, while team co-owner Tracy Krohn and Sweden's Nic Jonsson finished fourth. Krohn and Jonsson are back in the No. 67 Krohn Racing/TRG Pontiac Riley this weekend, while Bergmeister will share the No. 66 with Christian Fittipaldi, who won the 2000 Champ Car season finale on the California Speedway oval.
Fittipaldi moves to the No. 66 team after co-driving the No. 54 Kodak EasyShare Bell Motorsports Pontiac Doran with 2003 Daytona Prototype champion Terry Borcheller for the past six Rolex Series races dating to last season. Borcheller shares the No. 54 this weekend with Ralf Kelleners--who drove for the team in the season-opening Rolex 24--creating yet another strong combination with potential for victory this weekend.
Fresh from taking the pole position in Miami, Darren Law and co-driver David Donohue head to California looking to return the No. 58 Red Bull Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar to victory lane at California Speedway. In 2003, Donohue and then-co-driver Mike Borkowski drove the No. 58 to the victory in Fontana. The Brumos team has two chances for the win, as sports car legend Hurley Haywood and JC France will also be in the field in the No. 59 Porsche Fabcar.
After qualifying second to Law in Miami, Italian Rolex Series newcomers Fabrizio Gollin and Matteo Bobbi have also shown impressive speed early on in the No. 77 Crown Royal Special Reserve Lexus Doran for Doran Racing. Likewise, Michael McDowell and Memo Gidley have also shown flashes of brilliance in Rounds 1 and 2 with the first-year Ten Motorsports team. They will be joined this weekend by Canadian hotshoe Michael Valiante in the No. 19 BMW Riley.
Others to watch this weekend in the Daytona Prototype class include Shane Lewis and Darius Grala in the No. 3 BMW Riley for Southard Motorsports; Joe and Justin Pruskowski in the No. 5 Essex Racing Ford Crawford; Borkowski and Paul Mears Jr. in the No. 6 Mears Motor Coach Pontiac Riley for Michael Shank Racing; Burt and Brian Frisselle in the No. 8 Rx.com/Synergy Racing BMW Doran; Doug Goad and Stephan Gregoire in the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Racing Pontiac Crawford; Chris Bingham and Hugo Guenette, who will debut the No. 15 CB Motorsports Lexus Riley this weekend after fielding a Pontiac-powered Chase for the first two races; Dominic Cicero II, Chad McQueen and John Bender in the No. 25 Westernesse Racing Ford Crawford and Jim Matthews and Guy Smith in the No. 39 Orbit Racing Pontiac Riley.
A strong GT field is also expected this weekend. Leading the way are points leaders Andy Lally and Marc Bunting, who claimed the class victory at Miami last month in the No. 65 Auto Gallery/TRG Porsche GT3 Cup. Lally and Bunting--the 2004 Super Grand Sport (SGS) class champions--have shown a propensity for finishing on their class podium with 12 of 14 podiums dating to last year, making them favorites to do so again this weekend. Bunting and Lally lead a two-car Auto Gallery/TRG assault, as 16-year-olds Colin Braun and Brad Coleman are back for their third Rolex Series race in the No. 64 Team 16 Porsche.
The defending Rolex Series GT champion BMW Team PTG returns to California looking for its first win since taking the 2004 season finale in Fontana and brings a four-car attack. Californian Justin Marks and defending GT race winner Tom Milner will share the No. 16 F1 Air BMW M3, while RJ Valentine and Newport Beach's Kelly Collins--who co-drove to the victory with Milner last fall--share the No. 17 F1 Air M3.
Los Angelino Gene Sigal--who co-drove to the SGS class victory with Harrison Brix at California Speedway last year--is entered on both the No. 04 and No. 05 Sigalsport Porsche GT3 Cup machines, with Beverly Hills resident Nikolas Konstant entered as a co-driver on the No. 04 machine.
TPC Racing--which has had at least one car finish on its class podium in 14 consecutive races--has four chances at a podium and the class race victory this weekend. Proven race winners Randy Pobst and team owner Michael Levitas share the No. 36 Ajilon Consulting/TPC Superchargers Porsche GT3 Cup. The team has four drivers ranked in the top five in GT class points, as No. 35 co-drivers Emil Assentato and Nick Longhi are currently tied for third place, while No. 38 co-drivers Manuel Matos and Mike Fitzgerald are tied for fifth with Cory Friedman and Leh Keen. Friedman and Keen share the No. 14 Autometrics Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup.
Also featured on the GT entry list are Kris Szekeres and Jeremy Treadway in the No. 23 Horizon Motorsports Pontiac GTO, Rod Emory and Chris Ridgway in the No. 24 Emory Motorsports/BGB Porsche GT3 Cup.
Also on the docket this weekend are the Grand-Am Cup Series, Ferrari Historics and the Ferrari Challenge Series. In Grand-Am Cup, McDowell and team owner/driver Rob Finlay share the Grand Sport (GS) class points lead and the No. 60 Finlay Motorsports BMW M3, while No. 27 Bill Fenton Motorsports Acura RSX-S co-drivers Eric Curran and Bob Endicott lead the Sport Touring (ST) class (Chevrolet Cobalt Supercharged SS) point standings.
SPEED Channel will provide live television coverage of the Grand American 400 beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET, while tape-delayed coverage of the Grand-Am Cup 200 will air on SPEED at 12:00 Noon ET on Saturday, April 16.
WHAT: Grand American 400 Weekend
Rolex Sports Car Series -- Grand American 400 (Round 3 of 14)
Grand-Am Cup Series -- Grand-Am Cup 200 (GS Round 3 of 11/ST Round 2 of 10)
WHERE: California Speedway; Fontana, Calif. (2.8-mile, 21-turns)
WHEN: Friday - Sunday, April 1-3
Rolex Series Grand American 400 -- Sunday, April 3, 1 p.m. PT
Grand-Am Cup Series Grand-Am Cup 200 -- Saturday, April 2, 2:45 p.m. PT
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