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23371The long Lexus Grand-Am drought that started after <A HREF="">the 2008 Montréal race</A>, got even worse with Scott Pruett's horrific crash in <A HREF="">the 2008 New Jersey event</A> and carried over into 2009 finally ended with a victory at the <A HREF="">Sahlen's 6 Hours of the Glen</A> in New York this past June 6th. The Chip Ganassi Racing with Félix Sabatés team with their #01 TELMEX Lexus/Riley Rolex Series Daytona Prototype racer were certainly hoping that the newfound momentum would carry over into another victory at the sixth event of the 2009 season, the EMCO Gears Classic, at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington on Saturday 20 June, which kicked off at 5 PM. But would Lady Luck smile on the Lexus team a second time?

As he did in the previous Watkins Glen race, former Lexus Grand-Am driver Shane Lewis takes us on two laps of the Mid-Ohio track via <A HREF="">YouTube video.</A> After becoming one of three drivers to go off-course at Turn 5 during the Friday practice session, Memo Rojas recovered and qualified second, behind Jon Fogarty in the #99 GAINSCO Pontiac/Riley. No sooner had the green flag flown that a full-course yellow was unfurled as Mark Patterson in the #60 Westfield Insurance Ford Riley went off course at Turn 10. The timing of the yellow flag combined with the unique staggered start/finish line at the Mid-Ohio track conspired to give Memo Rojas and the #01 Telmex Lexus (as well as Brad Jaeger in the #77 McDonald's Ford/Dallara) stop-and-go plus 10-second penalties for fueling under caution before one green flag lap was completed. The penalty put both cars one lap down. Naturally, Ganassi crew chief Kent Holden was livid, but, ultimately, the penalty was served without the drama that surrounded <A HREF="">the 2007 Grand-Am finale in Utah</A>.

On Lap 22, brief side-by-side contact between Memo Rojas and J.C. France in the #59 Brumos Porsche/Riley resulted in an unexpected early pit stop for the #01 Lexus to change a flat tire. The race was unremarkable until Lap 65, when Scott Pruett (now at the helm of the #01 Telmex Lexus) anticipated a full course caution when he saw the #2 Gentleman Jack's 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. Now it was the SunTrust team's turn to be angry at an official's call, since, at that point, the SunTrust and Telmex drivers were tied for the lead in the Driver Point Standings, and Angelelli returned to the race mid-pack. Scott Pruett held on to the lead he acquired on Lap 67 to beat Ricardo Zonta in the #76 Krohn Aviation Ford/Lola by 0.491 seconds.

With the Grand-Am Rolex Series now at its mid-point (6 out of 12 races), Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas are now the sole holders of the Driver Standings lead, with 175 points (11 points ahead of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty) and Chip Ganassi Racing with Félix Sabatés holds a similar 175 to 164 lead over GAINSCO/ Bob Stallings Racing in the Team Standings. On the other hand, the Engine Standings lead is held by Ford, with a 14-point lead over Lexus (189 to 175).

Post-Race Quotes:

23372Scott Pruett, #01 TELMEX Lexus: "Luck shined on us today, because it started off dismal. We're reviewing the call at the start with Grand-Am. Pit strategy worked out great. We got lucky, and we had a good car. It was terrific, and you have to take advantage of it when you can. We've had terrible luck since Barber last year, and had some tough luck early this year. The track never really got comfortable. Every lap, you had a few catches with the car. It was downright scary the first couple of turns after a restart, it was almost like you were on glass. My hat's off to Ricardo Zonta. 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."

To read more from Scott Pruett, see his first article for the official Grand-Am racing blogs, <A HREF="">Lady Luck Shined on Us</A>.

Memo Rojas, #01 TELMEX Lexus: "We had a really quick car. Fortunately, some good calls by the crew and some luck with cautions put us back on the same lap, and Scott did a great job turning fast laps in traffic to get the win. I'm surprised we're sitting in the middle because the first half of our race was not what we expected. We got an early penalty. Later on we were going through the field pretty quickly - we had a good car at that point of the race - but I had contact with the 58 and got a flat tire, which put us a lap down."

For the seventh event of the Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype season, the teams return to Daytona International Speedway for their "short" event, the Brumos Porsche 250 on Saturday the 4th of July. This will be televised on SPEED TV live starting at 2 PM Eastern Time.

Our thanks to <A HREF="">the official Grand-Am racing website</A> for this information.


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