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22431With the unexpected 3-month break in the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Series schedule after <A HREF="">the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona</A>, our attention, quite frankly, wandered to a million other things after that achingly close loss for the Chip Ganassi Racing with Félix Sabatés Lexus team. Thus, this author was quite surprised to read in <A HREF="]Lexus Vehicles : Lexus Grand-Am Race Preview - Virginia International Raceway / Toyota">the official Toyota USA Pressroom Preview of the Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway</A> that "Lexus drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas find themselves in a familiar position...on top of the Rolex Sports Car Series driver standings. Despite finishing second at the season-opening Rolex 24, (they) hold the top rung of the point standings after the winning Porsche failed post-race inspection in Daytona." It took a search of the official Grand-Am racing site and its forums to discover the <A HREF="">2009 Grand-Am Infractions and Fines Violation List</A> that informed us of the $5,000, 5 Team Points, 5 Driver Points and 5 Manufacturer's Points penalty that the Daytona race-winning #58 Brumos Porsche had been hit with, for being 12 pounds underweight at the post-race inspection. As <A HREF="">a statement on the official Brumos Racing website</A> informs us, "In the final laps...the car was experiencing overheating and fluid loss. The loss of coolant, an oil leak as evidenced by heavy residue on the car’s rear and being on fuel reserve for more than a lap, accounts for a weight reduction in excess of 12 pounds. The # 59 car did not experience any of these problems". Thus, entering the VIR race, Pruett and Rojas (and Daytona co-driver Juan Pablo Montoya) have 32 points apiece, a 2-point advantage over David Donohue, Darren Law, J.C. France and João Barbosa, as well as similar 2-point advantages for the Chip Ganassi Racing with Félix Sabatés team over Brumos and for Lexus over Porsche.

Grand-Am racing's decision to cancel what would've been the second race of the season in Mexico City may well have turned out to be an unintentionally fortuitous decision, given the current H1N1 flu quasi-pandemic's origins south of the border. And the Lexus drivers certainly made good use of the unexpected down time. Scott Pruett tended to <A HREF="">the Syrah grapes in his vineyard</A>, while Memo Rojas continued to work towards being in the best shape of his life by competing in the first round of the Mexican Triathlon Championship, <A HREF="">the Maeva Manzanillo Triathlon on February 21</A>. Unfortunately, although he "never fainted and met the finish line", he was <A HREF="">disqualified</A> because during the cycling period the bike's chain got loose and damaged one of the spokes and the rim.

Memo's luck on four wheels with a steering wheel was far better than it was on two wheels with a handlebar, however, for he not only qualified the #01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Félix Sabatés Lexus Riley for pole position (the second of his career), but his time of 1:41.646 at 115.814 mph set a new track record. He was, needless to say, quite pleased. “The car rolled off the truck fast this morning. Everyone with the Ganassi team and Lexus has worked really hard since Daytona and it paid off today. Obviously, we have a great set-up here. The car is really well-balanced and it’s just a track that I seem to run well at. The team did an awesome job. It's going to be a good race tomorrow."

The race soon became less than awesome for the TELMEX Lexus when, around Lap 3, Rojas flat-spotted a tire. Entering the pits for a fresh tire on Lap 5 meant handed off the race lead to the #99 GAINSCO Pontiac/Riley driven by Jon Fogarty. On Lap 20, however, Memo Rojas and the #01 Lexus regained the lead.
For the briefest time, on Lap 37, the #10 SunTrust Racing Ford/Dallara driven by Max Angelelli overtook Rojas by less than a car length. On the next lap, Rojas took the lead back after left-front wheel contact with Angelelli's right rear. "I pulled to the inside going into Turn 1 and then he just came down on me a little bit - nothing major" is how Memo described the incident.

Soon after the race's 90-minute mark, on Lap 44, Rojas pulled into the pits and Scott Pruett got into the driver's seat. Unfortunately, one of the pit crew workers accidentally tripped on the fuel hose and dislodged it, which both cost the Ganassi Lexus a few extra seconds of time in the pits and left the car with a bit less fuel than ideal. Pruett emerged from the pits in sixth place but managed to work his way up to third place, within striking distance of second, and, as the race progressed, he and a couple of the leaders actually seemed to be hoping that a judiciously-placed full-course caution period would slow things down and allow the leaders to finish without running out of fuel. On Lap 75, their prayers were answered when the #2 Pontiac Crawford stopped on the side of the course. On Lap 79, as racing resumed with just 3 laps remaining, Scott Pruett was bumped by #58 Brumos Porsche/Riley driver David Donohue in Turn 1 as the two battled for third. As they tried to both gain control, #10 SunTrust Racing Ford/Dallara driver Max Angelelli tried to move from fifth to third. Angelelli ran into Pruett, and both drivers spun off the track. Eventually, both drivers made it back to racing under their own power. Pruett fell to 12th place, while Angelelli dropped to 13th place, as the #99 GAINSCO Pontiac/Riley of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty won the race ahead of #6 Michael Shank Racing Ford/Riley drivers Michael Valiante and John Pew. That 12th-place finish drops the Ganassi Lexus team and its drivers to fourth place in the overall points standings, nine points behind the #58 Brumos Porsche of David Donohue and Darren Law and eight points behind the #99 GAINSCO Pontiac/Riley of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty.

Post-Race Quotes:

Memo Rojas, #01 TELMEX Lexus: "We had an early problem with a flat-spot on one of our tires, but other than that everything ran smooth. The car was great and the Lexus engine was strong. There really wasn't a strategy in staying out, it was simply that we weren't slowing down and our tires weren't a problem. It's definitely hot out there, but it really wasn't a problem - and it's the same for everyone.

Scott Pruett, #01 TELMEX Lexus: "We overcome a tough break on the tire early and Memo ran a great race and the team did a great job in getting us back up front. We were conserving fuel for most of that last stint. We were in a good position in third, I don't really know if I had something for the leaders, but I would have liked to find out. Then we just got blatantly punted going into one on that re-start. I expected more out of (David) Donohue and more out of Grand-Am."

That was the tame, family-friendly and politically-correct quote, however, for the start of the following week's telecast of the third Grand-Am Rolex race in New Jersey showed Pruett angrily cursing out Donohue as he sheepishly sat in his car. We can only guess at the specific words in Pruett's heavily censored-for-TV, obscenity-laced tirade, but just looking at Pruett's face, no specific words were necessary and, frankly, we'd be just as furious as Scott was. To our knowledge, though, it was ruled unavoidable contact, and no penalties were heaped on the #58 Brumos team on top of the ones they got in Daytona. Has the #58 Brumos Porsche now displaced the #99 GAINSCO Pontiac as the TELMEX Lexus' most intense rival?

Our thanks to <A HREF="">the official Grand-Am racing website</A>, <A HREF="">SPEED TV</A> and John Procida for <A HREF="">Lexus/Toyota Motorsports</A> for this information.


3,611 Posts
I was at this event. I personaly think he could have taken at least second. The bump coming out of 1 on the restart was pretty deliberate looking from where we were standing at the exit of 2 (I think it's classified as Turn 2...)

I do remember these were with my phone as I'm a retard and forgot my camera...

I have 2 videos of about 5 of Rojas' laps but they are of horrible quality.
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