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23505The Brumos Porsche 250 short race at Daytona International Speedway at Daytona Beach, Florida on Saturday the 4th of July, 2009 was unique on several counts. Traditionally run as an evening or even night race (actually starting at midnight for a number of years), for 2009 it started at 2 PM, thus making it an uncomfortably hot scorcher akin to the Barber Motorsports Park race in Birmingham, Alabama. Yet another notable change is that, for the first time in several years, the Chip Ganassi Racing with Félix Sabatés team would be fielding a second car in an event other than the long season-opening 24 Hours of Daytona. As noted in <A HREF="http://my.is/forums/f47/unexpected-rebirth-02-grand-am-ganassi-lexus-391834/">a previous my.IS Front Page story</A>, the #02 Lexus/Riley, now sponsored by Waste Management and driven by NASCAR drivers Kyle Busch and Scott Speed, would, for the short Daytona event join the #01 Telmex Lexus/Riley driven by Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas.

Kyle Busch and Scott Speed would certainly be quite busy this weekend, for both were slated to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup's Coke Zero 400 at 8 p.m., barely 3½ hours after the Rolex Series Daytona Prototype race's end. In addition, Kyle Busch had also competed in Friday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona, where he managed to overcome a 19th place start in his #18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota Camry to finish in second place. As Scott Speed so aptly described what awaited him and Kurt Busch, "It's going to be interesting having the two different races on the same day, and it's going to be a big challenge for both of us coming from a car that has a lot of grip and doing a lot of turning to going to the stock car, where we'll be keeping it flat out and drafting all night. Hopefully, we will be good enough to challenge for the win. At the end of the day, that's what we're going there to do." For more on Scott Speed's impressions, check out <A HREF="http://www.grand-am.com/multimedia/video_pop.cfm?mid=477">a video interview on the official Grand-Am website</A>. It's interesting to note, however, that, during the actual SPEED TV race telecast, it was commented that the Ganassi/Sabatés team actually made their initial driving offer for the #02 Lexus to Juan Pablo Montoya, but that he politely declined.

As has become customary for them, Grand-Am Racing has posted <A HREF="http://www.grand-am.com/multimedia/video_pop.cfm?mid=484">a video lap or two of the racetrack</A> with former Lexus driver Shane Lewis at the wheel. As to qualifying, Memo Rojas in the #01 Telmex Lexus flat-spotted one tire on his third lap. Fortunately, no one beat his time on that lap of 1:42.477 (125.062 mph), and thus, again, the Lexus was on pole position to start the race. This was the #01's fourth pole of the 2009 season, and Rojas' third this year. As to the #02 Waste Management Lexus, Kyle Busch qualified 11th in his first time behind the wheel of a sports car.

Memo Rojas held on to the lead from his pole position start, but, on Lap 2, Kyle Busch in the #02 Lexus overshot the Chicance, forcing him to abruptly stop and wait to return to the track. This abrupt stop brought on the Lexus teams' second flat-spotted tire, and an unexpected early pit stop to change it. Could this, the SPEED TV commentators mused, actually turn out to be a strategic advantage in the long term? On Lap 11, debris in Turn 4 brought out the first of two full course cautions in the race and, on the following lap, Memo Rojas surrendered his lead to Ricky Taylor in the #13 Beyer Racing Chevrolet/Riley. On Lap 14, the green flag signaled the restart of racing, and, 2 laps later, Kyle Busch in the #02 Lexus was in fourth place. On the following lap, though, he let the charging Memo Rojas by, since the #02 Lexus and its drivers are not in contention for the Grand-Am title. Yes, unlike Formula 1, there's no histrionics or drama here about team orders, and this was, in fact, the first of two times during the race that the #02 Waste Management Lexus let his #01 Telmex teammates by.

Lap 23 saw Memo Rojas retake the lead from Ricky Taylor, but, around Laps 25-26, sharp braking by Rojas in the #01 Lexus led to the team's third bout with a flat-spotted tire (the front right), and, as he nursed it carefully, Jon Fogarty in the #99 GAINSCO Pontiac/Riley took the overall lead Lap 30. Finally, on Lap 34, a dejected Rojas entered the pits for a fresh tire and to allow teammate Scott Pruett to take the wheel. With Pruett rejoining the race in 13th place, neither Lexus would go on to seriously contend for the podium, and, in a strong case of déjà vu, the finish saw the #99 GAINSCO Pontiac/Riley with Alex Gurney at the wheel lose yet again on the last lap on the straightaway, this time to Max Angelelli in the #10 SunTrust Ford/Dallara. The race podium, in fact, saw two former Lexus drivers: Angelelli's teammate Brian Frisselle and, in the third-place #45 Orbit Racing BMW/Riley, former Southard Motorsports driver Bill Lester. As to the present Lexus drivers, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas in the #01 Telmex Lexus/Riley finished in 7th place, while Kyle Busch and Scott Speed in the #02 Waste Management Lexus/Riley just made it into the top 10. Notably, all finished in the lead lap. And how did Scott Speed and Kyle Busch do in the NASCAR Coke Zero 400? Not very well, unfortunately. Speed started from 37th place on the grid and worked his way up to 31st before an accident took him out on Lap 152, just 8 laps from the finish. As for Kyle Busch, after running second to Tony Stewart, managed to drive by on the outside approaching the start-finish line on lap 159. Kyle then went low to block Stewart's dash for the checkered flag, then was turned hard into the outside wall when he went up to block Stewart's high-side bid. Stewart was able to take evasive action and won the race, while an enraged Kyle Busch finished 14th. This author didn't watch the NASCAR race and doesn't really know all the particulars, but could've this Ironman racing triathlon (Nationwide race on Friday, Grand-Am and Sprint Cup on Saturday, all under sweltering Florida summer heat and humidity) been a bit much for Kyle Busch?

As to the current Grand-Am Rolex Series standings, going into the short Daytona event, reigning series champions Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas led the Daytona Prototype standings by 11 points (175-164) over Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty. After the Brumos Porsche 250, Pruett and Rojas still maintain their points lead with 199 points apiece, but by the slenderest of margins, since Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle move into second place in the Driver standings with 198 points apiece, and Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney, in turn, are just two points behind them, with 196 each. The next race, the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama on Sunday 19 July at 3 PM, will be very critical for these three teams. Oh, and here's hoping that what one of the commentators on the SPEED TV telecast said about whoever wins the Daytona short race has gone on to win the overall championship (it happened in 2007 and 2008) doesn't happen again in '09...

Driver Quotes:

Scott Pruett, #01 Telmex Lexus: "It's a typical Daytona in the summertime. It's hot, but the TELMEX car is running good. We're just working on race setup, trying to do whatever we can. It's typically hot and greasy. We're trying to get ready for qualifying, and then setting it up for the race. The last practice session (after qualifying) is more important. Now we're trying to lay rubber down, and see what direction the car's going to go. It's going to warm up probably 10-12 degrees by the time race time gets here. That means worse conditions. We're trying to do whatever we can to have the best car we can for race time."

(On Ganassi teammates Scott Speed and Kyle Busch): "I think it's great having those guys on board. Ganassi prepares a great car. For the most part, they're going to have fun. It's hard racing. and when you come to a race with a good car and good drivers, you know they're going to run well."

To read more from Scott Pruett, see his entries for his Champion's Corner blog on the official Grand-Am racing site, the pre-race <A HREF="http://community.grand-am.com/blogs/blogpost/c4cc459f-8e09-46a8-ba99-c535bba11a9c">It's All About Speed</A> and the post-race <A HREF="http://community.grand-am.com/blogs/blogpost/41bb7fe2-4d59-42ae-bf9f-00ebef2ccdea">Amazing How Fast Things Change</A>.

Memo Rojas, #01 Telmex Lexus: "Unfortunately, we flat-spotted one tire on our third lap. Luckily, it was our quick lap and we won the pole. I was worried that people would go quicker towards the end, but luckily, we kept it. Obviously, we're happy with our lap time and to be on the pole again, and we look forward to the race. Having another pole keeps our streak going, of being on the front row every race since Daytona.

Our car is really good. We took a little gamble in qualifying because we weren't happy with our set-up and obviously, that gamble worked."

23506Kyle Busch, #02 Waste Management Lexus: "It wasn't bad, just something to get used to. It's hard to get used to these cars to see how hard you can drive them into the corners. The biggest thing today is a learning thing today with the Waste Management Lexus. It was great. It was a lot of fun, and I had a good time. But when I got out, the stagnant air was tough. The European-style qualifying is fun. At least you had something to judge yourself off of. If a guy's faster, you can try to hang with him and draft off of him. As soon as I get out of this one (the Brumos Porsche 250), I'll need a cold bath."

Scott Speed, #02 Waste Management Lexus: "It's good because we'll both (Kyle Busch and I) be able to sit in the same seat and won't need any special padding. We also like the same car setups, except you've got to understand that driving a car with a lot of downforce is something completely different from what Kyle's ever done before and requires a different type of driving style. It was impressive to see how quickly he progressed and how fast he picked things up. He's ‘The Man,' that's for sure.

I think it will work out good with the two of us. It's going to be tough for us, and we have a lack of experience doing this stuff, but hopefully, we will be competitive to challenge for the win. At the end of the day, that's what we're going there to do."

Honestly, I think both of us loved the Daytona Prototype. It was very cool for me to drive in a car similar to what I grew up doing. It's been a long time since I drove a car with that much downforce, to where you can go into a corner with a lot of grip and you can push the car really hard. It was kind of a flashback for me - it's been nearly two years since I've driven a car like that. It was at lot of fun as well looking at the data, and being able to compare our driving styles."

Tim Keene, team manager: "Our setup isn't much different (from the Rolex 24). The brake package is the biggest difference. We don't run the endurance brakes here. As far as aero balance, we trim out as much as we can for top speed. We didn't have quite enough (for the hectic last two hours of January's Rolex 24). It will be interesting. The Porsches have got their revs back pretty much - they're back in the same position they were at the Rolex 24. We didn't have anything for them then. But we'll see. We've got a few tricks up our sleeve, so we'll try."

(On Ganassi drivers Scott Speed and Kyle Busch): "We're excited, and I think it's good for the series. Certainly, it's good for us. It keeps us on our toes. Those guys are excited to do it, driving different vehicles. We had a test at Putnam Motorsports Park in Indianapolis, and I'll tell you, it was very impressive. All the engineers were really impressed at how well they did."

Our thanks to <A HREF="http://www.grand-am.com/rolex/">the official Grand-Am racing website</A> for this information.
 

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