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17580Hot off his victorious 4¼-hour drive at the previous <A HREF="">Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen</A> on Saturday 7 June, Grand-Am racing's very own Iron Man, Scott Pruett performed yet another feat of stamina and endurance: a racing double-header on Saturday 21 June at the 250-mile EMCO Gears Classic Rolex Series race at Mid-Ohio and, the following day, on Sunday 22 June at the Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, driving the #41 Dodge Target car in the latter race.

Friday's qualifying session saw the #01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing with Félix Sabatés Lexus/Riley racer, piloted by Scott Pruett's co-driver Memo Rojas placed in fourth position on the starting grid, while the fellow #3 Southard Motorsports Lexus/Riley co-driven by Shane Lewis and Bill Lester would start the race from 10th position. "I struggled with the tires coming in right away," said Rojas of the qualifying session. "It wasn't until the end of the stint (jumping from sixth to fourth) that the tires were working with me. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's race. We have a strong Lexus engine and we're in a good consistent starting position."

The Saturday at 5 PM start of the race promised miserable, rainy weather, with talk of a tornado having struck barely 20 miles from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington. Indeed, rain started to fall just after the green flag. Undaunted, Memo Rojas charged into second place by the end of the second lap. Lap 8 saw the first of 8 full-course yellow caution periods affecting 35 laps in the race, no surprise given the miserable, soggy weather marring most of the race. This particular caution worked in the #01 TELMEX car's favor, since, by beating the #99 GAINSCO Pontiac/Riley out of the pits, the Lexus and its driver Memo Rojas moved into the lead on Lap 10 and proceeded to lead 22 of the next 24 laps.

17583Lap 21 would prove to be a momentous one for the Lexus racers. The #3 Southard Motorsports Lexus/Riley, with Shane Lewis at the helm, spun and was stopped on course, but was able to continue on under his own power. Meanwhile, #01 Memo Rojas got loose coming out of Turn 2 and was passed by Michael Valiante in the #10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac/Riley. Turn 8 saw yet another pass on Memo Rojas, this time by the #76 Krohn Racing Pontiac/Lola of Nic Jonsson. By Turn 12, Rojas and the #01 TELMEX Lexus had reclaimed second place. Laps 22 and 23 saw an epic back-and-forth battle between the #01 TELMEX Lexus and the #10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac/Riley, with the former finally prevailing going into Turn 4 on Lap 23. Fortunately, this battle between the #01 and #10 racers didn't end badly like <A HREF="">their previous encounter at Virginia International Raceway.</A>

Memo Rojas managed to hold the lead until Lap 34, when he spun coming out of a re-start on Turn 10, falling back to sixth-place. In this wet, slippery and miserable race, it was hard to find a competitor who didn't get loose or spin at one point or another. And the fact that Grand-Am racing only allows for either rain tires or dry-weather slicks, with no intermediate tires as in other racing series, makes things worse.

17582By lap 44, Rojas' had moved up slightly, to fourth place. Six laps later, the two Lexus racers took advantage of yet another full-course yellow to change drivers, and the final hour of the race saw Scott Pruett at the wheel of the #01 TELMEX car and Bill Lester in the #3 Southard Motorsports racer. Unfortunately, during Lap 50 the #3 Southard car went off the track on turn 4 and into the gravel trap referred to as "China Beach". Hopelessly stuck, it had to be towed out. Six laps later, the #3 racer was again stopped on course.

The checkered flag saw the #01 TELMEX Lexus/Riley in eighth place (the team's first finish outside the podium in the 2008 season) and the #3 Southard Motorsports Lexus/Riley in 13th place. Nevertheless, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas actually stretched out their Driver's Championship advantage to 37 points - their biggest lead of the season. Lexus also maintains the Rolex Series Manufacturer's Championship lead over Pontiac, albeit by a thin three-point margin.

And what of Scott Pruett's second race that weekend? Did he fare any better in NASCAR? Unfortunately, no, since, with only 3 laps remaining in the 110-lap event, Pruett was hit from behind by Tony Stewart in the #20 Toyota Camry. The crash significantly damaged Pruett's #41 Target Dodge Avenger and led to a 12½-minute red-flag race stoppage to clean up fluid spilled by the Dodge, which ended the race in 38th place.

The next Grand-Am Rolex Series race, the Thursday 3 July Brumos Porsche 250 marks the series' return to Florida's Daytona International Speedway.

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


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