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Ganassi Racks Up Barber Win

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 10 2010

Another victory for a Chip Ganassi Grand-Am Rolex Series car. (Photo courtesy of the Grand-Am Rolex Series)

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer

Birmingham, Ala. – Loose cog? Missing man? No worries. The Chip Ganassi Racing machine rolls on.

Despite an injured crewman, the Ganassi team’s pit strategy and execution brought the team its second straight Grand-American Rolex Series victory in a two hour, 45-minute race at the Barber Motorsports Park.

Starting driver Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett eventually gained the lead from the Sun Trust Racing entry of pole winner Ricky Taylor and co-driver Max Angelelli after quick execution in the pits on the first round of pit stops. Angelelli later banged wheels with the Riley-BMW of Ryan Dalziel battling for second, which broke the rear suspension of the Sun Trust Riley-Ford and left the victory to the Ganassi team.

Sponsored by Telmex, Ganassi’s Riley-BMW had one Target-sponsored crewman changing tires. When Trevor Montgomery, one of the team’s regular sports car crew, injured a cog (an ACL) in his knee during a pit stop exhibition just prior to the race, Blair Julian was drafted in from the IndyCar team on hand for Sunday’s race to help change tires on pit stops.

“The IRL team really helped out,” said Pruett of the sports car side’s second straight victory after a runner-up finish in the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona. “We have a lot of great guys and both teams are housed under the same roof in Indianaolis and the guys work hand-in-hand.”

Pruett finished 6.6 seconds ahead of Oswaldo Negri, who co-drove the Michael Shank Racing Riley-Ford with John Pew and 17 seconds ahead of Dalziel and co-driver Mike Forest. Combined with a blown engine on the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Riley-Chevrolet of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, plus the 12th-place result of the Sun Trust team, the Ganassi lads are in excellent shape with two of their biggest rivals in the championship race.

The day started on a promising note for Sun Trust team owner Wayne Taylor. Oldest son Ricky won his first Daytona Prototypes pole on Friday. On the first lap, youngest son Jordan Taylor took the lead in the GT class in Turn 1 while driving the Mazda RX-8 of Racers Edge Motorsports. That put both of Taylor’s sons in the lead in their respective classes simultaneously.

Things went south in the Grand-Am’s annual trek to Alabama for Sun Trust when Ricky Taylor pitted from the lead but was fifth out of the pits on the first round of stops under a yellow flag at the 24-minute mark. With three Daytona Prototypes staying out after two others took fuel only and no Pirelli tires, that left Taylor eighth in line. Rojas exited the pits two positions ahead of Taylor after the Ganassi team had also exchanged four tires. By time Taylor had moved up through traffic to second place behind Rojas, the Mexican had bolted to a 20-second lead.

“You don’t want to gamble on the tires at this track, you want to stay on four fresh tires,” said Rojas of the Ganassi team’s choice to change tires on its first stop. “(But) It wasn’t that bad on the tires here today, because it wasn’t hot like in July.”

After the second round of pit stops, a duel ensued between Sun Trust’s Angelleli and the Starworks Motorsport entry of Diziel for second place.  When Angelelli went around the outside at Turn 4, the BMW driver carried his line to the edge of the track and the two cars hit wheel-to-wheel. “Max made one of his typical moves,” said Dalziel. “I was halfway through the corner when he tried to pass me.”

“I made my pass on (Ryan),” said Angelleli. “I believe he wanted to make a crossover move and, for whatever reason, he hit me in the rear and spun me around. The move I made on the 8 was safe. I made my pass. The pass was made. The rest, I just don’t understand.”

Where Dalziel suffered bent left rear wheel rim and carried on, the right rear suspension of the Sun Trust entry was broken by the contact and had to be withdrawn. “That ruined out shot at second,” said Dalziel. “The tire wear wasn’t right after that.”

Taylor was philosophical about still looking for his first win for the team owned by his father. “I don’t know about clean,but I’ve never been racing with those guys before up at the front,” said Taylor, who drove his first Daytona Prototype season last year with Beyer Racing.  “Now I can see why they’re racing up there in the front every weekend. They’re really good and I learned a lot from all of them.”

In the GT category, the day went better for the Taylor family. Co-driving with Todd Lamb, Jordan Taylor finished second behind the SpeedSource Mazda of Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal. The winners waited until Segal took over with a fresh set of tires to make their move. The youngest Taylor was able to close to within 3.7 seconds after returning to the Racers Edge Mazda for the final stint.

– Jonathan Ingram can be reached at jingram@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 10 2010
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