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Pruett, Rojas Clinch Grand-Am Title

Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 28 2010

Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley/BMW clinched the Grand-Am championship Saturday. (File photo courtesy of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series)

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas clinched a record eighth victory this season in the Rolex Grand-Am race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal and secured the championship with one race remaining for the Chip Ganassi Racing team.

“This was a big race for us to win,” said Pruett, whose team won for the first time in Montreal with its Riley-BMW. “It was awesome.”

After an early pit stop for tires during a safety car period by all the front-running Daytona Prototypes jumbled the field, Rojas fell back in the back because the team elected to get the maximum amount of fuel on board. Rojas bided his time in sixth place before moving up to third after 40 minutes in the two-hour timed race.

When the day’s third full-course caution fell with 56 minutes gone due to the off-course excursion of Mark Patterson, Pruett replaced Rojas and emerged in first place from the pit stops after requiring a shorter fuel fill.

The Ganassi team overtook the leading GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Riley-Chevy (started by Jon Fogarty) and the SunTrust Dallara-Ford (started by Ricky Taylor) during the pit stops. Once out in front, Pruett was too much for Alex Gurney or Max Angelelli to handle over the final hour of the event.

Even a fourth caution that bunched the field with 16 minutes to go didn’t help the chasing teams. Gurney finished 2.0 seconds behind in second and Angelelli was 6.4 seconds behind at the checkered flag.

In GT, the driving duo of Paul Edwards and motorcycle champion Scott Russell came from behind to win. It was the first automotive victory for Russell, a five-time winner of the Daytona 200 on two wheels.

The day’s last of four cautions enabled the GT winners to bounce back after a botched pit strategy dropped Paul Edwards to sixth place in the Banner Racing Corvette. Following the re-start, Edwards took advantage of the battle for the lead between the Stevenson Racing Camaros of Robin Liddell and Ronnie Bremer to draw close to the leaders.

Scotsman Liddell took the lead in the chicane on the back side of the course to get past the Danish driver with eight minutes remaining. But Liddell’s Camaro had suffered a broken front bumper as a result of contact with the Corvette of Andrew Davis on an earlier re-start. When the bumper began to disintegrate with just over five minutes remaining on the front straight, Edwards pulled alongside of Bremer and took the lead in Turn 1 as Liddell’s damaged car missed the turn.

The race’s third safety car period almost cost the Banner Racing team the race. The team pitted from third place along with GT class leader Boris Said in the Marsh Racing Corvette. But because they pitted during the wave-around lap for those behind the race-leading Daytona Prototypes, the two Corvettes fell to the rear of the GT leaders.

Ironically, Banner Racing team owner Leighton Reese elected to replace Russell early in the race to complete its driver exchange early with an eye on getting an advantage on pit stops later in the race. Russell then left the circuit to make an appearance at the MotoGP race in Indianapolis and wasn’t available for the podium ceremonies to celebrate the class victory.

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

Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 28 2010
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