Although the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón and the Grand-Am Rolex Series are more than a year away from operating as a unified series, ALMS President and CEO Scott Atherton presented two prominent awards at the Grand-Am awards banquet, Monday night in New York City. The two series will merge as a single sports car racing championship, beginning with the 2014 season.
Atherton presented the Bob Akin and Jim Trueman awards to Grand-Am's top pro-am drivers in the GT and DP classes, respectively – Aim Autosport Team FXDD with Ferrari's Emil Assentato, and Starworks Motorsport's Alex Popow (with Atherton, ABOVE).
“It is truly an honor to be have been asked to present these distinguished awards, and especially on the heels of last month's announcement that the American Le Mans Series and Grand-Am are merging,” Atherton said. “It is also special for me on a personal level, because I was fortunate to know Bob Akin and Jim Trueman – two great men who left us far too early. Both Emil and Alex fit the mold of what their awards' namesakes stood for in terms of integrity, gentlemanly interaction with others, and passion for preserving and growing the sport they loved – endurance sports car racing.”
Popow recently clinched the ALMS' Prototype Challenge driver's championship for CORE autosport, with his mid-September performance at Virginia International Raceway.
Collecting top honors at the banquet for their third consecutive Daytona Prototype championship were drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas with TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.
Pruett and Rojas celebrated their fourth DP championship in five years. It was the fifth DP title for Pruett, and sixth team championship in the class for the Ganassi organization. The DP and GT champions were presented Rolex watches by Colette Bennett of Rolex Watch USA and GRAND-AM President and CEO Ed Bennett. The championship teams were also presented with paintings of their cars by noted motorsports artist Bill Patterson, commissioned by Continental Tire.
“Racing and winning never get old – even though I do,” said the 52-year-old Pruett, who earned his 11th championship dating back to 1986. “They say that with adversity comes strength. We had our share of adversity this year, and I believe it made our team even stronger and closer.”
Grand-Am founder Jim France also touted the recent merger agreement as signaling the beginning of a promising new era for the sport.
“We've come a long way since Grand-Am was first announced here in New York City in 1999,” said sanctioning body founder Jim France. “The strides we're making have gotten stronger and faster with each passing year. I would like to propose a toast to the future of North American sports car racing.”
The ALMS concludes its season Oct. 20, with the 1,000-mile/10-hour Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta.