With three minutes remaining Sunday at New Jersey Motorsports Park, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas were looking to make Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 history. Then, Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty made some history of their own.
One day after Fogarty gave the team its first pole position of the season, Gurney caught and passed Pruett with less than two laps remaining and went on to win by 3.674sec, giving the defending Daytona Prototype champions their first Rolex Series victory of the season in the NJMP 250. They drove the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet/Riley.
Pruett beat Gurney out of the pits following his final pit stop and led 45 laps in his quest for a record fourth consecutive victory in the No. 01 TELMEX BMW/Riley started by Memo Rojas. However, Pruett brushed Ozz Negri while making a pass with less than three minutes remaining in the two-hour, 45-minute event, causing a slow leak in his right-front tire.
"My engineer told me that Scott had a cut tire, so I took my time and held back to make a clean pass," said Gurney, who joined Fogarty in winning their 13th career DP race. "Scott moved over for me and it all worked out. I didn't let up. That was a nice gift they gave us, but I think we've delivered a few gifts to people over the years. It's nice to get one."
With six victories in nine races, Pruett and Rojas led fifth-place finisher Ryan Dalziel by 19 points (267-248) with three races remaining in the DP championship. The six victories this season remain one shy of the record seven recorded by Fogarty and Gurney in their 2007 championship season.
Pruett and Rojas ran without the benefit of cool suits despite racing in ambient temperatures in the 90s. Rojas spent time in the infield medical center after leading 10 laps during his opening stint.
"Normally, we just deal with the heat," Rojas said. "Today, I think we needed cool suits."
Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor finished third in the No. 10 SunTrust Ford/Dallara, followed by Burt Frisselle and Mark Wilkins in the No. 61 Pacific Mobile/BioSign Ford/Riley and Mike Forest and Dalziel in the No. 8 Corsa Car Care/Xtreme Indoor Karting BMW/Riley.
A number of cars encountered problems in the final 10 minutes. Buddy Rice had a brief fire in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Porsche/Coyote that was quickly extinguished. Michael Valiante, driving the No. 6 Pit Stop on Norris Lake Ford/Riley, and David Donohue, aboard the No. 59 Brumos.com Porsche/Riley, both spun and continued while running in the top five. Then, Burt Frisselle – running third in DP – had contact with Jordan Taylor in the No. 30 Racers Edge Motorsports Mazda RX-8.
Jonathan Bomarito and Sylvain Tremblay led a top-four sweep by Mazda in the production-based GT class, giving the No. 70 Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8 its first victory since the Rolex 24 At Daytona. John Edwards and Adam Christodoulou finished second in the No. 68 Mazdaspeed Motorsports Development Mazda RX-8, with Edwards .170sec behind Bomarito at the checkered flag.
Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato finished third in the No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8 to give SpeedSource a sweep of the GT podium. Segal and Assentato now lead Tremblay by eight points in the GT championship (262-254).
James Gue and Leh Keen finished fourth in the No. 41 Dempsey Racing/Team Seattle Mazda RX-8, while Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand took fifth in the No. 94 Turner Motorsport BMW M6.
Andy Lally entered the race nine points out of the GT lead, but joined RJ Valentine in finishing ninth in the No. 66 Advanced Aerosol Acquisitions Porsche GT3. Lally is now third in the championship, 17 points behind the leaders. John Potter and Craig Stanton had the highest-finishing Porsche, taking sixth in the No. 44 Magnus Racing GT3, while Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis led the GM contingent with a seventh-place finish in the No. 57 BryanMark Financial/Vin Solutions Camaro.
There were three caution periods for 11 laps, with the winners averaging 94.672mph.
The next action for the Grand-Am Rolex Series will be the Crown Royal 200 on Aug. 7 at Watkins Glen International.