Nearly a month has passed since the Grand-Am Rolex Series was last in action at Watkins Glen. The summer recess came after a stretch of four races in five weekends, and this Friday's Brickyard Grand Prix sets the scene for the final five races of the year.
The high-profile event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the first race on IMS' Formula 1 road course configuration since 2007, has some guest stars in the field as the series wraps its three-race North American Endurance Championship presented by Fresh from Florida. Otherwise, it's most of the same participants set for the ninth round of the season.
Chip Ganassi Racing's “all-star” second car of Juan Pablo Montoya, Jamie McMurray and Scott Dixon joins the fray and is the only of the 11 Daytona Prototypes that will employ a three-driver lineup for the three-hour race. Former Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais makes his second straight Rolex start with Starworks Motorsport, this time alongside Alex Popow rather than as a third driver with Ryan Dalziel and Enzo Potolicchio. And Bourdais' Champ Car rival Paul Tracy makes another start in the newly re-liveried M&M's/Speedway Dallara-Ford, the lone second-generation DP entered.
Of the usual suspects, Starworks has two podiums in the NAEC with Dalziel and Potlolicchio despite no wins yet this season. Action Express won at the Glen with Darren Law and Joao Barbosa, and took the lead in the NAEC standings. Ganassi's full season duo of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas leads Dalziel and Potolicchio by three points overall, and are tied for third in NAEC with Michael Shank Racing's Rolex 24 winners John Pew and Oswaldo Negri.
Realistically, any of those four driver/team combinations could walk away from the weekend with the NAEC crown and the $100,000 bonus that goes with it. The four pairs are separated by only four points.
Stevenson Motorsports, with fourth place (Daytona) and a win (Watkins Glen) leads the GT class by three points with drivers John Edwards and Robin Liddell in their Camaro. GM led the times both days of the Rolex IMS test earlier this month with the Autohaus Camaro and Whelen Corvette, although the test took place in 100-plus degree ambient temperatures and track temps well over 150. Autohaus returns for Indy after missing Watkins Glen with Jordan Taylor now joined by 2011 co-driver Bill Lester.
A team in dire need of a result is Magnus Racing – an engine failure and an electrical fire on the dash in the last two races has struck the Porsche squad. The Rolex 24 class champions will be entirely active during the day, as beyond the on-track effort with John Potter and Andy Lally, the team will be streaming a webcast all day in partnership with IMS, which should be fairly entertaining.
Other contenders should include the Brumos and TRG Porsches, with TRG bringing in Porsche factory pilot Jorg Bergmeister alongside Ben Keating in the team's trademark No. 66 this weekend. Mazda could figure in with either the SpeedSource No. 70, Sahlen's No. 42 or either Dempsey RX-8s and the Turner BMW that won at Mid-Ohio. The obvious and outright contender in class is AIM's Ferrari 458, the points leader and multiple race winner this year with Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato. Most of the other GT drivers
The one-day show is a busy one for both the Rolex Series and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge series as it's the only day the track is set up in road course configuration, before going back to the oval for NASCAR's Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series the rest of the Kroger Super Weekend. Both Grand-Am series practice, qualify and race all in the same day.
The Rolex Series Brickyard Grand Prix airs live, Friday at 4:00 p.m. Eastern on SPEED.