Six drivers and three teams are within five points of the Daytona Prototype championship lead heading into Saturday's Utah 250 at Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City, the penultimate round of the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16.
The two-hour, 45-minute race on the 4.486-mile, 24-turn circuit takes the green flag at 3:30 p.m. MT (SPEED live, 5:30 p.m. ET). The event will be preceded by an autograph session including all of the Rolex Series drivers in the paddock at 1 p.m., and a Fan Walk on pit road at 2:35 p.m. Both activities are free to the public.
Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty regained the point lead in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley with a third-place finish at the recent Montreal 200. Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle won that race in the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara to tie defending series champs Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley for second, only five points behind (274-269).
Two years ago, the same three teams battled down to the wire at Miller for the Daytona Prototype title. The lead changed three times within a seven-minute span late in the race before Gurney and Fogarty won the crown with an eighth-place finish. Angelelli's car was destroyed in a fire at the entrance to the pits moments after he had taken the lead.
Following Saturday's race, only the Grand Prix of Miami on Oct. 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway remains on the Rolex Series schedule. For the past three years, the Miller event served as the season finale, and was also the second-longest event on the schedule with distances ranging from 1,000 kilometers to nine hours.
Competitors feel that the shorter distance will add to the excitement.
"This is going to change everything," said Pruett, who comes to Miller in the thick of the championship battle for the third consecutive year. "We've been to Miller in the past for six or eight hours, and now we're going with the traditional two-hour, 45-minute race. That's going to change how we approach the race. It's all going to play a little differently when we're looking at how things are going to unfold, especially with the championship being so close."
All three Grand-Am Rolex Series races at Miller have produced first-time Daytona Prototype and overall winners. Michael Shank Racing put its No. 60 (2006) and No. 6 (2008) in victory lane for the first time at the circuit, while Riley-Matthews Motorsports won its first race at Miller in 2007.
Penske Racing and Beyer Racing will be looking to continue the tradition of first-time winners in Saturday's Utah 250. Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard gave Penske Racing its best Rolex Series finish with a second-place finish in the Montreal 200 in the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley. Beyer Racing also had its best finish at Montreal, with drivers Ricky Taylor and Mike Forest in the No. 13 Lennox/Brach's Chevrolet Riley. Taylor finishing fourth after he was passed for position by Alex Gurney on the final lap.