Experience is a key for the three teams battling for the 2009 Daytona Prototype championship in Saturday's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 season-ending Grand Prix of Miami. The trio battling for top honors at Homestead-Miami Speedway has captured the past five team titles.
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty enter the finale with an eight-point lead over SunTrust Racing drivers Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle (309-301), with TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates pilots Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas another two points back (299). The two-and-a-half hour event takes the green flag at 1 p.m. ET, and airs live on SPEED.
Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates won the team championship in 2004, 2006 and 2008, while finishing second in 2005 and 2007 with the No. 01 TELMEX Lexus Riley. SunTrust Racing won the 2005 title in addition to finishing second in 2004 and third in both 2006 and 2007, while GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing was the 2007 champion and finished second in 2008 with the No. 99 Pontiac Riley.
In addition, five of the six drivers battling for the crown shared in four of the past five titles. Pruett and Rojas won the 2008 title, while Pruett was the 2004 champ (with Max Papis) and was second in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Angelelli was the 2005 champion (with Wayne Taylor) and was third in both 2006 and 2007. Gurney and Fogarty were the 2007 champions and finished second last season.
The lone newcomer to this year's title chase is Brian Frisselle, who joined Angelelli in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara this season.
“The lead we have going into this finale gives us a little breathing room but really not too much,” Gurney said. “There are just too many variables and too much craziness goes on during a Grand-Am Rolex Series race to be overconfident of any kind of finish. We have no idea what the weather will be like, but we know it could be a factor as well. We've had a great year where we feel we've done so much as a team to maximize our package and it's definitely very exciting to be on the cusp of another championship.”
There are a number of potential spoilers in the mix. Penske Racing is looking for its first victory for Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, who have been very competitive in the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley. Brumos Racing is looking for its best showing since winning the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, with David Donohue and Darren Law racing in the No. 58 Porsche Riley. Michael Shank Racing is looking to capture its third season finale in four years, with a pair of Ford Rileys entered for Ozz Negri, Mark Patterson, John Pew and Michael Valiante.
Late entries include the No. 13 Beyer Racing Chevrolet Riley, with brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor driving together for the first time in a sprint race; Carlos de Queseda, Terry Borcheller and Tomas Enge in the No. 22 Gatorade BMW Riley; and the No. 95 Supercar Life Racing BMW Riley for IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, and SCCA National Champion Scott Tucker.
South Floridians in the Daytona Prototype field include Negri (Miami), Pew (North Palm Beach), de Queseda (Coral Gables), Borcheller (Vero Beach) and Hunter-Reay (Boca Raton).
The Acxiom GT title will also be decided in the finale, although all Leh Keen and Dirk Werner need is to run 30 minutes each in the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3 to eliminate defending champion Kelly Collins, driver of the No. 07 Team Drinkin' Mate Pontiac GXP.R. Stevenson Motorsports also has an outside shot at the team championship, although the No. 57 BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R of Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis will be eliminated at the drop of the green flag.
Miami driver Jeff Segal is looking for his second consecutive victory in the No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8, joined by Emil Assentato. That car is part of the two-car SpeedSource Mazda effort, based in Sunrise, with Sylvain Tremblay of Coral Springs and Nick Ham in the No. 70 Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8.
Miami's Cristiano Piquet will co-drive the No. 32 Miracle Sealants Team PR1 BMW M6 with Max Hyatt.