|10/10/2005 Torrance, CA
After Luis Diaz dominated the early-going, teammate Scott Pruett passed Matteo Bobbi for the lead on Lap 63 and then pulled away from the field to win Sunday’s VIR 400 at the Virginia International Raceway to give Lexus its third victory of the Rolex Sports Car Series season and keep themselves in contention for a second consecutive championship heading into the season finale in Mexico City.
With qualifying washed out due to persistent rains throughout the weekend, Diaz started the race on the outside of the front row, but moved the CompUSA Lexus-Riley into the lead on Lap 11. Diaz then proceeded to stretch out a 12-second lead by Lap 29. The team elected to pit and give up the lead under caution Lap 30 with Pruett climbing into the seat.
Pruett’s run to the front was slowed by a number of full-course cautions, but he eventually caught and moved past Bobbi on Lap 63 and went on to lead the final 12 laps of the race. The CompUSA drivers combined to lead a race-high 30 laps. In addition, Pruett registered the fastest lap of the event – bettering the next fastest lap by almost a half second.
Stefan Johansson and Cort Wagner teamed to place fifth in the New Century Mortgage Lexus-Riley to give Ganassi Racing and Lexus two of the top-five finishers. Despite the strong finish, the team’s string of hard luck continued as a podium finish eluded the squad despite running in the top three for much of the race after starting sixth. Johansson pitted from the third position on Lap 30 with Wagner resuming the fight in sixth-place. Unfortunately, Wagner was bottled up by a number of the lower horse-power GT cars on the re-start and was shuffled back to eighth. The track position and the repetitive full-course cautions eventually led to their fifth-place finish.
Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson teamed to give Lexus a third top-10 finisher with a 10th-place showing in the Flight Options Lexus-Riley. With just three races under their belts this season, the team was banished to the 19th starting position when the field was determined by owner points. It was a hard-fought 10th as Negri was forced off-track to avoid two spinning GT cars on a Lap 16 re-start. The team lost two laps before they could get re-started. It didn’t deter Negri from turning in another sterling effort on the way to the second consecutive top-10 finish for the #60 from the Michael Shank Racing stables.
The Rolex Sports Car Series will close out its 2005 season when the Daytona Prototypes head to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City. Qualifying will take place on Nov. 4 and the race is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 5, with live SPEED coverage at 4:00 p.m.
Drivers Car Start/Finish
LUIS DIAZ, #01 CompUSA Lexus-Riley: "I can’t tell you how happy I am for this result today. We have a championship battle heading into the season finale, and that’s all I could have hoped for. It’s great for CompUSA, Telmex and our sponsors to be a part of the Mexico City race, and having a shot at the championship will bring that much more excitement to the race. You can expect about half a million people for the weekend, so be prepared for a great show if you’ve never seen a race in my country."
STEFAN JOHANSSON, #02 New Century Mortgage Lexus-Riley: "I think Cort and I both were obviously a little disappointed with what we thought could have been a podium today. The New Century Lexus was strong, and in my stint I was able to drive hard and pick up spots. The bottom line is that track position is everything here, and we got shuffled back on that restart and never recovered."
OSWALDO NEGRI, #60 Flight Options Lexus-Riley: "I didn’t have any option (on a Lap 30 off-road excursion on a re-start). There were cars spinning right in front of me and I had to go in the grass. It’s such a shame because we were very fast today and had been having a very good weekend. But we were able to at least make up some places and get back into the top-10."
Credit: Lexus Motorsports