TOOELE, Utah (Sept. 15, 2007) – Scott Pruett was leading the Sunchaser 1000 in the final 30 laps on the verge of a record eighth major sports car title when he was punted from behind by the #99 Jon Fogarty, cutting Pruett’s tire and giving Fogarty and teammate Alex Gurney a controversial Daytona Prototype championship.
Pruett was in the lead and needed to make only a quick stop-and-go pit
stop, while the other championship contenders would need to make full
pit-stops and a driver change when Fogarty’s right front hit Pruett’s
left rear, cutting a tire on the #01 TELMEX Lexus and knocking him off
the track. Despite Pruett falling more than a minute down and five
positions behind the #99, Pruett passed four cars, finally passing the
#99 after a slight tap while the #99 was being passed for position by
Oswaldo Negri. It appeared for a moment that Pruett had done the
impossible and reclaimed the championship before a questionable call by
Grand-Am officials declared that the second contact between the #01 and
the #99 to be “avoidable” despite the fact that the #99 had only a
“Cheap shot, a big cheap shot,” said Pruett. “He (Fogarty) just came
in and cleaned me out right on my back end. Congratulations to Bob
Stallings, but the drivers there have no class. And then I’m coming up
on the inside of the #99 and we rubbed a little bit and I get called
for avoidable contact. I just think it was a call that shouldn’t have
been made. He didn’t get off, he got a little off-line, but no harm,
no foul. A disappointing end. I expected a lot more out of those
guys, but stupid people do stupid things.”
Team owner Chip Ganassi, who’s team lost a fourth team title in the
past five years, with the controversial ruling was no more pleased.
“I’ve enjoyed a great career in racing and we’ve won a lot of
championships, but in the last two weeks, we’ve lost two championships
to skull-duggery and team tactics,” said Ganassi. “I think people need
to take a real good look at racing and see if they’re going to let them
make that a part of it in the future.”
Pruett, who co-drove with Memo Rojas and Salvador Duran, eventually finished ninth – still only one spot behind the #99.
“It’s just disappointing that Grand-Am couldn’t be consistent with the
rulings when it was at a point when they needed to be most consistent,”
said Gary Reed, TRD vice-president of special projects, who oversees
the Lexus Grand-Am engine program.
The controversy overshadowed a terrific run by Shane Lewis and Eric
Lux, who placed fourth in the #3 PLP Lexus-Riley. The run was their
best of the season. Among the Lexus-powered cars they were followed by
the #6 Playboy Lexus-Riley driven by Ian James, John Pew and Henri
Zogaib in seventh; the #01 in ninth; the #60 Michael Shank Racing Lexus
piloted by Negri, Justin Wilson and Mark Patterson in 10th, the #61
Exchange Traded Gold entry from AIM Autosport, driven by Mark Wilkins,
Brian Frisselle and Burt Frisselle, and the #19 Z-Line Designs Lexus
with Michael Valiante and Dane Cameron behind the wheel in 17th.
Final Team Championship Standings (unofficial) Driver’s Championship
1. Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing 403 1. Alex Gurney/Jon Fogarty 408
2. Telmex/Chip Ganassi Racing 401 2. Scott Pruett 406
3. SunTrust Racing 390 3. Max Angelelli 395
Lexus Sunchaser 1000 results – Start/Finish – Updated Team Point Standing
#3 Shane Lewis/Eric Lux 14/4 15th
#6 Ian James/James Pew/Henri Zogaib 13/7 8th
#01 Scott Pruett/Memo Rojas/Salvador Duran 1/9 2nd
#60 Oswaldo Negri/Mark Patterson/Justin Wilson 10/10 6th-tie
#61 Brian Frisselle/Mark Wilkins/Burt Frisselle 9/11 11th
#19 Michael Valiante/Dane Cameron 12/17 16th
– Despite the disappointing finish, the #01 Telmex Lexus closed out the
season by finishing in the top-10 in all 14 races. Overall, the team
has now earned 19 consecutive top-10 finishes dating back to June 2006.
– With his ninth-place finish today, Memo Rojas earned the Rolex Series Rookie-of-the-Year.
– The fourth-place finish by Southard Motorsports surpassed their previous best finish of the season – an eighth at Iowa.
– With their 10th today, Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson closed the
season with eight consecutive top-10 finishes for Michael Shank Racing.
– Three Lexus-powered teams finished the season in the top-10 in the
point standings. The #01 Chip Ganassi Racing team placed second,
followed by the two Michael Shank Racing efforts, with the #60 in a tie
for sixth and the #6 in eighth. AIM Autosport finished just outside of
the top-10 in the 11th position in their first full season of Daytona
Prototype competition. The Shank teams also finished the season as the
two highest-placed teams campaigning a sportsman driver.
– Salvador Duran’s run in the #01 Lexus maked his first Grand-Am appearance since winning the Rolex 24 in January.
Credit: Lexus Motorsports
Photos: Grand American
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