Pruett, Diaz Put Lexus in Long Beach Winner’s Circle
|04/08/2006 Long Beach, CA
After relinquishing the lead on the track on Lap 6, the Ganassi Racing crew took over and re-gained the lead with a quick pit stop and driver change under a full-course caution on Lap 12 and then Scott Pruett took it the rest of the way to give he and co-driver Luis Diaz a 3.989-second victory over rivals from Porsche and BMW in today’s Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series event at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
With their second victory of the season, Pruett and Diaz, who captured the pole position on Friday, moved into the series points lead with 111 points.
“It’s awesome to be in Victory Lane here in Long Beach,” said Pruett, who now has five Long Beach victories in four different classes to his credit. “A party at “the Beach” is always fun and always exciting. We had to drive as hard as we possibly could. The team did a great job in the pits and Lexus gave us a great motor with increased drive-ability.”
While the driving of Pruett and Diaz captured the headlines, it wasn’t the only stellar drive from a Lexus-powered team as Oswaldo Negri carved through the field from the 16th-spot on Lap 12 to earn a fifth-place finish for the #60 Flight Options Lexus-Riley for Michael Shank Racing (MSR) along with co-driver Mark Patterson. As the race was winding down, Negri’s highlight reel performance included passing three cars for position on a single lap.
Cort Wagner and Mike Borkowski made it three Lexus-powered entries in the top-10 with a ninth-place finish in the #6 Graydon Elliott Fusion Racing Lexus Riley for MSR. After a 17th-place in qualifying, the duo moved up eight spots during the 52-lap event.
The victory is the third in four races this season for Ganassi Racing and Lexus after winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mexico City event to open up the 2006 campaign. Today’s triumph is the 11th for Lexus in 30 Rolex Series events since entering the series in 2004.
Lexus now takes a 12-point lead over Porsche in the Daytona Prototypes Manufacturer’s Championship after four rounds of the 14-round title chase.
The Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series returns to action at Virginia International Raceway, April 23.
Lexus results – Start/Finish
#01 Luis Diaz/Scott Pruett 1/1
#60 Mark Patterson/Oswaldo Negri 15/5
#6 Cort Wagner/Mike Borkowski 17/9
SCOTT PRUETT, #01 CompUSA Lexus-Riley: “It’s awesome to be in Victory Lane here in Long Beach, A party at “the Beach” is always fun and always exciting. This is the place to be. The 23 car kept us on our toes and it turned out to be a fast, qualifying-paced race.We had to drive as hard as we possibly could. The team did a great job in the pits and Lexus gave us a great motor with increased drive-ability.”
LUIS DIAZ, #01 CompUSA Lexus-Riley: “It feels like Scott and I are now even after this one. He helped me win in Mexico City and now I've helped him win in front of his family in California. It's still a long way to go in the championship, so we need to keep our heads down and continue to get the job done.”
OSWALDO NEGRI, #60 Flight Options Lexus-Riley: “We have had a couple of tough races the last two races, so I wanted to be a little conservative and just make sure we got to the finish. So I’d study the cars ahead and just focus on where they were weak, so I was able to make some good clean passes and move up pretty well. In the last few laps, something sounded funny with the engine, so I just backed off and made sure we got to the finish. Fortunately, everything was fine and we finished without a problem and hopefully can pick up some momentum in the points.”
MARK PATTERSON, #60 Flight Options Lexus-Riley: “Watching Oz (Negri) make up all that time to the guys in front each lap was really something else. The car was beautifully set up, and it just gave me the confidence to keep finding more time out there without having to do anything silly. I think if Oz had a few more laps, the guys ahead would have been in trouble, but its good to get another solid points finish under our belt, and we’ll be looking for more of the same at VIR.”
CORT WAGNER, #6 Graydon Elliott Fusion Racing with MSR Lexus-Riley: “The track got very slick right away, so the car was a bit of a handful. I was really busy out there, working to learn the track a bit still, and still trying to make up time to the leaders, so when the balance went off, things were a bit tricky. But, it was great to be racing on this track for the first time, and we stayed out of trouble to take a top ten at the end.”
MIKE BORKOWSKI, #6 Graydon Elliott Fusion Racing with MSR Lexus-Riley: “I was hoping to make up more positions there in the closing laps, but unfortunately, the braking in the car seemed to go away, and I just didn’t want to take any chances. So I struggled a bit with that, but we were able to avoid any kind of trouble, so we’ll take this top ten and just get ready for VIR.”
Credit: Lexus Motorsports