The last half hour of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was the most exciting. Watching the Daytona Prototype leaders racing three-abreast up the Turn Seven hill towards the famed Corkscrew was breathtaking. Coming down the hill then leader SCOTT PRUETT/No.01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley DP and JON FOGARTY/No.99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley DP were side by side. Fogarty eased past Pruett who tucked in behind and then drafted on down the hill. Fogarty gradually stretched the lead and won by 7.228 seconds.
Fogarty hails from Northern California and his family vineyard is south of San Francisco, while co-driver ALEX GURNEY comes from Southern California. They unofficially lead the driver and team championship with 119 points. If Fogarty hadn’t been put back in the car after the first driver change, he would not have scored points as the first driver change had been made too early and he didn’t get the obligatory 30 minutes required to score points.
Closing in on Pruett was MAX ANGELELLI/No.10 Sun Trust Racing Ford Dallara. His co-driver was youngster BRIAN FRISSELLE, who qualified the car in second place.
Fourth and fifth in DP class were BURT FRISSELLE/No.61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley-with co-driver MARK WILKINS; and OSWALDO NEGRI/No.60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley, whose co-driver was MARK PATTERSON.
Pruett and teammate/Pole Sitter MEMO ROJAS led three times for the most laps – 64. Six drivers/four cars led laps. There were seven driver lead changes and six car lead changes.
Unofficially second in the DP points are Brumos Racing No.58 Porsche Riley (DAVID DONOHUE and DARREN LAW) with 111 points. They finished eighth, on the lead lap.
Third in DP points is Sun Trust Racing with 108 points, followed by TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates in fourth with 105 points, and Penske Racing in fifth with 104 points.
The weather outside certainly felt hotter than the reported 73 degrees F. But, by the end of the afternoon, the breeze had kicked up and the flags were fluttering straight out.
The race ran 106 laps for the winner, and the top eight (DP) cars were on the lead lap. The GT winner ran 101 laps with five other cars on that lead lap at the finish. Fifteen laps were under caution – four times.
Winning the GT class was SYLVAIN TREMBLAY/No.70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8. His co-driver, NICK HAM, has put the car on the GT pole. They finished thirteenth overall. Second in class and fourteenth overall was PAUL EDWARDS/No.07 Banner Racing with KELLY COLLINS, followed by DIRK WERNER/No.87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3, co-driving with LEH KEEN.
Ham led four times and co-driver Tremblay led once, for a total of 84 laps. There were nine driver lead changes and nine car lead changes.
ROGER PENSKE, owner of No.12 Penske Racing Porsche Riley DP, was at Laguna Seca Sunday, sitting in the pit box, watching TIMO BERNHARD and ROMAIN DUMAS. They finished sixth after starting fifth. Bernhard was assessed a stop-and-go penalty on Lap 77 for jumping a restart. Penske’s IndyCars all qualified for the Indianapolis 500 on Pole Day, and the NASCAR races were Friday and Saturday.
More than a few drivers ran off course in the gravel and some got beached, or broke. PATRICK DEMPSEY/No.40 Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 was the first and he did it in a flamboyant fashion, driving off at Turn 10 at speed and soldiering on, stopping and then continuing. At least he didn’t get stuck. He and co-driver JOE FOSTER finished twenty-second, after starting twenty-seventh.
SCOTT TUCKER/No.55 Supercar Life Racing BMW Riley DP got stuck in the gravel at Turn Eleven – beyond the brand new asphalt runoff area designed to keep cars out of the gravel. He was towed out and finished ninth overall and in class.
JOE SAHLEN/No.42 Team Sahlen Corvette GT also got stuck in the Turn Eleven gravel He and co-driver WILL NONNAMAKER finished twenty-eighth, 28 laps down.
Brother WAYNE NONNAMAKER beached the sister Team Sahlen Corvette in the gravel at Turn Three and had to be towed. He and teammate JOE NONNAMAKER finished thirtieth.
NIC JONSSON/No.76 Krohn Racing Ford Lola DP drove off in the Corkscrew, breaking the splitter, and the car retired. They were credited with thirty-second place, after starting sixth.
BRYCE MILLER/No.30 Racer’s Edge Motorsports went off course, puncturing the left front tire and breaking the left-front A arm. He and co-driver DANE CAMERON, who didn’t get into the car, finished thirty-first.
No one was hurt, the weather was beautiful and a good time was had by some if not all.
The Verizon Festival of Speed had a lot of competition this weekend. Nearby Carmel had a surfing contest; nearby Salinas had the Monster Truck Rally, and nearby Castroville held its annual Artichoke Festival. In San Francisco there was the annual and infamous Bay to Breakers foot race, and Infineon Raceway in Sonoma held the AMA Pro Road Racing motorcycle race.
The next Grand-Am race is 6 June at Watkins Glen International.