GRAND-AM News and Notes

Rojas Feels At Home In Homestead

Homestead-Miami Speedway is a long way from Mexico City, but Memo Rojas (No. 01 TELMEX BMW/Riley) feels at home when he returns to race in the Grand Prix of Miami, Round 2 of the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16.
“It’s one of my favorite places to race,” Rojas said. “Not only do I like the track, I love Miami. I like the Latin atmosphere, and I have friends in Miami, as well.”
Rojas and co-driver Scott Pruett are two-time winners of the event, and went on to win the Daytona Prototype title after those victories in 2008 and 2010.
“It’s a good track where we’ve always done well,” Rojas said. “I think Homestead did a really good job putting a road course inside an oval.”
The team has plenty of Hispanic flavor. Like Rojas, sponsor Carlos Slim lives in Mexico City. Co-owner Felix Sabates was born in Cuba, and moved to Miami before relocating to North Carolina with his family.
Homestead-Miami Speedway was built by Ralph Sanchez in 1995 on the rubble created by Hurricane Andrew, which devastated the Homestead area. The track, owned by International Speedway Corporation since 1998, embraces South Florida’s strong Hispanic culture with a combination of South Beach and Calle Ocho, with a dash of Margaritaville.
Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Ozz Negri (No. 60 Crown Royal XR Ford/Riley) now lives in Miami. Homestead-Miami Speedway is his home track in more ways than one. Negri and Michael Shank Racing co-driver John Pew are weekly visitors to the karting complex located in the speedway parking lot. Pew, who lives in West Palm Beach, finds karting a perfect way to prepare for racing in the heat.
Adding additional Latin flavor to the Rolex Series paddock are Joao Barbosa (No. 9 Action Express Racing Porsche/Riley) of Portugal and Antonio Garcia (No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Chevrolet/Coyote) of Spain.
BMW’s Rolex 24 Victory First Since 1976
BMW’s new 1Series M Coupe paced the field at the start of the 49th Rolex 24 At Daytona. BMW again led the way at the finish, with Scott Pruett taking the checkered flag in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates’ No. 01 TELMEX/Target BMW/Riley.
The victory was the second for BMW in the endurance classic, and the first since Peter Gregg, Brian Redman and John Fitzpatrick won in 1976 in a BMW CSL for Brumos Racing.
It also marked BMW’s 13th Daytona Prototype and 38th class victory in Rolex Series competition. Counting a GT victory by Terry Borcheller and Toney Jennings in a 2001 stand-alone GT race at Lime Rock Park, BMW has won overall at every track on the Rolex Series schedule with the exception of New Jersey Motorsports Park and newly added Road America. Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates has 10 DP victories, with Finlay Motorsports (Mexico 2005), Team Sigalsport (Homestead, 2007) and Starworks Motorsport (Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, 2008, as SAMAX) also winning for BMW.
TRG’s Buckler Helps Daytona 500 Dream Come True for Rolex 24 GT Winner Andy Lally
Andy Lally last visit to Daytona International Speedway wound up in Victory Lane, where he celebrated his third career class victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
It was TRG owner Kevin Buckler’s fourth victory in the sports car classic, including an overall triumph in 2003.
The pair will try for an encore on Feb. 20, when Lally drives the No. 71 TRG Motorsports Chevrolet in the Daytona 500.
“I’ve watched the Daytona 500 every year since Bobby and Davey Allison had their historic 1-2 finish there in 1988,” said Lally. “To have the opportunity to race the 500 is simply amazing. This is a dream come true, it hasn’t even settled in yet. Every driver in the world wants to race in the Daytona 500, and to finally have the opportunity is incredible.”
A veteran of eight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, Lally won’t have to worry about making the show, since TRG Motorsports scored enough owners points to give him a guaranteed start in the 2011 opener.
The best showing for a Rolex 24 At Daytona winner in the succeeding Daytona 500 was turned in by Casey Mears. He won the 2006 Rolex 24 for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates and came back three weeks later with a second-place finish behind Jimmie Johnson in the Daytona 500.
Lally hopes to join two Rolex 24 class winners who went on to win the Daytona 500. David Pearson won the Grand International Class (for NASCAR stock cars) and came back to win the Daytona 500 in 1976. Bill Elliott won in GTS for Jack Roush and the Daytona 500 in 1987.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. had the best showing in the Rolex 24 for a Daytona 500 winner. He placed third in the Daytona Prototype class in 2004 and won the Daytona 500 two weeks later. That’s unless you count Fireball Roberts, who was 12th overall and second in the GT3000 class in a Ferrari in the inaugural 1962 Daytona Continental, one week before winning the 500.
Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray got plenty of pre-race attention with their quest to join racing legends A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti as the only drivers to win both the Daytona 500 and the Rolex 24 At Daytona. McMurray missed out by only 2.426 seconds, finishing second behind his Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates teammates. … Juan Pablo Montoya can join that group in next weekend’s Daytona 500. He won the Rolex 24 in 2007 and 2008 for Ganassi.
Homestead-Miami Speedway has added a special Dempsey Racing ticket package for the March 5 Grand Prix of Miami. For $40, fans get the opportunity for a race day meet-and-greet with the competing Dempsey Racing drivers, plus paddock access and a donation to the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer, Hope and Healing, and the Seattle Children’s Hospital
Bob Stallings Wins First Rolex Bob Snodgrass Award of Excellence
Bob Stallings, owner of GAINSCO /Bob Stallings Racing, was the recipient of the 2010 Rolex Bob Snodgrass Award of Excellence. The announcement was made at the Grand Marshal dinner on the eve of the 49th Rolex 24 At Daytona at the Daytona 500 Experience.
This was the first presentation of the Rolex Bob Snodgrass Award For Excellence, an annual award created to recognize the team owner or team manager who has demonstrated the qualities of integrity, passion for the sport and the love of cars for which Bob Snodgrass was known during his life and career. The award is supported by Gorsline Company. Stallings was chosen for the recognition by a blue-ribbon panel from a short-list of four highly-successful team owners competing in the 2010 Rolex Series.
“Bob was a terrific owner and someone for me to emulate,” said Stallings who was presented with a specially-engraved Rolex Stainless Steel and Platinum Yacht-Master timepiece Platinum Yacht-Master timepiece (Snodgrass’ personal favorite) by five-time Rolex 24 winner Hurley Haywood.
Overheard: “Rather than destroy our good Ford power we opted to retire the car. That was the smart thing to do, but we’re disappointed because of how competitive we ran throughout January. Twenty-four hours is a difficult race, and I’m proud of how the team got us this far.”
Ryan Dalziel, Starworks Motorsports
Rolex 24 Winner Hand Running for GS Title
Joey Hand (No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3) proved in the 2011 Rolex 24 At Daytona he could run up front with the best of them, and turned heads with his ability to drive through traffic and catch the leaders with consistently quick lap times.
Now, he turns toward another goal under the GRAND-AM banner – winning a championship.
The Sacramento, Calif., native came within six points of winning last year’s Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Grand Sport title. Like last year, he and co-driver Michael Marsal finished outside the top 10 in the GS race at Daytona – 11th to be exact – but with nine races remaining, could easily be considered title contenders.
Another Close ST Race on the Horizon?
Of all the Continental Tire Challenge Street Tuner races held at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the last two have been the closest. The 2009 and 2010 races have featured down-to-the-wire battles between Compass360 Racing (2009 winner, 0.129 seconds) and Freedom Autosport (2010 winner, 0.103 seconds).
So, is there any reason why this year’s ST race can’t be as close, or closer? Tom Long (No. 25 Mazda/ Mazda MX-5), last year’s co-winner and the 2009 runner-up with Derek Whitis, thinks so.
“The lap times have been close because the track favors different cars at different sections of the track-performance on the oval portion, and handling and braking in the infield,” Long said. “It may be closer, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that we’ll be in position to win again this year.”
V-Pack Seeks Another Strong Run
The oldest car in the Continental Tire Challenge paddock, V-Pack Motorsports’ No. 24 BMW 330i, nearly scored its first victory since GRAND-AM began sanctioning the series in 2001.
Adam Pecorari, co-driving with Ray Mason, fought for the lead with eventual winner Ian Baas (No. 171 APR/VW Driver Gear Volkswagen GTI) inside the final 20 minutes before hitting the wall in Turn 2. The car finished 25th. V-Pack’s best finish was fourth at Virginia International Raceway in 2007. The car has more than 30,000 miles total under its belt in over 10 years of competition.
For the race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the team’s lead driver entered is John Heinricy (No. 24 Roland Contractors/Spirit Racing Graphics BMW 330i).
Around the Paddock
Here are some other items of note:
After running together at Daytona, traditional Mustang rivals Dean Martin and Bret Seafuse (No. 37 Trumansburg ShurSave Ford Mustang Boss 302) return to drive together at Homestead-Miami, only this time under the JBS Motorsports umbrella.
Several drivers from the south Florida area call the Homestead 200 their home race. They include Guy Cosmo (No. 83 Road Sport Supply Porsche Cayman S) of West Palm Beach, Barry Ellis (No. 88 Hop-A-Jet Worldwide Jet Charter Porsche 997) of Fort Lauderdale, Marcelo Abello (No. 89 Hop-A-Jet Worldwide Jet Charter Porsche 997) of Fort Lauderdale, Andrew Carbonell (No. 26 Mazda/ Mazda MX-5) of Miami and Pierre Kleinubing (No. 32 Mazda/Cybernation MAZDASPEED3) of Coconut Creek.


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