GRAND-AM News and Notes: Feb. 23

Grand Prix Of Miami Continues 29-Year South Florida Tradition
The 29th running of the Grand Prix of Miami on Saturday, March 5, at Homestead-Miami Speedway continues a tradition that dates back to 1983.

Al Holbert won the inaugural event at a rain-soaked Bayfront Park in Miami, and won again two years later with Derek Bell on a 1.85-mile circuit. Competition shifted to nearby Bicentennial Park in 1986, located a few blocks to the north, and ran there on a 1.873-mile circuit through 1995 before shifting to Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The event featured the IMSA Camel GTP Series from 1983 through 1993. The SCCA Trans-Am ran in the 1994 event. Champ Car ran from 1995 through 2000, and the IndyCar Series in 2001 and 2002. The event has been a GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race since 2003. The open-wheel races from 1996 through 2002 were run on the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway oval, and then moved to the venue’s 2.3-mile road circuit beginning in 2003.

Hurley Haywood and JC France were first GRAND-AM winners when they won the 2003 event in the Brumos Porsche/Fabcar – the first overall victory for a Daytona Prototype in Rolex Series competition. Haywood joined Joao Barbosa in a pinch-hitting role in the 2009 Grand Prix of Miami, winning in the No. 59 Brumos Porsche/Riley.

Nissan GTP driver Geoff Brabham is the leading winner in the history of the event with four victories.

Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett won the Grand Prix of Miami in 2008 and 2010. They join Haywood, Holbert, Chip Robinson, Michael Andretti and Sam Hornish Jr. as two-time winners of the event. Jacques Villeneuve won the final street GP in 1995, two years before capturing the Formula One World Championship.

Two-Time DP Champs Gurney, Fogarty Look To Rebound

It’s catch-up time again for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, looking to rebound in the Daytona Prototype championship race after struggling in the season-opening Rolex 24.
But that’s familiar territory for Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty (No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet/Riley), who came back from 22nd in 2007 and seventh in 2009 in the Rolex 24 to capture the DP title.

Gurney and Fogarty were joined by NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson for the 2011 season opener. They lost ground early in the race with brake issues and finished 12th in the DP rundown at Daytona, once again denying the team victory in America’s premier sports car event.

While not the best starters in the Rolex Series, the team annually gains momentum early in the season to battle for the championship. In addition to capturing two titles, Stallings’ team finished second in 2008 and third last season.

Since Fogarty and Gurney began driving together midway through the 2006 campaign, they have shown annual improvement at Homestead-Miami Speedway, next stop for the Rolex Series. The pair finished 11th in 2007 (coming off a victory at Mexico City), then eighth in 2008, fourth in 2009 and third in last year’s event.

Fogarty captured the team’s lone pole at the South Florida venue in 2009, the only year that the Grand Prix of Miami served as the final round in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series.
GT Manufacturers Line Up To Challenge Rolex 24 Winner Porsche At Grand Prix Of Miami

Porsche took opening honors in the Rolex Series production-based GT class at the 2011 season-opening Rolex 24. Now, contentenders from Mazda, Chevrolet Camaro and Corvette, BMW and Ford are looking to take honors in Round 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

-Andy Lally, Spencer Pumpelly, Steven Bertheau, Brendan Gaughan and Wolf Henzler co-drove the No. 67 Sargent & Lundy/TIC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup to a 12th-place overall finish, giving TRG its fourth class victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Pumpelly and Bertheau will co-drive the car at Homestead, with Lally making the move to race fulltime in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ranks with TRG Motorsports. Lally currently leads the Sprint Cup Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.

Other Porsche contenders are 2003 Miami SGS winner Craig Stanton and John Potter (No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche GT3 Cup) and Andrew Davis and Leh Keen (No. 59 Brumos Porsche GT3 Cup). Making its 2011 debut is the No. 72 Grant Racing Porsche of Tennessee’s Carey, Kevin and Milton Grant.

-Mazda looks for its second consecutive Homestead victory with Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato (No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8). Joining the defending GT champs are SpeedSource teammates Jonathan Bomarito and Sylvain Tremblay (No. 70 Castrol Edge Mazda RX-8), leading Mazda’s eight-car entry.

Patrick Dempsey and Joe Foster (No. 40 Visit Florida Mazda RX-8) are coming off a third-place finish in the Rolex 24. Also entered from Dempsey Racing are James Gue and Dane Cameron (No. 41 Seattle Children’s Hospital Mazda).

Team Sahlen expands to three Mazdas for Miami. Wayne Nonnamaker and Memo Gidley (No. 42 Mazda) are joined by the No. 43 and No. 49 of Joe Sahlen plus Joe and Will Nonnamaker.

Jan Heylen and Ross Smith (No. 30 Maxwell Paper Co. Mazda RX-8) complete the Mazda entry with Racers Edge Motorsports.

The entry features three Chevrolet Camaros: Oliver Gavin and Gunter Schaldach (No. 07 The Cool TV Camaro), Robin Liddell and Jan Magnussen (No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro) and Bill Lester and Jordan Taylor (No. 88 Autohaus Motorsports Camaro), while Marsh Racing makes its 2011 debut with Eric Curran and Boris Said (No. 31 Whelen Engineering Corvette).

-Bill Auberlen and Paul Dalla Lana (No. 94 Turner Motorsport BMW M3) are looking to rebound from a 17th-place finish in the Rolex 24.

-Ian James and Tom Nastasi look to debut the No. 11 TPN Racing/Blackforest Ford Mustang at Homestead.

-Paul Edwards (No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Chevrolet/Coyote) is a three-time GT winner of the Grand Prix of Miami, but will share a Daytona Prototype with Antonio Garcia in this year’s event.

Brumos Racing Looks To Make History Again At Homestead
Brumos Racing made GRAND-AM history with the first overall victory for a Daytona Prototype, scored by Hurley Haywood and JC France in the No. 59 Brumos Porsche/Fabcar at the 2003 Grand Prix of Miami.

Haywood also won for Brumos at Homestead in 2009, joined by Joao Barbosa.
The Jacksonville, Fla.-based team moved to the Rolex Series GT class in 2011. Rising stars Leh Keen and Andrew Davis drive the team’s No. 59 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, painted the same white, red and blue scheme that was carried on the team’s Daytona Prototype. Haywood and the late Peter Gregg scored an overall victory in the 1973 Rolex 24 At Daytona – the first overall triumph for a 911-based Porsche in international competition, beginning Brumos’ role as a key player in major sports car competition.
Haywood – who is part of Brumos Racing’s management – returned to action at the recent Rolex 24, helping the team to a fifth-place finish as a long stop to replace a debris-damaged radiator took the team from contention. The only driver to win the Rolex 24 five times, Haywood has not ruled out a return to the event in 2012, which will be the 50th running of America’s premier sports car classic.
Overheard: “I let them win. I’m not surprised by it. I don’t play video games all that much. I could get better if I wanted to, but I prefer the real thing.”
David Donohue, after losing to a fan in a video simulator at a recent charity event at New Jersey Motorsports Park.

BimmerWorld Ready To Get Back On Track
When Seth Thomas and James Clay (No. 79 CRC Industries/Johnstone Supply BMW M3) made the move to the Grand Sport class this season, they were instantly tabbed as favorites to win the championship. BimmerWorld finished second in the Street Tuner championship in 2010, its first season on the Continental Tire Challenge circuit, with Thomas and Bill Heumann, and a four-car effort – two cars in each class – gave the team reason to believe in two titles.

Already, though, Thomas and Clay are behind in the count. The pair finished 16th in January at Daytona, following a penalty for avoidable contact with another car. Thomas only finished outside the top 10 once during his championship run last season, while Clay had six top 10s in eight races in 2010.

“I won’t lie and say we’re where we want to be,” Thomas said. “Winning is about the only thing we’ll consider as a good result, but with that being said, we have a good foundation to build from here. It isn’t easy in GRAND-AM. The GS class is just as intense as ST has proven to be, and the top cars are well-sorted and highly developed. Getting our E92s to that state is our mission.

“We’ll get there,” Thomas concluded. “I’m as confident of that as I’ve ever been.”
Thomas and Clay’s GS counterparts are Ken Wilden and Bob Michaelian (No. 78 BizRate/Escorts BMW M3), who finished sixth at Daytona. Wilden is the 2009 GS champion, and he and Michaelian are in their second season driving together; they paired up with Rehagen Racing for much of 2010.

BimmerWorld’s ST program already looks to be in good shape. The team’s highest finishing drivers, Gregory Liefooghe and John Capestro-Dubets (No. 81 CRC Industries/GearWrench BMW 330i), were third at Daytona. Liefooghe’s professional racing debut was last year in the Continental Tire Challenge, while Capestro-Dubets is in his first season of professional racing. Heumann (No. 80 CRC Industries/GearWrench BMW 330i) drives with David White, in his second season in the series; they finished 12th at Daytona

By The Numbers
The following are some noteworthy facts and figures heading into the Homestead 200:
-2 – Consecutive GS wins by Billy Johnson (No. 61 Roush Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302R) at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
-3 – Consecutive GS victories by Matt Plumb and Nick Longhi (No. 13 BMW M3). The pair won the last two races of 2010 and in January at Daytona.
-9 – Drivers who have won series pole positions overall at Homestead-Miami. No driving duo has won a race at the track from the pole.
-13 – Class victories by Eric Curran (No. 00 TTL/Golden Gate Margerine Chevrolet Camaro) in Continental Tire Challenge competition. He is still seeking his first win, however, in Grand Sport. He’ll drive at Homestead-Miami with Ashley McCalmont.
-95.662 – Record qualifying speed, in mph, set by Joe Foster (No. 15 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang Boss 302R) last year.

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