Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas in their Ganassi Riley-BMW won the Grand-Am Rolex Series race at New Jersey Motorsports Park, extending their lead in the points. On the day before the Rolex race, Owen Trinkler and Sarah Cattaneo in their RSR Mini won the Street Tuner class in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race. The Billy Johnson/Jack Roush Jr. Mustang took the overall and Grand Sport wins, but the sixth-place finish of Paul Dalla Lana and Boris Said in their Turner Motorsport M3 left Dalla Lana with a strong lead in the drivers’ title chase going into the series’ final 2011 race at Mid-Ohio in September.
Ganassi Racing took a risk late in Sunday’s 2 ¾-hour Rolex Series race; Pruett stayed out under yellow when his competitors pitted for fresh tires, and motored away for the win on a very hot day at New Jersey Motorsports Park. It was the fifth win of the year for Pruett and Rojas, and their fourteenth in the last twenty races.
Pruett started the race, handed off to Rojas, and returned to the car to take the win. On his first stint, Pruett had to serve a penalty for contact with Ricky Taylor in the #10 SunTrust car. Taylor and his co-driver Max Angelelli finished second.
“It was a great win for us,” Pruett said, noting that his team had not won at NJMP before. Last year he and Rojas were second; they had been leading late in the race until a cut tire dropped them back a position.
The Turner Motorsport M3s were not a factor in the GT class. A brake rotor led to a trip for the garage for car #94, shared by Paul Dalla Lana and Billy Johnson, and Peter Bassett, running the team’s #93, got off to a slow start. The #93 M3, also driven by Michael Marsal and Memo Gidley, finished tenth in class. The GT win went to the Mazda RX-8 of Jon Bomarito/Sylvain Tremblay.
The Rolex Series runs at Watkins Glen and Montreal in August, and then runs its season finale at Mid-Ohio in September. For the CTSCC, only the Mid-Ohio race remains. (Text continues after photos)
Owen Trinkler took the lead on lap 50 of the 75-lap, 2 ½ hour CTSCC race, battled with Andrew Carbonell in his Mazda MX-5, and then took over for good on lap 69, with just over fifteen minutes left in the race. For Trinkler and RSR, it was a reprise of last year’s win at NJMP. For his co-driver Sarah Cattaneo it was the first CTSCC win, and the first win for a woman in the series since 2003. (For the record, the 2003 winner was Belinda Endress, who took the STII class win in what was then Grand-Am Cup, co-driving an Acura Integra with Mike Fitzgerald and Howie Liebengood).
Another RSR Mini piloted by Tom Dyer and Chris Puskar finished second in ST, ahead of the Mazdaspeed 3 of Eric Foss and Brad Rampelberg.
The race, run on an oppressive, steamy, 100-degree-plus afternoon, ended under yellow because of oil spread on the circuit by the Kia of Mike Galati, who dropped out of the race. His co-driver Nic Jonnson, the championship leader, held on to his ST drivers’ points lead, but he is now just three points ahead of second-place Honda racer Ryan Eversley and eight ahead of the third place duo of Cattaneo and Trinkler.
At the front of the pack, Saturday’s race belonged to Mustang, with a single lap led by a Camaro and nine laps led by the Fall-Line M3 of Hugh Plumb, who looked like a potential winner until an off-course excursion took him out with about a half-hour remaining.
At the end, the Roush Mustang Boss 302R of Johnson and Roush won the race, ahead of the Fall-Line BMW of Terry Borcheller/Mark Boden and another Mustang piloted by Scott Panzer and Todd Snyder. M3s occupied positions four through seven, with the Charles Espenlaub/Charles Putman Fall-Line car fourth, the Matt Plumb/Nick Longhi Rum-Bum car fifth, Dalla Lana and Said’s Turner M3 sixth, and BimmerWorld’s James Clay and Seth Thomas seventh. The first Camaro in the finishing order, the Lawson Aschenbach/Joey Atterbury car, was eighth, while the Kinetic M3 of Jade Buford/Ben Clucas and the Turner M3 of Michael Marsal/Sam Schultz were ninth and tenth.
The Camaro of Matt Bell/John Edwards, winner of the last two races, ran as high as third, but was set back with penalties and was eventually taken out in an incident. For all practical purposes, their drivers’ title hopes were ended by their finish.
Dalla Lana has a 16-point lead in GS drivers’ points going into Mid-Ohio in September. Even if second-place racers Billy Johnson and Jack Roush Jr win that race, Dalla Lana need only finish eleventh to win the title. BMW goes into Mid-Ohio with a strong lead over Ford in manufacturers’ points.—Brian S. Morgan, motorsports editor, bmwcca.org