Pruett, Rojas Thrive in the Heat in Birmingham
As a result, Pruett and Memo Rojas won their sixth triumph of 2008 in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley, extending their lead in the Daytona Prototype championship to 60 points over Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, who retired the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley with clutch problems.
Pruett prevailed on a hot and humid day, with 102-degree temperatures taking their toll on both participants and machinery.
"All the alarms were on today - the oil temp, water temp - and you just had to ignore it all," said Pruett, who extended his Rolex Series record to 20 career victories. "Everything was overheating, including the drivers. We just took it to the checkered flag. This is a big win for us as a team. We've only finished once on the podium at Barber since 2004."
Law and David Donohue scored their third runner-up finish in the last four races sharing the No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley. It was their fifth consecutive top-five finish.
"In the end, it was a three-lap run," Law said. "The motors were hot. I just couldn't make up any more ground than I did. It was close. It was a great run."
Pruett was the lone race leader to finish in the top 10. Six other cars led the event, but all of them finished outside of the top 10.
Ricardo Zonta started third in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola. He led the opening 25 circuits before pitting. Nic Jonsson took over, but skidded off course in turn nine early in his run and lost three laps. He returned to finish 13th.
Guy Cosmo led a lap in the Spirit of Daytona Porsche Coyote and co-driver Marc-Antoine Camirand ran second later in the race, but the car lost power late in the race to bring out the final caution period.
Brad Jaeger led three laps in the No. 77 Kodak Doran Racing Ford Dallara, but co-driver Memo Gidley pulled off and retired when the car briefly caught fire. He escaped without injury.
The turn of events gave Joey Hand a sizeable lead in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Porsche Riley started by Bill Auberlen. Hand had a 45-second lead over Camirand and more than a minute over the third place car of Gurney, when the caution for Gidley's incident brought out the caution.
Gurney led Pruett on the restart. Gurney led a race-high 35 laps, but Brian Frisselle passed both Pruett and Gurney in the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley started by Mark Wilkins and took the lead on Lap 76. Frisselle led the next 15 circuits, but suddenly lost power with mechanical problems with 13 laps remaining.
"We thought we had it today, but it wasn't meant to be," said Wilkins, whose team has yet to score a podium finish. "We're not sure what it was, but it was an engine issue. We've been knocking on the door, and we know it's going to come our way eventually."
That left Pruett out front, followed by Gurney. However, the GAINSCO car suddenly fell back following the restart for Frisselle's problems, and Gurney retired with clutch problems.
"We had clutch problems from the start, but the cautions made it worse," Fogarty said. "Finally, it totally went away."
Law made a challenge in the closing laps, running side-by-side through Turn 6. Pruett maintained the lead, and then held off Law's final challenge on the three-lap sprint following the final caution for Cosmo's problem.
Ian James and John Pew finished third in the No. 6 Ford Riley, followed by Michael Shank Racing teammates Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson in the No. 60. Burt Frisselle and Ricky Taylor placed fifth in the No. 47 Doran Racing Ford Dallara, followed by the pole-winning No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Dallara of Michael Valiante and Max Angelelli.
In GT, Nick Ham passed Robin Liddell eight laps from the checkered flag to score the third victory for the No. 70 SpeedSource Castrol Syntec/ Mazdaspeed Mazda RX-8 he shared with Sylvain Tremblay. Ham started from the pole and led 28 laps before turning the car over to Tremblay. Ham returned to the car for the sprint to the finish.
Liddell led a race-high 55 laps in the No. 57 Stevenson Racing Pontiac GXP.R started by Andrew Davis. He was passed for the lead following the penultimate restart, and then fell to fourth after the final caution to finish fourth.
Bryce Miller and Dirk Werner finished second for the second straight race in the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche GT3, gaining two positions in the closing laps. Andy Lally and Tim George Jr. finished third in the TRG Porsche GT3.
Kelly Collins led eight laps in the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R he shared with fellow three-time winner Paul Edwards. They finished sixth, allowing Tremblay and Ham to pull within 14 points of the GT lead.
The race was slowed by five cautions for 18 laps, with Pruett and Rojas averaging 85.694 mph.
The next race for the Grand-Am Rolex Series will be August 1 at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
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