Miller Motorsports Park Going All-Out
The 2008 racing season at Miller Motorsports Park is rapidly nearing an end, and for the last major event of the year, this weekend’s SunRichGourmet.com 1000 presented by The Grand and Little America Hotels, the track staff is pulling out all the stops.
Five different racing series will be competing on the 4.5-mile Full Course at MMP, two of which will be making their first appearance on America’s longest track. The headline attraction is the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal, featuring the 200-mph Daytona Prototypes and the production-based GT classes racing together for 1000 kilometers. The season-ending race, which will take nearly seven hours and is the series’ second-longest race of the year after the Rolex 24 at Daytona, will get underway at 11:00 am on Saturday.
Unlike last year, when there was a four-way championship battle for the Daytona Prototypes coming into the season finale, this year the DP title has already been mathematically clinched by the Chip Ganassi Racing duo of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas. For Pruett, it will be his eighth major road-racing championship; Rojas is poised to be the first Mexican driver to win a major international road racing crown. However, in the GT class, there is a three-way battle for the championship. Only six points (338-332) separate point leaders Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards (No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R) from Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis (No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R), with Nick Ham and Sylvain Tremblay (No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8) only seven points further back. The three teams each have three wins this season, and we could wind up with a six-way driver tie for the GT title. Look for well-known TV and movie actor Patrick Dempsey in the GT class, making his second MMP appearance in the No. 40 HyperSport Mazda RX-8.
The KONI Challenge Series, the “little brother” to the Rolex Series, will be making its third appearance at MMP this weekend, with the Grand Sports (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) classes racing together in a field of 70 modified production cars, the largest field of cars that will race on this track in 2007. With two races remaining, there are heated championship battles ongoing in each class. There are 70 points remaining up for grabs; in the GS class there are 20 drivers with a mathematical chance at the title, while in the ST class there are 11 potential champions. The KONI Challenge Series will have a 2.5-hour race starting at 11:15 am on Sunday.
The Cooper Tires Presents the Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, also known as Formula Atlantic, will be making its first appearance at MMP this weekend. Formula Atlantic is a very historic series, celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. Since 1974, the Atlantic Championship has helped train superstars in various forms of motorsport all over the world. From Formula 1 legends such as Gilles Villeneuve, Jacques Villeneuve and Keke Rosberg, to IndyCar heroes like Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Jimmy Vasser and Danica Patrick and many more, Formula Atlantic has proven to be one of the most effective driver development series in the world.
The Atlantic Championship is a fiercely competitive spec series, with all drivers piloting a Swift 016.a chassis powered by a 2.3-liter, 300hp normally-aspirated Mazda four-cylinder engine and capable of speeds in excess of 175 mph. Racing slicks and rain tires are also spec, and the series employs heart-stopping standing starts at all races. The equality of equipment means that the difference between winning and losing is down to driver talent. Heading into the series’ penultimate race of the season, Jonathan Bomarito (No. 26 Mathiasen Motorsports) is enjoying a 204-188 points advantage over rookie Jonathan Summerton (No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing). There have been six different winners in nine races thus far this season. Other notable drivers in the field include Greg and Leo Mansell, sons of former Formula 1 World Champion Nigel Mansell; and Frankie Muniz, the well-known actor (“Malcolm in the Middle”). The Atlantic Championship will take the green flag at 2:30 pm on Sunday.
Another series making its first appearance at MMP is the new Ford Racing Mustang Challenge for the Miller Cup. This is the spec Mustang series developed by Miller Motorsports Park in conjunction with Ford Racing and utilizing the new, specially-built Ford Mustang FR500S, developed from the original Mustang Challenge cars created for MMP’s Ford Racing High Performance Driving School. It is unprecedented for a racetrack to launch a professional racing series and, after visits to Road Atlanta, Canada’s Mosport International Raceway, Alabama’s Barber Motorsports Park, Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park and New Jersey Motorsports Park, the series is returning home for an inaugural double-header season finale.
Former Mazda MX-5 Cup competitor Andrew Caddell (No. 43 StableOne Racing FR500S) has been the man to beat all year, winning three of the six races despite switching teams mid-season. He currently enjoys a 326-259 point advantage over Jamie Slone (No. 6 Slone Racing FR500S, and looks poised to claim the inaugural Miller Cup after the final two races on Friday and Sunday. Making a guest appearance in the series this weekend will be world-renowned drift racer Vaughn Gittin Jr., current SuperDrift Champion and the 2007 D1GP Champion. The Mustang Challenge will have two 45-minute races, one at 5:30 pm on Friday and one at 3:45 pm on Sunday.
The SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup will round out the program with a strong field of nimble MX-5 Miata roadsters. The Mazda Miata is the world’s most popular sports car, and this series and its predecessor for the previous-version Miatas have launched countless drivers into the higher ranks of professional racing. Expect big packs of cars racing door-handle-to-door-handle from the green to the checkered flags. The MX-5 Cup will have a 45-minute race starting at 9:55 am on Saturday.
Off the track, there will be a dizzying variety of activities for fans to enjoy. The Miller Kart Track will be open for concession rentals, and there will be helicopter rides available from Park City Helitours, Skid Car rides from MMP’s Miller Performance Training Center and rock-crawler rides from Ben Hanks Racing on MMP’s new offroad course. In addition, there will be freestyle motocross and stunt bike exhibitions, plus live music, throughout the weekend. For fans who want to meet the drivers, the Rolex Series drivers will have an autograph session at 12:15 pm on Friday and the KONI Challenge Series drivers will have an autograph session at 9:15 am on Sunday.
Admission on Friday is free for everyone. On Saturday, Grandstand tickets (good for any grandstand) are priced at $50 with General Admission priced at $35. On Sunday, Grandstand tickets are priced at $40 with General Admission priced at $25. Kids 12 and under are free in General Admission areas all weekend.