Managed racing pays off for Grand-Am Series
Just how close is competition in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16? When Alex Gurney edged Scott Pruett by 0.759 seconds to win Sunday's Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park, it was the sixth race of the season decided by less than one second.
After eight of 12 events on the 2009 schedule, the combined margin of victory is 54.526 seconds. That's less than one minute, after 46 hours of competition, covering a combined 1,487 laps.
The figure becomes even more impressive considering that Ricardo Zonta won the rain-soaked race at New Jersey Motorsports Park by 44.752 seconds over Max Angelelli. The next-widest margin was at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, where Jon Fogarty passed Pruett with 22 laps remaining and won by 7.228 seconds.
The remaining six finishes were all under one second, decided by an aggregate of 2.546 seconds.
David Donohue opened the year by holding off Juan Pablo Montoya in the Rolex 24 At Daytona by .167 seconds - the closest contested finish in the history of major international 24-hour competition.
The other remaining endurance event on the Rolex Series schedule, the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, saw Pruett win by .154 seconds over Angelelli.
Angelelli beat Gurney to the stripe in the July 4 return to Daytona, winning the Brumos Porsche 250 by .270 seconds.
Other close finishes saw Pruett win by .491 seconds over Zonta at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and Gurney beat Michael Valiante by .705 seconds at Virginia International Raceway.
The eight 2009 races have had five different winners and five pole winners. Last season, there were six race winners and nine pole winners.
In 2008, six races were decided by less than one second - including the two closest finishes in Rolex Series history. The combined margin of victory for the 11 "sprint" races of three hours or less was approximately 12.5 seconds.
The next event on the 2009 schedule is the Friday, August 7 Crown Royal 200 at Watkins Glen International, when the Rolex Series shares the historic circuit with the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series.
[Editor's Note: If you manage the entire series right down to the last nuance then you are sure to artificially create close finishes. This has been the modus operandi of France family owned racing series for years.]