Pruett-Rojas Sweep To Victory At Mid-Ohio

Lexington, OH – Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas displayed championship form as they raced to victory in the EMCO Gears Classic presented by Key Bank at the venerable Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course late Saturday afternoon. The winners drove the TELMEX Lexus Riley owned by Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Racing.

With the sixth race of the Rolex Sports Car Series completed, the 2009 season reached its halfway mark.

The winners had to overcome two substantive challenges to win the 2 hour and 45-minute race around the 2.258-mile road course. On the first lap, they were assessed with a stop-and-go penalty plus 10 seconds for re-fueling before one green flag had been completed and later on a flat tire cost them a lap to the leaders.

With Pruett behind the wheel in the closing stages of the race, the former champion fended off the repeated challenges by Ricardo Zonta to win the 111-lap race by a margin of .491 seconds.

Pruett and Rojas won their second consecutive race and Pruett added to his Rolex Series record by gaining his 22nd overall win. Rojas gained his ninth series triumph.

“We had Lady Luck on our side today,” Pruett said of the victory. “We were in the right place at the right time, and the team made the right calls. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It was purely luck that we won, but the good thing is we had a good car.”

Regarding the late-race battle with Zonta, he added, “It was a nail-biter at the end. We were trying to drive as fast as we could, carve our way through traffic and try and stay on the track.”

Pruett said the Ganassi team has disputed the first-lap penalty as they firmly believe they had completed one lap, and they believe the decision will be reversed after the situation has been reviewed.

Said Rojas about the win, “I didn’t understand the penalty when it was assessed. But we did have a quick car, even though I lost a lap due to a flat tire, but we were helped by a yellow flag that came out at the right time.”

Zonta and teammate Nic Jonsson drove the Krohn Racing Ford Lola.

“Traffic was very difficult,” Zonta said. “One car blocked me near the end.” He also indicated he had only nominal practice with the car and it took him a while to get accustomed to the car.

Said Jonsson, “The start of the race was wild, and it was like running in the rain in the early laps. It was a big struggle for me.”

Third place went to the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley driven by Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty. They, too, pitted early but their stop was a legal one, but it did drop them back in the field.

“The first few laps were like dirt-track racing, and they we had a mixed-up strategy,” Fogarty said. Gurney also said the track was slick, although the car was good for him. “We were unlucky around the 45-minute mark,” he stated. “If our strategy had been different, we might have been able to hold the others off.”

In the points department, Pruett and Rojas are the leaders with 175 and Gurney and Fogarty have 164.

Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard brought their Penske Porsche Riley into fourth place with J. C. France and Joao Barbosa trailing them in the Brumos Porsche Riley.

Sixth place went to the Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley and Michael Valiante and John Pew with the AIM Autosport Ford Riley and Mark Wilkins in seventh.

Fifteen of the 16 Daytona Prototypes that started the race were running at the end.

Leh Keen and Dirk Werner came from the back of the pack to take GT class honors. They won for the third time in 2009, and they drove the Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3 Cup car. In total, they led 45 laps.

“It was the toughest race of the season for me,” Keen said. “We started in the back but we did come back.” They were forced to start in the back after the car failed the post-qualifying technical inspection. In winning, it was the first time this season a GT car has come from the last starting position to win a race.

Added Werner about the race, “It was pretty easy for me. I didn’t have a single fight with my competitors. I just had to deal with traffic and try to stay in front.”

The Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R of Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis finished second in class and the Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R of Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards were third in GT.

Werner and Keen extended their point lead to 16 (186-170) over Collins and Edwards, who moved into second in points in defense of their 2008

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