SONOMA - Pontiac Hopes To Widen Championship Points Leads - Grandam

24.08.2006: SONOMA - Pontiac Hopes To Widen Championship Points Leads - Grandam

2006 Rolex Series Season Coming to a Close with Championships Up-for-grabs; New Drivers Join Pontiac Teams to Help Brand Widen Narrow Margin

With the 2006 Rolex Series season quickly coming to a close, manufacturer, team and driver championships in both GT and Daytona Prototype (DP) classes are on the line and Pontiac's teams can directly influence the outcome. Pontiac is looking for its first GT manufacturers championship and with a 24 point lead over Porsche, the brand stands a good chance of reaching its goal. In the DP class, the margin by which Pontiac leads the manufacturers championship is slimmer (one point) but a determined SunTrust Racing team may be the one to help Pontiac extend that lead. SunTrust's resolution to overtake team championship leader Krohn Racing in its quest for a second-straight team championship can only assist Pontiac in the manufacturer title. Additionally, SunTrust's co-driver Max Angelelli is second in driver points and wants very much to claim a second-consecutive driver championship. When the Rolex Series heads to Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. this weekend, Angelelli will be ready and energized.

"I need always to look for a balance, otherwise I would have tried to overtake (Scott) Pruett at the last race at The Glen," said Angelelli of his second-place finish at Watkins Glen two weeks ago. "Luckily, we still have a chance to win the championship. I need to take risks, but not make mistakes. I still need to finish the race as high as possible."

"From my point of view, I don't have a championship to race for," said Denmark's Jan Magnussen, who does not fun a full schedule in the Roles Series but occasionally fills in for Wayne Taylor in the #10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley. "But my job at the Sonoma race will be to make sure that we come away with Max and the team in the lead."

In addition to Pontiac's customary drivers, several new names will be seen adorning both DPs and GTO.Rs at Sonoma's famed 2.52-mile road course. Open-wheel driver Patrick Carpentier joins Milka Duno in the No. 11 CITGO Racing by SAMAX Pontiac Riley. Carpentier, a native of Quebec, Canada, is best known for his success in the Toyota Atlantic Series, where he was champion in 1996, and Champ Car World Series. He raced at Infineon last year with the Indy Racing League and finished fourth. While the IRL's open-wheel cars are much different than those in the Rolex Series, Carpentier had some experience in a Daytona Prototype at this year's Rolex 24 At Daytona before taking some time off.

"It was good to take a few months off and spend some time with my kids on the ranch, but now it is time to go back to racing," said Carpentier. "This is a track I enjoyed last year with the IRL and I'm looking forward to going back to it. I want to thank the team and its affiliated sponsors for giving me this opportunity."

For Pontiac's GT-class effort, noted road racer Tommy Kendall will pair with Burt Frisselle in the No. 98 Pacific Coast Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R and the pair will attempt to extend Pontiac's GT podium streak to 18. Frisselle raced the car previously with his brother Brian at Barber Motorsports Park and finished fifth. Kendall, now racing only part-time, has a long list of successes including multiple IMSA and Trans-Am championships as well as Rolex 24 class victories and was a six-time IROC Series competitor.

"Since I retired in 1997, I have been very selective about what I've signed on to race in." said Kendall. "(With PCM) I was very impressed with the team and their approach. It's a small team, but they were very efficient and professional, and the environment was just great. I loved the GTO.R; it's a pleasure to drive - great power band, well-balanced, and tractable. Burt is an impressive young guy, and I think we are both just looking forward to getting to Sears (Infineon) and seeing where we match up with everyone. I'm really looking forward to it.

"Fortunately, what's good for me is good for Pontiac: namely that we both want to win," said Kendall. "Pontiac has a perfect multi-prong approach with the TRG guys and us because we are unencumbered by the championship battle and can just focus on winning, and I'd love to be able to contribute to Pontiac's effort in the manufacturers championship."

Pontiac's battle towards the GT manufacturers championships seems to be progressing well; as of the last GT run at Barber (the previous race at Watkins Glen was DP only), the two TRG GTO.Rs - with help in three races from the #98 GTO.R - have now seven wins, 10 additional podium finishes (17 including the wins, 18 including the qualifying races) and a podium sweep for 2006. Co-drivers Andy Lally and Marc Bunting of the #65 F1 Air/TRG GTO.R also lead in driver points and their team in team points; they and TRG stand a good chance of winning those championships also.

The 14th leg of the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series, the Sonoma 250, is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 26 at 3 p.m. PDT. The race will be broadcast on SPEED TV on Sunday, August 27 at 3 p.m. EDT.


- Steve Smith-

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24.08.2006 / MaP

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