"A Kids Dream Come True"
September 24, 2008 | 10:54 A.M. EST
"I don't use it very many times," Rojas said. "This is only the fifth time I wore it."
Asked about the Rolex he would receive later that evening, Rojas smiled in disbelief.
"This is like a kid's dream, a dream come true," the 27-year-old driver said. "Being co-champion with Scott is like a dream come true. I remember as a kid watching him on TV down in Mexico when he was racing Indy Cars. Now, I'm sitting next to him as his co-driver."
Rojas and Pruett won six races. The personal highlight for Rojas was winning the pole for his home city race at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City. Rojas became the first Mexican to win a major international championship.
For Pruett, his eighth personal championship made good on a promise he made to the TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team early in the year.
"I told the guys at the start of the year that I was going to bust my ass to win the championship," Pruett said. After what happened in New Jersey, I'll have to rethink using those words."
Pruett rallied the team from a hospital bed in New Jersey after being involved in a testing accident early in testing at Thunderbolt Raceway. The team announced it was withdrawing from the event after the car was torn in half following an impact with the end of pit road at the new circuit. Sore, but not seriously injured, Pruett asked the team to reconsider, setting in motion a chain of events which saw the team fly to Indianapolis to prepare a mothballed car for the event. Pruett and Rojas went on to finish ninth - clinching the title - driving a car which fittingly carried the bodywork from their victory in the 2008 Rolex 24.
"That was a pretty big hit, certainly not what we expected," Pruett said. "But the camaraderie with a lot of teams, our guys digging in to get things back together, and really putting us in a position to win this thing was huge."
Pruett talked about other teams offering assistance, and how that's typical of the series.
"This year when SunTrust had their trailer burn down, we bent over backwards," Pruett said. "I know the first thing that happened was Chip talking to Tim Keene, our team manager, and then offering Wayne Taylor every thing we could - cars, trailers, pit equipment and everything. That, in itself, says a lot about this series itself - not just the competition, but the competitors."
Pruett's career includes the 2004 Daytona Prototype championship, eight class victories (including three overall) in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, an IROC victory at Daytona, two Champ Car victories and three titles in both the Trans-Am and Camel GT series. But winning never becomes old hat for the 48-year-old Californian.
"It doesn't, because it's so tough," Pruett said. "You're only as good as your competition, and right now, the Grand-Am competition is so tough, you're got to being your ‘A' game to every race, all of the time. Because if you don't, you're not going to win or even be on the podium, you're going to be struggling. It's been awesome all season long. It drives you to be better as a driver. It drives you to be better as a team, and it drives you to really come up with digging deep to get the job done."
Car owner Chip Ganassi's year began with his third consecutive victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, when Dario Franchitti and Juan Pablo Montoya joined his regular drivers. He then saw Scott Dixon win the Indianapolis 500 en route to winning the IndyCar Series title.
"We won the biggest race in both series and both championships," Ganassi said. "I'm a lucky guy. When you have the right group of things put together, it's rewarding. When you have the right drivers, the right sponsors, the right guys running the team, the right management, it really helps. It was a hard-fought thing this year. We had our share of really great races, and we had our share of luck. And it takes all of the above to do well in this championship. My hat's off to everybody who did it. It's an honor to work with the guys I get to work with."
Ganassi, Pruett and Rojas won't be resting on their laurels for very long. They're already thinking about next season, and the Jan. 24-25 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
"It's never too early (to start thinking about the Rolex 24)," Pruett said. "Our guys will have a couple of weeks off and then they'll be prepping and preparing. We have a couple tests in Daytona, and then the whole focus is the Rolex 24. For us, it's huge. To try and win four in a row would be awesome. It's never been done, and I like breaking records."