Pruett Back to Work at Brickyard
By: John Singler on July 25, 2012 | 9:52 A.M. EST
Pruett and teammate Memo Rojas are leading the Daytona Prototype standings heading into Friday's inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Photo: Jim Haines/IMS)
Since the 2012 season opened in late January, the pace of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series schedule has been deliberate … with just eight races through the first six months.
But for Scott Pruett and teammate Memo Rojas – who have not competed since July 1, business will start picking up in the days ahead as they chase a third straight Daytona Prototype championship and fourth in five years.
Friday’s inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway opens a stretch of three races in 23 days. And the historical significance of GRAND-AM’s first visit to the legendary track is not lost on Pruett.
“For me personally, it’s huge,” he said during Tuesday’s national media teleconference. “Racing there for a number of years on the IndyCar side and then just an incredible NASCAR race in 2000 … to get back to Indianapolis – the center of it all – and what it represents. There’s nothing like being part of an historic first-time race like this.”
Pruett’s NASCAR reference was to the Brickyard 400, in which he placed 10th as a Sprint Cup Series rookie 12 years ago. This week, all 22 drivers on the DP entry list will be “rookies” … in a manner of speaking … as they take on the 2.6-mile, 13-turn road course that’s incorporated into the grounds of the famed oval.
“It was good having the opportunity to test there because when we go back this week, we have one hour of practice, then qualify, then race,” Pruett said. “You need to be ready to go when you (hit) the track.”
With just five races remaining, Pruett and Rojas are nursing a three-point lead over the Starworks Motorsports duo of Ryan Dalziel and Enzo Potolicchio. Six other drivers are within 20 points of the top heading into the season’s stretch run.
Pruett says it’ll take a blend of handling and horsepower to be successful in Friday’s Brickyard Grand Prix.
“It’s a fine balance between having enough downforce to get through all the tight areas and then having enough straightaway speed,” he said. “As we come out of the last turn, we’re in the throttle for a long time with similar straightaway speeds to Daytona, and you have to take that into consideration.
“It’s a fine balance getting those two together. There’s quite a bit of tight stuff and you need to get through that. But you can’t give away speed, either.”
In planning for the weekend ahead, Pruett’s also looking at the long-range weather forecast and says GRAND-AM teams will get a break there.
“When we tested, it was 106 degrees down pit lane,” he said. “This weekend, they’re expecting about 85 or 86. That’s going to be a big surprise for all the teams – a pleasant surprise – as we head back there.”
Friday’s race also is the final round of the North American Endurance Championship, a “season within a season” that began with the Rolex 24 at Daytona and continued at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen earlier this month.
Action Express Racing’s Joao Barbosa and Darren Law lead the standings after the first two races. They are two points ahead of Dalziel and Potolicchio. Pruett and Rojas are tied for third with the Michael Shank Racing tandem of Oswaldo Negri Jr. and John Pew – four points off the pace.
GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series teams will practice, qualify and race all in one day on Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Practice opens at 10 a.m. (EDT) with qualifying at 11:15 a.m. Motor Racing Network will have live coverage of the inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix starting at 4 p.m. – with live streaming at MotorRacingNetwork.com.