Action Express Rolls Into Indy
By: John Singler on July 24, 2013 | 10:13 A.M. EST
The Action Express Racing team of co-drivers Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi is seeking its third straight victory on Friday at Indianapolis. (Photo: Brian Cleary)
Action Express Racing hopes to end July the same way it brought the month of June to a close - atop the post-race podium in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series.
In fact, Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi are seeking their third straight victory in Friday’s Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. If successful, they would become the first Daytona Prototype duo with a three-race winning streak since Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas strung three in a row together opening the 2011 season.
The No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette is one of 16 DP entries that’ll line up for the eighth race of the year. The list includes a second Action Express Corvette for co-drivers Burt and Brian Frisselle. Burt will be making the 100th GRAND-AM start of his career.
And Tony Kanaan, this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, will co-drive a Chip Ganassi Racing entry with Joey Hand. He’ll attempt to become the first driver in the 104-year history of "The Brickyard" to win two major events there in the same season. Friday’s race falls exactly two months after Kanaan’s victory in the "500" … which took place on May 26.
But much of the attention in the GRAND-AM paddock at Indy will be trained on Barbosa and Fittipaldi. With back-to-back victories at Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen International, they’ve climbed into the thick of the championship race with five events still to be contested.
For Fittipaldi, it’ll be just his second race ever at Indy and his first since 1995.
"I finished second there so hopefully, going back, I can change the story a little bit," he said of his runner-up finish to Jacques Villeneuve in the 1995 Indianapolis 500. "It’s one of the most important tracks in the world. Going there and doing well would be very special."
Fittipaldi and Barbosa have pulled within six points of the championship lead, which is currently shared by four drivers. Their Action Express team is also leading the North American Endurance Championship after two rounds. Friday’s race is the third leg of that series, with a $100,000 bonus awaiting the winner.
As for Indy 500 champion Kanaan, this weekend marks his very first turn behind the wheel of a Daytona Prototype. Ryan Briscoe was originally scheduled to co-drive with Hand but was injured in an IndyCar race, so Kanaan was invited to participate.
"I’m going to have to learn a lot in the first day," Kanaan said. "I will do anything I can to help the team. It took me 12 years to win the ‘500.’ To win two races at Indy, I’m not sure what to think yet. I know we have a competitive car and I’m glad to be part of this."
"This" which Kanaan refers to is the championship pedigree of Chip Ganassi Racing, which has won four of the last five DP titles with Pruett and Rojas including a current run of three straight. But if they are to win a fourth straight crown, they’ll need to start their ascent this weekend.
The No. 01 BMW/Riley of Pruett and Rojas is sixth in the standings, 22 points behind the knot of drivers at the top – Max Angelelli, Jordan Taylor, Ryan Dalziel and Alex Popow.
"For us, it’s a big weekend," Pruett said. "Not only are we going to Indianapolis. We’re also making the change from what we’ve been running to the new engine – the M3 derivative. We got in a little testing with it at The Glen between rainstorms after the race (last month)."
After posting two wins in the first four races of the season, Pruett and Rojas haven’t had a top-five finish since – including an early exit at Detroit with zero championship points.
"It’s a good weekend to get things turned around," Pruett said. "We’ve been hit with some bad luck lately. Hopefully, that’s in the rear-view mirror and we can focus forward."
GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series teams will open practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday morning with qualifying at 4:15 p.m. (ET). Motor Racing Network will have live coverage of Friday’s Brickyard Grand Prix beginning at 5:15 p.m., with live streaming at MotorRacingNetwork.com.