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Posted: Saturday, April 12th 2014 at 10:31pm

Pruett and Rojas dominate IMSA action at Long Beach

By IMSA Media
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas scored the win Saturday in the IMSA Tudor Long Beach Grand Prix. / Photo: Michael L. Levitt LAT Photo USA for IMSA
LONG BEACH, CA - Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas say they don’t have anything to prove. They’re just racing like they do.

Pruett and Rojas, co-driving the No. 01 Telcel Ford EcoBoost/Riley, dominated the Tequila Patrón Sports Car Showcase on Saturday at the Long Beach Street Circuit, for their second-straight victory in the inaugural TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season.

The pair led 76 of the race’s 77 laps, with Rojas starting the No. 01 of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates from the pole and efficiently leading the first 40 laps of the one-hour, 40-minute event – the third race of the season. Pruett took over on Lap 41, briefly lost the lead to the No. 5 Action Express Corvette DP of Joao Barbosa coming out of the pits but went back in front on Lap 42, with approximately 55 minutes remaining.

From there, Pruett had to mostly be concerned with a dogged chase by Jordan Taylor, in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP he shares with his brother Ricky. Pruett, driving steadily, edged Taylor by a scant 0.759 seconds. Finishing third was Barbosa, who co-drove the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP with Christian Fittipaldi. Last month, Pruett and Rojas also won the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida, teaming in that endurance event with Marino Franchitti.

Pruett and Rojas virtually ruled the Rolex Sports Car Series from 2004-13, driving for Ganassi. Pruett won the series’ Daytona Prototype championship five times. Four of those titles were shared with Rojas. Concurrently, however, there was another premier sports car organization operating with its own stellar drivers – the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón. Who was better? Who knows?

Starting this season the two series have merged into the TUDOR Championship, which means former champions are just that. It’s time to answer those questions.

“It’s not a matter of having something to prove; we just want to win races,” said Rojas.

Added Pruett: “It’s business as usual – for all of us. Our job is to go as fast as you can, try to run up front and try to win races or short of that, make the podium. (The merger) has been a huge challenge because our cars, the Daytona Prototypes, are so much different than in years past. That being said … you couldn’t see a more exciting time for road racing. The future couldn’t be brighter.”

Pruett also brought the Ganassi Racing No. 01 to victory ;ane at Long Beach in a 2006 Rolex Series event. Factoring in a 1987 Trans-Am victory, Saturday meant Pruett has won Long Beach in three decades.

“That doesn’t seem right,” Pruett joked.

But Saturday sure did.

Corvette Racing entered Saturday’s Tequila Patrón Sports Car Showcase with the goal of proving its new Corvette C7.R was ready to win races in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship’s competitive GT Le Mans (GTLM) class.

Mission accomplished. From the pole position to the checkered flag, co-drivers Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen dominated the GTLM field under sunny skies on the famed Long Beach street circuit, leading all but two of the race’s 75 laps in the yellow No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R.

BMW Team RLL’s No. 56 BMW Z4 GTE finished second, while it was a double-podium for Corvette Racing with the team’s No. 4 entry finishing third.

“It was an important victory for the team,” said Magnussen, who scored his 38th career win in North American endurance sports car racing. “The whole time we had a fast car. We just didn’t make the most of it with reliability issues at both Daytona and Sebring. I couldn’t be happier for Antonio, myself and this entire team.”

One day after Magnussen gave the Corvette C7.R its first pole, Garcia started the car and drove away from the field in the early stages of the 100-minute race. By the time Magnussen got behind the wheel for the final stint he was well ahead of the competition and navigated Long Beach’s city streets – and GTLM lap traffic – for the victory.

BMW Team RLL earned its third consecutive podium finish to start the season with Dirk Mueller and John Edwards co-driving to a second-place finish in the team’s No. 56 BMW. Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin crossed the line third in Corvette Racing’s No. 4 Corvette C7.R. Just missing the podium after winning the season-opening endurance events at Daytona and Sebring was Porsche North America’s pair of Porsche 911 RSRs.

The TUDOR Championship season resumes on May 4 at historic Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, CA. There will be a pair of two-hour races, one for the Prototype and GT Le Mans classes, the other for the Prototype Challenge and GT Daytona classes.

Associated Categories: Sports News, Professional Sports, NASCAR

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