Five-time Rolex Series Daytona Prototype champion Scott Pruett and his teammate Memo Rojas started from the pole and led 94 of 120 laps to win Saturday’s inaugural Grand Prix of Atlanta at Road Atlanta.
Pruett and Rojas, the series points leaders, inherited the pole after rains washed out qualifying Friday, and their No. 01 BMW Riley, owned by Chip Ganassi, was the class of the field all day Saturday and was 16.574 seconds in front of the runner-up No. 2 Ford driven by Ryan Dalziel and Alex Popow at the finish.
Also earning a podium finish was the No. 99 Corvette of Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney.
Pruett’s 40th career Daytona Prototype victory was his second of the NASCAR Grand-Am season, the first coming in the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.
Pruett said his team’s car preparation made his and Rojas’ job easy. “When you get it right, the car is fantastic to drive,” Pruett said.
Rojas said that starting on the pole helped him avoid a potential crash on the start, but it wasn’t a determining factor in the race.
“It helps to avoid potential disaster in Turn 1, but in the end, it’s endurance racing.”
And the Mexico City native said his win was special because of the history of the track, which opened in 1970.
“To win at one of North America’s premier tracks is great for us,” Rojas said.
One of the more dramatic moments of the 2-hour, 45-minute race came in the final moments when Max Angelelli ran off the track after contact from Antonio Pizzona as the two raced for the fourth position. Pizzona finished fourth while Angelelli fell to sixth.
John Edwards and Robin Liddell drove their Chevrolet Camaro to victory in the GT class. It was their second win of the season, the other coming earlier this month at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala.
Finishing second was the Porsche GT3 of Patrick Lindsey and Patrick Long, with Alessandro Balzan and Jeff Westphal third in their Ferrari 458.
Joel Miller and Andrew Carbonell, driving a Mazda 6 GX, were the GX winners.
In the preliminary event, John Edwards took the win in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. It was the fourth time in series history that a driver won both the GT and Sports Car Challenge races at the same event.
In the preliminary race, Edwards was holding off challenges from Dacula resident Andy Lally when the caution flag flew for a crash in Turn 12 by Ian James. James was uninjured, but repairs to the barrier resulted in the two-and-a-half-hour race ending under the caution flag.
“I think we could have won if the race remained green,” said Lally, who was the Sprint Cup Series rookie of the year in 2011, but has returned to his sport-car-racing roots.
Lally also raced in the GT class of the main event, where he finished fifth in class.