It was a matchup of a five-time champion vs. a Daytona Prototype rookie with 35 minutes remaining in Saturday’s SFP Grand Prix, the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series debut at Kansas Speedway.
Jordan Taylor was up to the task, holding off Scott Pruett all the way to the checkered flag.
Taylor won by .568 seconds in the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette DP started by Max Angelelli. Winning their third race of the season, they also came from fifth to regain the lead in the DP championship standings with only two races remaining.
“It was stressful,” Taylor said. “It was a good race, and the guys had perfect strategy. The team put me out front when I needed to be there. Then all I had to do was not make any mistakes and hold Pruett behind me. Luckily, I did that.”
Pruett’s co-driver Memo Rojas had contact while battling Christian Fittipaldi for the lead on Lap 11. A pit stop to repair the damage dropped the No. 01 Telcel/TELMEX BMW/Riley to 10th when Pruett took over. The Californian worked his way to the front and finally led the race before final pit stops with 35 minutes left. Taylor came out of the pits ahead, and from there it was a matter of staying ahead.
“It was a great battle,” Pruett said. “Jordan did a terrific job. That’s what racing is all about – GRAND-AM racing that close, that tight. We had a long way to recover today, and had a heck of a fight to get to the front.”
Ozz Negri and John Pew recovered from an accident in Friday’s opening practice to finish third in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford/Riley, followed by Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP, and Brian and Burt Frisselle in the No. 9 Action Express Racing Corvette DP.
Alex Popow and Ryan Dalziel entered the race holding the DP points lead but lost 21 laps to repair damage when Popow brushed the infield wall in the No. 2 Starworks Motorsport Soloson BMW/Riley. They finished 11th. Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty were in a position to claim the DP points lead, but lost ground after an incident and finished eighth in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Corvette DP.
Taylor and Angelelli lead Fittipaldi by two points (269-267), with Popow/Dalziel another point behind while Gurney/Fogarty and Barbosa sit at 265 points. All but counted out of the fight midway through the season, Pruett and Rojas are sixth with 264 points, five points behind.
In GT, Alessandro Balzan took his first Rolex Series victory, joining Leh Keen in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia. Balzan led the final 30 laps, holding off Patrick Long in the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche GT3 that was started by Patrick Lindsey. Emil Assentato and Anthony Lazzaro rounded out the podium in the No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari 458.
IndyCar visitor Alex Tagliani – subbing for Max Papis – captured the pole and led three times for 47 laps, but finished sixth after Jeff Segal had the fueling hose still attached to the No. 61 R. Ferri/AIM Motorsport Ferrari 458 exiting his final pit stop, leading to a penalty.
Balzan moved into a one-point lead in the GT standings (279-278). John Potter and Andy Lally were leading entering the race, but finished eighth after losing time to repair a damaged radiator. John Edwards and Robin Liddell finished fourth in the No. 57 Stevenson Auto Group Chevrolet Camaro and are third in the standings with 276 points.
Joel Miller took his fifth GX victory of the season in the No. 00 Visit Florida Racing/SpeedSource Mazda6 co-driven by Tristan Nunez. It was Mazda’s seventh straight victory in the class. Jim Norman finished second in the No. 38 BGB Motorsports Porsche Cayman co-driven by Spencer Pumpelly, with Miller cutting Norman’s lead in the standings to seven points (329-322).
The race was slowed by three caution periods for 17 laps, with the opening 27 and closing 56 laps run under the green flag.
Only two races remain in 2013 Rolex Series competition. Next up is the Continental Tire Sports Car Festival powered by Mazda at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Sunday, Sept. 8, followed by Championship Weekend at Lime Rock Park on Saturday, Sept. 28.