Chip Ganassi enjoyed a clean sweep last weekend as his three teams won races in NASCAR, IndyCar and Grand-Am. It began at Watkins Glen on Saturday when Scott Pruett/Memo Rojas won the Grand-Am event in Ganassi’s Riley-BMW. Then Juan Pablo Montoya drove a perfect race on Sunday at the Glen to score his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory in three years. Montoya was the man to beat, pulling away at the end to win easily. Juan has been very quick in many races this year but something always got in the way. His next mission, of course, is to win on an oval – and he’s got 14 more chances this year!
In the IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio, Dario Franchitti scored Ganassi’s final win of the weekend. Dario drove a great race to beat Will Power by half a second. It was the Scot’s second win of the year and it keeps him in the thick of the title hunt with Power, who wrapped up IndyCar’s inaugural Mario Andretti Road Racing Championship on Sunday. With five races to go, Power leads Franchitti in the overall standings by 41 points.
But perhaps the most interesting US racing news of the weekend came in Saturday’s American Le Mans Series race at Mid-Ohio, where Chris Dyson and Guy Smith drove Rob Dyson’s Castrol Lola-Mazda coupé to victory. It was the first ALMS win for the Lola coupé, its Mazda engine and Dunlop’s tyres. It also marked the first win for any racing car running on Isobutanol, a BP biofuel which Dyson began experimenting with last year.
“Isobutonal is a variant on an ethanol-based fuel,” explained Rob Dyson. “It’s much easier to make and a lot better on the environment to produce than the fermentation of ethanol, whether it’s corn-based or switchgrass or any of the other stuff they’re coming up with. Isobutanol is a lot more eco-friendly in that it doesn’t take as much energy to make it as you get out of it.
“They’re starting to generate the stuff in some quantity now. The availability has gone up because they’re learning how to make it better. In spite of their problems in the Gulf, this is part of BP’s global plan to incorporate this specific product into their gasolines.”
Dyson’s team earned its first win by just half a second as Chris Dyson held off a fierce attack from Simon Pagenaud in Duncan Dayton’s Highcroft HPD ARX-01. Dyson turned the race’s fastest lap with just four to go.
“Chris and Guy have done a terrific job on the track and in reinforcing all the progress we’ve been making,” said Dyson. “The BP guys have given us great fuel and the Castrol guys provide great lubricants. These guys are developing new stuff all the time and the Dunlop guys have done a great job. We double-stinted our tyres at the end and that was one of the keys to winning. Lola has been exceptionally helpful in their wind tunnel and component effort and, of course, Mazda has been incredibly supportive. It’s a tremendous pleasure to finally reward them with a win.”
Dyson has run an ALMS or IMSA team for more than 25 years and remains one of the series’ most enthusiastic supporters. “What I like about the ALMS is the variety of different automobiles and the different types of engines and power plants you can bring,” said Dyson. “There’s just more science and hot-rodding you can do. That’s what makes it so much fun. We’ve made a lot of changes in the cars and fortunately the rules allow us to do that. We run against a couple of normally-aspirated V8s and we’re going to be running against diesel cars at Petit Le Mans.
“I believe the ALMS has the fan base because the cars are so interesting,” he added. “They come to see different cars and engines race. That’s what it’s all about.”