Photo courtesy of IMSA

Scott Pruett hails Action Express setup, car at Sebring

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SEBRING, Fla. – Scott Pruett is one of the greatest sports car drivers of his generation, so when he speaks volumes about a team’s setup and engineering, it is worth taking extra note.

Pruett, who this week shifts to Action Express Racing’s No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Team Fox Corvette DP he’ll share with Dane Cameron and Eric Curran, said that the Action Express setup at Sebring International Raceway is unlike any other car he’s driven at this track.

“These guys killed it last year,” said Pruett, who raced for Chip Ganassi Racing last year and finished fourth co-driving with Joey Hand and Scott Dixon in a Riley-Ford.

“There are certain setups that teams develop that match a track really well.

“What they’ve developed here, is a rock star here. I’ve never driven a car this good here, ever.

“It’s just, you can drive it anywhere. It goes fast. Like yesterday I ddi my fastest lap with 25 laps on the tires and we were P1. It was magic.”

With Dane Cameron leading Friday morning’s fourth practice session – the last for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship before qualifying for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida – it means Action Express has completed a four-session sweep at the top of the timesheets.

Pruett, who raced the team’s No. 5 Mustang Sampling Corvette DP at the Rolex 24 at Daytona with Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Filipe Albuquerque, is on standby for the No. 5 car this week.

Barbosa sustained a wrist injury in a rare, random hoverboard accident but is all good to go this week with his family on site.

“I’m on standby there,” Pruett said. “With Joao having hurt his wrist, because I drove the car at Daytona, I can get in and out of the car if needed. It’s more we wait and see how’s the wrist, and how is he feeling.

“I’ll be on standby if need be, but primarily in the 31.”

The No. 5 car won this race last year courtesy of storming drives from Barbosa, Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais.

This is Pruett’s last scheduled start with Action Express before the F Performance Racing program debuts later this year, likely at Detroit, with the new Lexus RC F GT3 he’ll share with Sage Karam in the GT Daytona class.

Pruett said testing should intensify on that program in April.

Also of note for Action Express this weekend is a newly announced partnership with SONIC Tools.

“When we made the decision to enter IMSA at the end of 2015, we knew we were going to have the opportunity to partner with some of the best race teams in the world. We believe that Action Express Racing has certainly demonstrated that over the past couple of seasons and we’re excited that they’ll be using our tools in their pursuit for a third championship”, said SONIC Tools’ Chief Marketing Officer, Colby McConnell.

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994