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Daytona West

By the time the race starts, they will have built this car.

If it hasn't already, professional racing is threatening to replace hockey as Americans' fourth-favorite spectator sport, after the NFL, the NBA, and Major League Baseball. This is as true in the Valley as anywhere else, thanks to signature events like the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Checker Auto Parts 500 (coming up in November) and the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series Phoenix 250 Weekend, scheduled Thursday, September 8, through Saturday, September 10, at Phoenix International Raceway.

The main event, Saturday's Phoenix 250, is the first major race to feature an all-Daytona Prototypes field. The newfangled DPs are super-slick speedsters that have created a road-racing revolution in recent years with their aerodynamic, low-slung build. The Daytona Prototypes look (and perform) like snub-nosed Batmobiles out of hell. (An artist's rendering of a DP is pictured above.) "Prototypes are purpose-built race cars with all the bells and whistles," says Adam Saal, director of communications for Grand American Road Racing. "While I don't want to guarantee a great race, I wouldn't bet against it."

Twenty-plus Prototypes will get the green light in the 2005 edition. Joining Phoenix's Darren Law and Scottsdale's Mark Borkowski behind the wheel(s) are DP specialists from around the world, including Italy's Max Angelelli, Sweden's Stefan Johansson, Venezuela's Milka Duno, Mexico's Luis Diaz, England's Andy Wallace, Canada's Marc-Antoine Camirand, Germany's Ralf Kelleners, and Monaco's Matteo Bobbi. The 250's reigning champion, Wayne Taylor from Altamonte Springs, Florida, will also be on hand to defend his title.

Kick out the jams and burn rubber, boys.

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