MILLVILLE - David Donohue has been a professional racecar driver for years. He's the son of an Indianapolis 500 winner. But he was just another guy to many of his neighbors in Malvern, Pa.
In January, Donohue won one of the world's most prestigious endurance races, the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
"Now my neighbors know who I am and what I do," Donohue said Friday after practice for today's Verizon Wireless 250 at New Jersey Motorsports Park. "My wife told me that that Sunday, the last day of the race, a lot of the people were a little upset in the neighborhood because no work was getting done. Everyone was watching (the race on) TV."
The Rolex 24 at Daytona is the biggest race of the Grand-Am Rolex series season. It's their version of NASCAR's Daytona 500. But Donohue, who frequently vacations in Cape May, downplays the win.
"I got a nice watch out of it, but as far as racing's concerned, not much has changed," he said. "I think the team was overdue for a win, and we brought the big one home. That's nice, but that and a dollar will get you a bottle of water some places."
Dumas to start first
Former American Le Mans Series champion Romain Dumas qualified first for today's race.
Dumas, a native of France who lives in Switzerland, had a best lap of 1 minute, 14.057 seconds during the 15-minute qualifying session around 2¼-mile Thunderbolt Raceway. It is the first pole of his Grand-Am career.
Reigning series champion Scott Pruett qualified second in the faster DP class. Jon Fogarty was third.
Kelly Collins was first among GT cars. Actor Patrick Dempsey qualified 12th out of 17 GTs.
Saturday was another dreary day with on-and-off rain at the track. Today's forecast calls for rain all day, according to Weather.com.
Unlike NASCAR Sprint Cup, Grand-Am does race in the rain, using special tires.
"I like to drive in the rain," Dumas said.
But other drivers are less than thrilled about that prospect.
"Can we race in the rain? Yeah," Pruett said. "Are we going to put on a good show? Yeah. But is it still miserable for the drivers and especially the fans? Yeah."
It's quite a change from last year's race in August, when heat was an issue. Track and Grand-Am officials declined to comment on why the race was moved up this year.
"I think this is a little bit early for this area," Donohue said. "April showers bring May flowers. Well, (early May), it's still like April. I'm not sure what the ideal date is. The weather's tough."
Pruett said he preferred the late summer date.
"Some of the races that we go to, the times of year confuse me," Pruett said. "Typically you (should) go to the north more after Memorial Day. And then we go to places that are ridiculous, like we go to Alabama in July, and it's 110 (degrees)."
The Grand-Am season opened in Daytona, Fla., and the second event was held in Virginia. After this weekend's stop in Millville, the next event will be held in Salinas, Calif., on May 17.
Spencer Pumpelly passed Charles Espenlaub during the final 15 minutes of the 2½-hour Garden State 250, earning a win for himself and co-driver Duncan Ende in the third race of the Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge season. Jack Roush Jr., whose father is a partner in NASCAR's Roush Fenway Racing, and co-driver Hugh Plumb finished ninth.
E-mail Jason Mazda: