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GAINSCO Drivers Gain Another Grand-Am Win

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 20 2009

Grand Am LogoBy John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney shared a car that was “crazy-fast” this weekend at Miller Motorsport Park, where the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing twins moved three points closer to a second Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype championship.

Fogarty and Gurney capped a near-dominant weekend that began on-pole with their fourth DP victory of 2009 during Saturday’s Utah 250, extending their lead in the driver and team championships from five to eight points over rivals Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle of SunTrust Racing.

Fogarty and Gurney can clinch their second championship with a fourth-place finish in the season-ending Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Oct. 10. SPEED will carry the race, scheduled for 2 hours, 30-minutes, live at 1 p.m. (EDT).

“It looks like we don’t need to dominate at Homestead, fortunately,” said Gurney, who joined Fogarty in winning the 2007 Rolex Series championships. “We can finish fourth regardless of what the other guys do, so that’s a really nice position to be in. We’re not going to let up or anything, but we’re going to have that in our mind for sure. We made a nice jump (Saturday).”

Fogarty and Gurney now have compiled 309 points in both the Grand-Am Rolex DP team and driver championships. SunTrust’s Angelelli and Frisselle, of Wayne Taylor Racing, have 301 points while Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas of TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates are third with 299 points.

Gurney took the wheel of the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley from pole-sitter Fogarty 43 minutes into the 2-hour, 45-minute timed race over the 4.486-mile, 24-turn road course in Tooele, Utah,

and led Angelelli and the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara across the finish line by 1.264-seconds nearly two hours later. Pruett crossed in third in the No. 01 TELMEX/Ganassi Lexus Riley, 1.529-seconds behind the winners.

Gurney and Fogarty were under pressure from the No. 10 and No. 01 cars the entire race, as well as the No. 12 Verizon/Penske Racing Porsche Riley of Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas that started second.

“The opening stint was good,” said Fogarty, who earned a series-leading fifth pole in Friday’s qualifying. “I had some pressure from the (No.) 12 car but it wasn’t giving me too many worries because I was more concerned about where the (No.) 01 and (No.) 10 were and, fortunately, we were pulling away from them slightly. We had the right strategy, the team nailed the pit stops and the car was definitely good. We’re very happy overall.”

The race was slowed three times for full-course cautions _ the only time the winners felt any threat. Angelelli in particular was strong on restarts on the long Miller frontstraight and into Turn 1.

“I had to go as early as I thought I could get away with on the restarts because the (No.) 10 was a little quick on the straights and I could see he was good through Turn 1 also,” Gurney said of Angelelli. “That was the most vulnerable part, for sure, and it was difficult. But once we got going we had a tiny bit of pace on the competition and that made all the difference.

“We rolled off the truck (Friday) just crazy-fast and we were just trying not to mess it up. Sometimes you don’t even want to touch the car when it is that good. It seemed like the rest of the guys caught up by the end of the weekend and we saw a very close race.”

Angelelli realized his best chance at overtaking Gurney would be into Turn 1 on the restarts. “Well, he (Gurney) figured out that I was pretty slow through the last corner, so he started accelerating before the last corner,” Angelelli said. “Otherwise, if he was driving by the book, I would have overtaken him, for sure, for position No. 1. Unfortunately, he was pretty good in the last corner on the restarts, put a gap on me, and I couldn’t do anything. I was better than him in the first corner after the start-finish line.”

The weekend began with Fogarty’s fifth pole of the season on Friday, which also was his fourth straight and a record 13th all-time in DP competition.

“The fact that you don’t always see pole-winners converting into victories is a testament to how competitive the series is,” Fogarty said. “A pole definitely puts you into a better mindset at the beginning of a race, and we capitalized on it. It was just great all-around.”

Fogarty led every lap from the start until the team’s first pit stop on Lap 16. Gurney then retook the lead for good when the GAINSCO crew got the No. 99 out of the pits first during final pit stops on Lap 30 with 80 minutes remaining. GAINSCO led a race-high 43 of 56 laps – Fogarty’s 16 and 27 by Gurney – while Bernard led the other 13 laps.

The victory was extra enjoyable for Gurney after his wife, Colleen, gave birth to their second child Wednesday morning. Savannah Reese Gurney weighed-in at 7 pounds, 2 ounces, and mother and child are doing fine. “I spent one night in the hospital and then flew here from there,” Gurney said. “So, a great week and something we will always remember. Winning these races is a big adventure and this just added to that. We will always look back on this with smiles.”

Angelelli admittedly drove the No. 10 all-out over the final two hours to keep reigning series champion Pruett behind him. The SunTrust team started the day locked in a second-place tie with Pruett and Rojas and the No. 01 group. Saturday’s runnerup result gave the SunTrust pair a two-point edge over the Ganassi drivers heading into Florida.

Angelelli kept Pruett behind him during the final hour, holding him off through three restarts while also chasing Gurney to no avail. “You can trust me, we were all three pushing like crazy,” Angelelli said. “We absolutely, for two hours, were like qualifying. This is the best I could do. I’m sure it’s the same for the (No.) 99 and the (No.) 01. I have no doubt. I could see it in their eyes.”

Angelelli’s battle with Pruett had its moments during the final hour. At one point, the two made contact but Angelelli was able to continue in second.

“I braked too late, locked up my four wheels and he tried to take advantage,” Angelelli said. “It was fair. Obviously, I have to defend my position for the championship. He didn’t put me at risk. It’s always a pleasure to race with Scott _ especially when I win. Now, if we want to win the championship at Homestead, we’re going to have to win the race. We have pretty much no other option.”

Team owner Wayne Taylor, who co-drove with Angelelli to SunTrust’s last Rolex Series championship in 2005, was philosophical about next month’s championship scenario.

“It’s going to be tough, obviously, because of the gap in the points (to the No. 99),” Taylor said. “But it’s not over. We’re second in the championship. We just have to keep working. Brian did a good job this weekend. Max did a good job. The team was fantastic. There was absolutely nothing else we could’ve done. That’s what we had. The (No.) 99 was quicker, and that was it. The good thing is we have a shot at it at Homestead.”

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 20 2009
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