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Red Dragon Crushes Field At Montreal

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 21 2011

The GAINSCO/Bob Stallings team got the Grand-Am win in Montreal. (File photo courtesy of Daytona International Speedway)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty turned Friday’s record-extending fourth pole position at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve into their first GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series victory in the Montreal 200 on Saturday.

The teammates scored their second win of the 2011 season in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley and their 15th in the series’ premier Daytona Prototype division. Gurney kept the “Red Dragon” Chevy in the lead for 43 of the final 45 laps, giving it up temporarily only during the final round of fuel-and-tire stops. The Californian also weathered a Lap-68 restart on his way to finishing 1.932-seconds ahead of Max Angelelli and Sun Trust Racing teammate Ricky Taylor.

In Grand Touring (GT), Robin Liddell and Ronnie Bremer posted the season’s second win for the No. 57 Stevenson Chevy Camaro GT.R team.

Fogarty and Gurney of GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing led a race-high 45 of the timed, two-hour sprint’s 73 laps, taking a lead they would hold until the checkered flag after the No. 99’s first of two pit stops just before the 45-minute mark. Gurney took over for Fogarty and the crew executed a perfect pit stop that got the car back on track in front.

“It was the best car we have had all year,” said Gurney, who also won with Fogarty at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in California in July. “We’ve been trying really hard to win here for the last five years. We led a lot and had really good cars, and had been kind of disappointed that we never finished the deal. I didn’t have too many incidents, had good runs through traffic in general and it was just a great day. We knew after Watkins Glen that we wanted to win these last two races and we’re stoked we pulled it off.”

Saturday’s victory came one week after Fogarty was uninjured in an early contact incident during last weekend’s Canadian Tire 200 at The Glen in Upstate New York. Gurney topped Thursday’s opening practice in the repaired car while Fogarty bagged his fourth pole at Montreal in five attempts on Friday, preventing Taylor from matching his 2007 in-season record of seven consecutive poles.

“A lot was made of the pole, but ultimately today was our goal, for the victory,” Fogarty said. “Ricky got by me at the race start. I gave him room, didn’t fight too, too hard, we had contact, but it was all fair play. He just had a great start but I was comfortable to run behind him and just kind of conserve.”

Taylor wasted no time jumping into the lead for the 16th race in a row from his outside-front-row starting spot. Taylor stayed in front for the first 24 laps around the 2.709-mile, 15-turn Circuit Gilles Villeneuve Formula One layout. Fogarty led Laps 25 and 26 when Taylor pitted from the lead.

“Once Ricky made his pit stop I was able to run a couple of real good, quick laps,” Fogarty said. “That made the difference in getting out ahead of them and our crew did a great job all day. They just made good calls the entire race, just a great team effort. I feel good about it, especially after what happened at The Glen. The turning point for sure was getting out ahead of them in the pits.”

Gurney, meanwhile, avoided any major issues on track. But that was far from the case inside the cockpit, where the fresh-air cooling hose that attaches to his helmet malfunctioned during the driver change.

“It ripped out when Jon got out of the car,” said Gurney, who set the race’s fastest lap with a time of 1:33.403-seconds (104.412 mph) on Lap 31. “They fixed it with some tape on my second stop, which lasted for about two laps, so definitely one of the harder races for me. That air does a surprising amount. It doesn’t feel like it when you have it on, but when you don’t have it on you’re really hurting. So I was definitely not feeling very well.”

The race’s lone caution period just 15 minutes from the finish gave Gurney a chance to cool down as he circulated with the No. 99’s driver’s side door cracked open for ventilation. He then was able to keep ahead of Angelelli, who had taken over for Taylor in the No. 10 Chevrolet Dallara fielded by Wayne Taylor Racing on the restart.

“I’m quite happy with our second-place finish but I’m a little bit disappointed about the yellow flag at the end,” said Angelelli, the Italian veteran who co-drove the SunTrust Racing machine to victories at the home of the F1 Canadian Grand Prix in 2007 with Jan Magnussen and in 2009 with Brian Frisselle. “I just felt the car was getting better and better.

“The car balance was really difficult in the first half of my stint and this is where the No. 99 was pulling away. But the second half was pretty good. I was just hoping for a green-flag race and, unfortunately, the yellow flag came and I lost a lot of time in Turns 2 and 3 at the restart and that’s what basically killed me.”

The runnerup finish – coupled with the fifth-place result by the championship-leading No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates duo of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas – moved the SunTrust team to within 20 points in the standings with one race to go. The No. 99 team sits in third place with a 12-point cushion over the No. 5 Action Express Porsche Riley that finished third on Saturday.

“We just didn’t have what the No. 99 had, but we still ran a good race,” said team owner Wayne Taylor. “We had a second-place car and that’s all there is to it. Unfortunately, they were just faster on their out laps after their pit stops. I think that’s what made the difference.”

Next up is the 2011 Rolex Series season-finale, the annual EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington. Race time for the 2-hour, 45-minute event on Saturday, Sept. 17, is 3 p.m., EDT, with live television coverage provided by SPEED and live radio by the Motor Racing Network and Sirius Channel 94 beginning with pre-race activities at 2:45 p.m.

The weekend will also include the closing round of the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 21 2011
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