Laguna Seca: Bob Stallings Racing qualifying report

Fogarty Gives GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Its First Front Row of 2008 As Vasser Qualifies Sixth For Laguna Seca RumBum.com 250 MONTEREY, Calif. (May 16 2008) -- Jon Fogarty gave GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing its first front row start of the ...

Fogarty Gives GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Its First Front Row of 2008 As Vasser Qualifies Sixth For Laguna Seca RumBum.com 250

MONTEREY, Calif. (May 16 2008) -- Jon Fogarty gave GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing its first front row start of the season and avoided a brush with disaster Friday in qualifying for Saturday's RumBum.com 250 as Jimmy Vasser showed well in his first Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Daytona Prototype start to qualify sixth in the No. 98 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley he will share with the returning Cristiano da Matta.

With both the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley and the sister No. 98 race car starting solidly in the front of the field, the GAINSCO team heads into tomorrow's RumBum.com 250 (SPEED, May 18 at Noon ET) hoping that its recent run of bad luck is now finished after another bizarre incident in qualifying. After posting the fastest time twice earlier in the 15 minute session, Fogarty was on what would have been his final flier when the right rear corner collapsed in Laguna Seca's famous Corkscrew.

"It was very strange," said Fogarty, who still held on to second on the grid with a qualifying lap of 1:19.951 (100.771 mph). "That has never happened to us before. I went around the lefthander at the top of the Corkscrew and I was under acceleration coming out and something went wrong with the right rear. Because I was turning right, I really didn't notice. It was a really good lap, I was up on my previous and I tried too keep my foot in it and luckily I didn't hit anything. So we will put it back together and we will go through it and it was still a good effort. Not the pole, but it is good and we have got an hour in warm-up to make sure everything is put together in a proper manner and still work on the car for the race."

Fogarty will share the No. 99 with teammate and fellow Rolex Series Champion Alex Gurney who once again paced a practice session at Laguna Seca for the fourth-straight year. Gurney was fastest in Friday's opening session.

"It was a shame," said Gurney of the suspension failure. "Something let go in the right rear and Jon appeared to be slightly ahead on that last lap and maybe it would have been enough for pole. Anyways, good effort and we feel good about the race car."

Vasser was also on pace, and was as high as fourth quickest during qualifying only to hit some traffic in the final minutes of the session. Even still, his lap time of 1:20.679 (99.862 mph) gave the pair of former Laguna Seca winners a good starting position.

"Everybody has got a story, but with the track time, every lap was getting quicker," said Vasser who encountered some slowing traffic on his final flier. "I was like 4/10ths up on that last lap but the No. 3 car and some other car just figured it was all over with one lap to go. They were just heading to the pits but I still ran a 21.2 just getting totally blocked by those guys. I had a good lap going, but just didn't get to finish it. The long warm-up will help Cristiano and myself, with our lack of track time, and we will continue to steadily move up."

While da Matta's on-track activity ended after the morning practice session, he was elated to be back behind the wheel for the first time in nearly 22 months.

"It feels good," da Matta said. "It has been so long since I've been out, it feels very, very good. I'm happy, just getting back into the whole process of analyzing everything and seeing what we can do to improve the whole process, and it is going pretty good."

Da Matta is making make his first professional race start since recovering from life-threatening injuries in an August 2006 testing accident when he collided with a deer testing a Champ Car at Road America.

"It is only our first race, so we don't have any expectations," da Matta said. "We want to see the performance out of ourselves as drivers. We have things to learn, and see ourselves getting used to everything. We just want to see ourselves performing very well."

-credit: bsr

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