GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, Gurney and Fogarty Take Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Championship Lead with Record 10th Win; GAINSCO Overcomes Driver Change Drama For Victory At Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
MONTEREY, Calif. (May 17, 2009) -- GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing's Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty didn't let an unplanned second driver change and typically tough Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series competition stop them from scoring a record-extending 10th career victory Sunday in the Verizon Festival of Speed presented by SPEEDCOM Communications at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Fogarty passed Scott Pruett in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley on the uphill run to Laguna Seca's famous Corkscrew turn with just over 30 minutes remaining in the 2 ¾ hour timed raced and opened up to a 7.228 second margin of victory at the checkered flag. The win was GAINSCO's second of the season and allowed No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance team and Gurney and Fogarty to take the lead in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Team and Driver Championships as the 2009 season reached the one-quarter complete mark. The 10th career win for the duo came in the 42nd start together for the GAINSCO drivers. Pruett and current teammate Memo Rojas are the next highest ranked active Daytona Prototype duo with seven victories.
GAINSCO's great day could have taken an early turn for the worse, however, when a driver change miscue forced a second driver swap later in the race. The team brought starting driver Fogarty into the pits right at the race's 30-minute mark -- the minimum a driver has to be in the car to score championship points -- but was just short of the half-hour mark. Gurney took over but swapped spots with Fogarty a second time with a little over an hour left in the race, ensuring that both GAINSCO drivers would score valuable championship points.
"You have to be in the car at the 30-minute mark and cross the start/finish line," Fogarty said. "We were pitted before the start/finish line and I got out 47 seconds shy of what was necessary. Alex got in and had a good stint and we had a great car. It allowed Alex to basically catch up to the lead pack when he came in to do the driver change, so we were right there when I got back in."
Fogarty returned to the race in second place and went to work on chasing down Pruett. He moved to the inside and even kicked up a little bit of off-track gravel as he passed the Ganassi driver before they went through the Corkscrew nose to tail. The race's fourth and final caution period closed the field behind Fogarty with 18 minutes to go but the No. 99 GAINSCO Pontiac Riley wasn't going to be caught.
"Definitely, the car was working really well, turning beautifully and was really good on the brakes," said Gurney, who scored his first Laguna Seca win with his older brother Justin and legendary father Dan Gurney in attendance. "It was just a great car. It was too bad about that miscue, but Jon really did an incredible job as soon as he got in, just motored to the front and put that great pass on Pruett."
Fogarty's pass of Pruett was not without some of the usual fireworks that seem to take place when GAINSCO and Ganassi meet on the race track.
"I knew the car was really good and I was catching him, so I knew we had pace over them," Fogarty said. "I took advantage of traffic and we were three wide there with a GT car and there is some sort of gravely surface off to the left that I took too, but luckily I was able to come back on the tarmac and out brake him going into the Corkscrew. I really, really, really almost didn't make the corner and it almost ended up being a Zanardi-type move. I almost came to a stop, kind of boxed him out and he bumped me. I can't really blame him, because -- like I said -- I was almost stopped. It worked out. It's not a place where you want to have to pass people, but when the opportunity comes to pass the 01 car, I will always take it."
The season's only repeat race winners, the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team and Gurney and Fogarty now have 119 points to lead both the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Team and Driver Championships heading into next month's Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen. The No. 58 Brumos Porsche Riley team of Darren Law and David Donohue is second with 111 points and the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara of Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle is third with 108 points. Angelelli and Frisselle finished third in Sunday's race behind Pruett and Rojas and the winning GAINSCO team.
The Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen is Round 5 of the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Series schedule, June 4 -- 6.