Pontiac On Front Row For EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio ...
Pontiac On Front Row For EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio
#99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley Moves to Second Spot on Starting Grid; Marc Bunting in GT-class #65 TRG/F1 Air GTO.R Qualifies Fifth with Teammate Kelly Collins Right Behind
LEXINGTON, Ohio - A heavy storm blew through Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course yesterday evening, destroying tents, knocking over pit equipment and even tipping over a transporter. But the teams that make up the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series were on the track today as scheduled and after this evening's qualifying sessions, Pontiac is on the front row of the Daytona Prototype (DP) starting grid and occupies the entire third row of the GT grid. The #99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty qualified fifth but were bumped up to second after the first three qualifying Daytona Prototypes' bodywork was found to be too wide after technical inspection.
Mario Haberfeld in the #12 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Pontiac Riley originally qualified third in the DP session and was very pleased with his position until he found his car was one of those sent to the back of the grid.
"I think we started with quite a good setup yesterday and we did some suspension changes which I think helped it, so we kept them for today," said Brazilian Haberfeld. "Unfortunately today we didn't get a chance to improve on it because it was wet in both test sessions. We have a few more things to try which hopefully we can do in tomorrow's warm-up but the car right now is good enough to be on the front row. On the last lap of the session a guy spun on Turn 7 in front of me and another guy on Turn 10. So it was a bit of a 'bonzai' lap trying to keep it in with guys spinning around. We needed that last lap. But I guess it doesn't matter anyway; we're going to the back."
Jon Fogarty qualified his #99 Pontiac fifth, which was the second-highest Pontiac on the grid but moved up to second after the ruling by Grand American.
"We think it's a little bit of poetic justice because we thought the GAINSCO Pontiac was capable of being a second-place car all along," Fogarty said. "While we never like to see other guys disqualified, it's a testament to our crew that they had the attention to detail to make sure our car makes it through tech inspection. Second is a better starting position for sure and it's going to make it less of a hectic race, not having to deal with (the #76, the #01 and the #12) in front of us at the start of the race. The #23 car is a quick car so they'll be tough for sure but I think the #99 is going to be really consistent over the stint."
The #01 Lexus Riley and #76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley were also penalized similarly as the front of those cars did not pass tech. Originally, the #76 car driven by Colin Braun and the #01 car piloted by Luis Diaz took the first and second spots on the grid, respectively. Now the #23 Alex Job Racing Porsche Crawford of Patrick Long and Mike Rockenfeller will start from the pole position as they were the next-in-line DP after the Pontiac Riley of Haberfeld and teammate Adrian Fernandez.
In the GT class, Pontiac's two TRG GTO.Rs qualified fifth and sixth; Marc Bunting, who shares the #65 car with Andy Lally, put the car on the fifth spot of the GT grid and teammate Kelly Collins in the #64 TRG/iRise GTO.R was right behind him in sixth. Collins won last year here in a BMW and now shares the GTO.R with Paul Edwards.
"The track has definitely changed since last year with the repaving" said Bunting, who took second here last year with Lally. "You lose reference points and it's smoother now but otherwise it's pretty similar. The grip is picking up all weekend. The guys gave me a great setup and put me on scuff tires; I don't know if that helped us or hurt us. I was kind of held up in traffic early on but I put down a clean lap at the end."
Pontiac's two GTO.Rs are on a 14-consecutive podium finish streak and the brand is on top in manufacturers points. With five wins thus far this season, the GTO.R teams are hoping to continue the success here at Mid-Ohio and will try again tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. EDT. SPEED TV will televise the event on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. EDT.