Hometown Favorite Fernandez Takes Qualifying Race for GAINSCO Grand Prix PHOENIX (May 12, 2006) -- Scottsdale, Ariz.-resident Adrian Fernandez--driving his No. 12 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Pontiac Riley--led wire-to-wire en route to his first ...
Hometown Favorite Fernandez Takes Qualifying Race for GAINSCO Grand Prix
PHOENIX (May 12, 2006) -- Scottsdale, Ariz.-resident Adrian Fernandez--driving his No. 12 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Pontiac Riley--led wire-to-wire en route to his first victory in Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve competition in Friday's 30-minute qualifying race for the GAINSCO Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway (SPEED, May 14, 3:00 p.m. ET).
Fernandez started the qualifying race from the pole position and kept 2004 Daytona Prototype co-champion Scott Pruett at bay to score a 0.413-second victory. The owner/driver's performance means that Brazilian co-driver Mario Haberfeld will start Saturday night's feature race from the pole position. In addition to it being the team's first Rolex Series victory, it was also the first pole position for the first-year Rolex Series program.
"It was a very short race but it gives us an indication of what things are going to be like in terms of setup for tomorrow night," Fernandez said. "The most important thing to do was to learn the braking points and the reference points on the track. We tested here, which was a very good thing to do, but racing is a different situation and it was good to learn all of those various things we will need to know for tomorrow night. This is the first milestone for the Lowe's Racing program after some frustrating moments during the early part of the season. We had several times where we should have come away with a top-five or top-six finish but didn't. It's a nice feeling to do what we did tonight. Hopefully, we can repeat tomorrow. It's going to be a longer race and much more difficult, but we know we have a good car."
"Starting from the pole tomorrow should make everything much better for us," Haberfeld added. "There were many times this year when we had a good car but we had to start from the back, and that is where you always have a much greater chance of something happening to you. It was good that we came here to test because the conditions this weekend haven't been the greatest with the heat and the slippery track. Everyone has done a great job all year long, and this is at least a small reward for their hard work. Hopefully, tomorrow night, we can get the big reward."
Pruett's second-place performance in the No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley puts co-driver Luis Diaz on the outside of the front row for the GAINSCO Grand Prix. Perhaps more importantly, the second-place performance enabled Pruett and Diaz to move into a tie for third place in the Daytona Prototype championship standings. With 228 points, the No. 01 duo stands just two points behind No. 19 Playboy/Uniden Racing Ford Crawford driver Michael McDowell and four points in arrears of No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley driver Jorg Bergmeister.
"That's exactly what we ran for," Pruett said. "We went out there and just didn't try to do anything but be smart and get whatever points we could. I'm happy for the team because we had some problems in the first qualifying race, which unfortunately put us at the back of the pack for the start at Virginia, even though we had a good result. We're looking for the points. We learned a few things about the car tonight, but it's been a pretty tough weekend. This is a tough track. It's tight, it's tough, it's slippery and you just can't have many miscues."
Finishing third after starting third in the qualifying race was Alex Gurney in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley, putting Jon Fogarty on the inside of Row 2 for the GAINSCO Grand Prix. Gurney and Fogarty head into the GAINSCO Grand Prix on the heels of their best result of the season with a second-place run in last weekend's Road & Track 250 and are seeking their first Rolex Series victories.
"We liked our starting spot in third because it's on the inside and that's a big advantage here at Phoenix," Gurney said. "It paid off in this race. We're happy to get another podium, especially because it's a huge race for GAINSCO and we'll get to start up front tomorrow night in front of the hometown fans. We got the No. 99 GAINSCO car working real well and held our position pretty clean through the race, which is what we need to do. That makes two podiums in a row for us and it's putting us back in a good situation in the points. We just need to hopefully keep that up."
Max Angelelli finished fourth in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley to put co-driver Jan Magnussen on the outside of the second row. The run continues a recent hot streak for the defending Daytona Prototype champion, as Angelelli and Magnussen combined to win last weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca following a fifth-place performance by Angelelli in the qualifying race. Angelelli and Wayne Taylor also co-drove to a second-place result in the VIR 400 last month.
Mike Borkowski completed the top five in the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing/Mears Motor Coach Lexus Riley. Antoine Bessette, who joined the team beginning with last weekend's Road & Track 250, will be the starting driver in the No. 6 machine.
The 20-lap Daytona Prototype qualifying race was slowed by full-course cautions twice for a total of 10 laps. After a three-lap caution for debris from Laps 8 through 10, a six-car incident in Turn 7 involving the No. 60 Flight Options/Nett App Lexus Riley of Oswaldo Negri Jr., the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve/Cheever Racing Porsche Crawford of Christian Fittipaldi, Marcel Tiemann in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford, the No. 58 Red Bull Porsche Fabcar of Darren Law, Chris Bingham in the No. 40 Preformed Line Products/Coyote Closures Pontiac Riley and Andy Wallace in the No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford put the field behind the pace car for Laps 12 through 18. Fittipaldi, Tiemann, Law, Bingham and Wallace were all eliminated from the race as a result of the contact, while Negri was penalized one minute for avoidable contact.
SAID CLAIMS GT CLASS QUALIFYING RACE WIN AT PHOENIX
Road racing hotshoe Boris Said passed Scotland's Robin Liddell in Turn 9 on the 10th lap of Friday night's GT qualifying race at Phoenix International Raceway and led the rest of the way to claim the first-ever Rolex Series class victory for Pacific Coast Motorsports in the No. 89 Pontiac GTO.R, putting co-driver Ross Thompson on the GT pole position for Saturday's GAINSCO Grand Prix.
Said pressured polesitter Liddell in the No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3 for the first nine laps of the 30-minute sprint, eventually using an inside move coming out of the road course and onto the oval portion of the track. Said's victory comes in just his second Rolex Series start of the season.
"I had never met anyone from Pacific Coast Motorsports until about a week ago," Said remarked. "They asked me to drive the car, and like always, I said 'sure,' and then I asked them what it was. They did a great job preparing it. All of the engineers from Pontiac and TRG helped set up the car from scratch. I really like the idea of these 30-minute sprint races. It adds something to it. Grand-Am is definitely the premier road racing series in America right now and I'm glad to be a part of it."
Another decisive pass came on Lap 20, when Ryan Hunter-Reay--in the No. 17 SAMAX Porsche GT3--attempted to overtake Liddell in Turn 9 but ran wide, allowing points co-leader Andy Lally to slip by both machines in the No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R. Lally went on to finish second in the race, and with the runner-up result, Lally and co-driver Marc Bunting maintain their lead in the current GT standings.
"It's really tough to pass on this track," said Lally. "I've raced with Robin and Ryan quite a bit, so I kind of know what they are going to do out there. As the points leaders we have a set a good example and race clean, so I wanted to make sure I kept my nose out of trouble out there. To go from sixth to second in a 30-minute qualifying race is great."
Hunter-Reay finished third in the No. 17 machine, giving co-driver Ian James the inside of Row 2 for tomorrow's 250-mile feature race. Hunter-Reay finished third with James in the Road & Track 250 last weekend at Laguna Seca in his first-career Rolex Series start.
"We were strong for most of the track except coming onto the only passing zone, so I had difficulty getting past," said Hunter-Reay. "Unfortunately, I had to make a desperate attempt and (Lally) got by us. But the whole crew has done a great job making the car better over the weekend. We've had a lot of discipline staying on old tires and conserving everything."
The No. 72 Porsche came home fourth, leaving Liddell and co-driver Wolf Henzler in a tie for third in the GT point standings. The No. 72 duo is now eight points in arrears of leaders Bunting and Lally (247-239). One week after winning the GT qualifying race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Kelly Collins finished fifth in the No. 64 TRG/iRise Pontiac GTO.R. The result allowed Collins and Paul Edwards to keep pace with the No. 65 and No. 72 drivers in the championship standings. Collins and Edwards are tied for fifth with 229 points apiece.