Championship leaders GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, Gurney and Fogarty lead Grand-Am Rolex Series back to Miller Motorsports Park TOOELE, Utah (Sept. 16, 2009) -- GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty will return to...
Championship leaders GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, Gurney and Fogarty lead Grand-Am Rolex Series back to Miller Motorsports Park
TOOELE, Utah (Sept. 16, 2009) -- GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty will return to Miller Motorsports Park as the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype Championship leaders for the second time in three years at this weekend's Utah 250 on the massive 4.486-mile road course just outside of Salt Lake City. The race, the 11th and next-to-last event on the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Series schedule, can be seen live on SPEED this Saturday, Sept. 19 at 5:30 p.m. ET (2:30 p.m. PT).
The No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley and Gurney and Fogarty reclaimed the championship lead in both the Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Team and Driver standings with a third-place finish one race ago in August's Montreal 200. GAINSCO and its drivers have 274 points to top the standings in both championships, five points ahead of Max Angelelli, Brian Frisselle and their No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara, and the No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, who are tied for second with 269 points. It's the third time this season that GAINSCO has led outright or held a co-share of the Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype standings.
"With only two races to go, and a five-point lead, we are in a very good position," said Gurney, who joined Fogarty and GAINSCO in clinching the 2007 Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Championships at Miller. "Having the opportunity to win a championship is one of those special moments in a driver's career and certainly in the life of a team as well. Everyone at GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing has worked very hard to get here and we will not let up one bit until the checkered flag in the Homestead-Miami finale. This race at Salt Lake City will determine how we have to approach the final race so we obviously want to come out of Utah with as many points as possible."
This weekend's Utah 250 marks the first time GAINSCO has twice come to a track as Grand-Am Rolex Series points leaders. The team and drivers had a narrow lead over Ganassi and SunTrust heading to Miller for what was then the 2007 season finale. While SunTrust's title hopes literally went up in flames in that race when a fire destroyed their No. 10 machine, GAINSCO battled and banged with the Ganassi team for a hard-earned eighth-place finish. The result was enough to clinch the 2007 titles.
"This year's battle is really quite different than 2007," Fogarty said. "The motor packages were all very similar then and we knew we could compete in a straight-up fight. This year we are outgunned on the horsepower front, which means every other aspect of the team has to be beyond 100%. That includes the race strategy, the pit stops, the crew, and of course us, as the drivers. The title race is similar in that it is the same three contenders, but every championship is really its own beast."
The fact that Miller is the penultimate round of this year's championship, rather than the season finale as it has been since the first race in 2006, also sets this weekend's Utah 250 apart from the other Grand-Am Rolex Series races that have been run at the track. The 2009 season-ending race will be at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday, Oct. 10.
"We haven't won at Salt Lake before but I think we can change that this year," Gurney said. "We've made some big gains with the car throughout the year. We keep unlocking more potential from the setup of the car and a lot of those changes I think will really suit this track. This does feel different to me compared to 2007 as we didn't have two races remaining then. Having been in this position before, I think we're just as hungry and focused but a little more composed this time around."
Another major difference is that the Utah 250 is a Grand-Am Rolex Series sprint race for the first time. Saturday's race is a 2-3/4-hour timed sprint as opposed to the 1000k or nine-hour endurance events of the past three years. Regardless of race distance, Fogarty likes the lengthy Miller road course.
"As a driver I enjoy the track," Fogarty said. "It has a lot of different corners, and once you are familiar with it you pick up small nuances that give you reference. The surrounding mountains are quite dramatic and the weather is usually not too hot, which is always nice."
GAINSCO and its drivers first led the championship standings in May with a victory in the Verizon Festival of Speed presented by SPEEDCOM at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. They reclaimed a co-share of the points lead with the No. 01 team after a series-leading third win of the season in the Porsche 250 presented by Legacy Credit Union in July at Barber Motorsports Park and now return to Utah with sole possession of first place once again.
"Of course, it's great to be in the championship lead," Fogarty said. "We don't want to consider it a cushion, however, as we cannot give anything up with just two races to go. And the finale at Homestead is really a wild card, so we want to go into the final race with an even larger lead."
The GAINSCO team isn't surprised at all that the championship is once again coming down to the wire in a three-way battle involving GAINSCO, Ganassi and SunTrust.
"It's been another crazy year of Grand-Am Rolex Series racing," Gurney said. "Every race has been an adventure. We're all pushing as hard as we can but we are really having a lot of fun as well. With both Ganassi and SunTrust again being our title contenders, I'm sure it will be anything but dull. We're looking forward to the challenge."
Fogarty gains a lot of motivation from the seemingly annual title bout with Ganassi and the frequently competitive SunTrust team.
"I would say the rivalry is just as hot as ever," Fogarty said. "This season has lacked some of the on-track drama we have had in the past, but there is time for that still. So the anger level may not be as high, but my desire to beat them cannot be measured."
GAINSCO has been on the podium six times in the year's first 10 races and finished in the top four in seven others, including the last five in a row. The team's first win this season was at Virginia International Raceway in April's Bosch Engineering 250.
Alex and Colleen Gurney proudly welcomed their second child, Savannah Reese Gurney, to the world this morning at 7:32 a.m. PT. Both mother and daughter are doing fine with Savannah weighing a healthy 7 lbs., 2 ounces. Alex Gurney is scheduled to travel to Salt Lake City on Thursday while Colleen, Savannah and her big sister Natalie will no doubt be tuning in to Saturday's live telecast of the Utah 250 on SPEED. At the time of last year's Utah race, Fogarty and his wife Sara were making plans for the imminent birth of their second child. Fogarty's daughter Allison was born in early October and occupied a great deal of the Fogarty's off-season schedule along with older brother William
For the second consecutive year, the Utah race has been chosen as an incentive reward trip for some top-performing GAINSCO employees. Swetha Seshadri, from GAINSCO's Dallas headquarters office, and Leonard Rodriguez, from GAINSCO's Miami headquarters division, were nominated by their peers and selected by management to represent the company as members of GAINSCO's "Circle of Champions." The pair will serve as honorary pit crew members during Saturday's race in addition to participating in VIP experiences throughout the day. This is the fourth "Circle of Champions" event experience that GAINSCO has organized
Fogarty has mixed feelings about this weekend's sprint-race format but knows of a sure-fire remedy to make him not care at all. "I am split on the fact that this is a sprint," Fogarty said. "Seeing as it is not the finale, I think the shorter format is fine, but only having two longer events on the calendar is a little disappointing. The longer races test the teams and drivers in ways that cannot be replicated in shorter events. Take the Sahlen's Six Hours at The Glen. We had a mechanical issue, which put us down three laps, but great work by the crew to fix the car and the engineers to get us our laps back put us back in the fight. That just does not happen at shorter races. If we win, however, I won't care one way or another, I will tell you that." The only true endurance races on the 2009 schedule were January's season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona and June's Sahlen's Six Hours at The Glen.