FOGARTY'S FOURTH-PLACE QUALIFYING FOR NAUGHT AFTER GRAND-AM RULES ON WING MEASUREMENT DANVILLE, Va. (April 26, 2008) -- A qualifying run that appeared to match GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing's season-best effort of fourth place one week ago in...
FOGARTY'S FOURTH-PLACE QUALIFYING FOR NAUGHT AFTER GRAND-AM RULES ON WING MEASUREMENT
DANVILLE, Va. (April 26, 2008) -- A qualifying run that appeared to match GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing's season-best effort of fourth place one week ago in Mexico City was thrown to the wayside Saturday when officials ruled in post-qualifying inspection for the Bosch Engineering 250 that the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley's "wing measurements were out of Grand-Am rules parameters."
Jon Fogarty's qualifying lap of 1:43.556 (113.678 mph) in the No. 99 GAINSCO race car was disallowed and he will now start Sunday's race at Virginia International Raceway last in the field of 19 Daytona Prototypes. Ironically, the GAINSCO team will be joined at the back of the pack by the No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley of chief rival and apparent pole winner Memo Rojas, who also had their qualifying time thrown out for the same infraction.
Team owner Bob Stallings expressed disappointment and frustration that Grand-Am officials would make a ruling based on at a measurement variation that is less than the thickness of a sheet of typewriter paper.
"Grand-Am's decision has implications on two race cars that were capable of winning the pole -- and one that apparently did -- in addition to factoring heavily into tomorrow's race and the championship," Stallings said. "It is our hope that similar minute rulings are not made later in the season when the championship implications will be even greater. As it is, we will take this penalty and go racing tomorrow, but I look forward to discussing this and other aspects of this decision with Grand-Am in the near future."
While the setback is hardly welcome, the GAINSCO team is more than capable of making up the lost ground, and Fogarty proved it in Mexico City. A strategy call saw Fogarty pit the No. 99 at the completion of the first race lap, but he charged back through the field to lead one-third of the way into the race. As he will tomorrow, Fogarty turned the GAINSCO race car over for its final run to the finish in Mexico to teammate and fellow Rolex Series Co-Champion Alex Gurney who went on to finish fourth. A similar result tomorrow would be the GAINSCO team's best career finish in four starts at VIR.
"We put our best foot forward, but we just came up short," said Fogarty, before learning of the post-qualifying ruling by Grand-Am. "If I optimized everything, we could have gone to the front row, but I don't think the pole was ours today. I was able to back-up my quick times, though, so it is consistently a front runner, which is a good thing. We definitely know where we can make the car a little bit better, so we can go back and work with our Engineer Kyle Brannan and Alex and work toward that goal, and have an even better race car for tomorrow."
The VIR circuit is a favorite of everyone on the team, and the No. 99 GAINSCO Pontiac Riley is already working well on various parts of the track. The team paced this morning's opening practice and was second fastest in the final session before qualifying.
"We are good at corner entry and we are good coming down the hill on to the front straightaway" Fogarty said. "It is a cool track, there is a lot of variety of corners, fast and slow, but we have to make it work everywhere if we want to be able to win these things, and that's our goal."
In addition to the challenge of starting from the rear, the usual task of dealing with the slower Rolex GT race cars in lapped traffic as the race progresses is also top of mind for the GAINSCO team.
"This is a difficult place to race with GT cars," Fogarty said. "In these fast corners, they use up a lot of the race track. They have a hard time positioning their cars in these successive corners, so they use up a lot of road. A lot of places where you think you should be able to get by, you can't, because they are at the limit and they are using up the track. It's going to make for an issue in the race, for sure."