NASCAR/Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Teleconference Transcript - Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney June 17, 2009 An Interview with: ALEX GURNEY JON FOGARTY J.J. O'MALLEY: Good afternoon, everyone, and thanks for joining us on this week's NASCAR...
NASCAR/Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Teleconference Transcript - Jon
Fogarty and Alex Gurney
June 17, 2009
An Interview with:
J.J. O'MALLEY: Good afternoon, everyone, and thanks for joining us on this week's NASCAR Grand Am teleconference. Joining us today are two past Rolex Series champions who are looking to make history this weekend: Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty. They're the leading Daytona Prototype's winners this year co-driving the 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley.
This weekend, they're looking for their third consecutive victory in the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid Ohio, which would make them the first Rolex Series team to win the same event in the same class in three consecutive years.
Alex and Jon have 10 victories in the red 99. Alex has been driving the car since 2005, when he won the pole and led the most laps as the highlight of his rookie season at Mid Ohio. They were leading the Daytona Prototype entering the recent race at Watkins Glen where they finished 16th and are now tied for third six points back.
Alex, how important is it to return to Mid Ohio, a track where you've enjoyed great success to get your championship drive back on track?
ALEX GURNEY: Well, you know, we love going to a track that we've done well at in the past. And we're coming off a real brutal weekend at Watkins Glen where we went in with the points lead and came out with a D and F.
So we're really excited to get back on track. And we've always done well at Mid Ohio. And both Jon and I love the track and have a lot of experience there. And just one of the best road courses in the country.
So we're very excited and hopefully we can get back on top of the points.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Thank you, Alex.
Jon, after winning only one race, which was Mid Ohio last year, you and Alex will be at the Rolex Series with two victories this season. What's been the big difference with the team and the competition this season?
JON FOGARTY: A number of things. I think our results in the last year's season were a little bit skewed. We had the opportunity to win a lot more races than one but we had a lot of bad luck, but it's no secret that last year that the Pontiac motors were definitely at a disadvantage, and the series has been working, you know, towards motor parity in the off season, and we've gotten back a little bit on the competition this year.
So I think we're a little bit closer in the motor department. And our attitude towards each race is the same, and it's the same as last year.
We always go out to win. And there's always the luck factor that you can't account for. So I'm going to attribute a big bulk of last year's lack of wins to just bad luck.
This year we've been running strong, and the reality is both of our victories this year were we were not necessarily in a position to win, but both Alex and I were both able to take advantage of slower cars and make passes for the lead and get ourselves on the top step of the podium.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Thank you very much, Jon.
Q: For both drivers: In the last two weeks, since the Sixth Hour Race, what have you done to either analyze what transpired at the Glen and what has your team been doing to turn itself around?
JON FOGARTY: You know, we got ourselves into a little bit of a bind at the start of the race with something coming loose in our right front suspension. And honestly I can't tell you exactly what the cause of that was, but I'm sure our crew chief and our team has gone through and gone back and looked at everything and tried to find what the root cause of that was and I'm confident that they'll get it figured out.
The incident that happened on track is just kind of one of those racing things. Donohue made a mistake. And unfortunately put himself into the gravel trap. And what really ended our race was the corner workers destroying our car when they tried to extricate it from the gravel.
So they tore the floor off the bottom of the car and the floor is bonded and riveted structural element to the car. So that required us to miss the test day, post event. And the guys had to haul our car back to Texas and basically take the whole thing apart and put it back together.
So they've been really busy. And you know I think our performance really was quite good. We were able to come back from those laps down and get back on the lead lap, and we were fighting for podium position.
So from a performance standpoint, we're pretty pleased with the weekend, the result not so much.
ALEX GURNEY: You want me to add to that? Well, yeah, I would echo a little bit of what Jon said. We were on the front row in qualifying. And we had a strategy for the race and everything was going okay until that point. So I think it was a camber shim that came loose from the right front and ended up cutting the rear tire.
That's the way I understood it. So somehow that went loose on us. But, yeah, like Jon said, our guys are on it and I'm sure that something like that won't happen again.
You know, Mid Ohio has a different track than Watkins Glen. Watkins Glen has a really long uphill, basically a straightaway. And Mid Ohio doesn't have that. Much more of a handling track, I would say, and something that I think will suit our car quite well. But we think we're in good position.
Q: Alex, I'll ask Jon one, too, if I can. Alex, what is it about Mid Ohio that just stands out to you or why did you like this track so much? And I just keep remembering your drive through the rain last year to that victory, it was kind of a stirring event. But I'm wondering what is it about the track that appeals to you most? And I'm going to ask both of you guys what's your favorite corner. Go ahead.
ALEX GURNEY: It's hard to put my finger on it as far as what we like so much about it. But we've been coming there for a long time. I think I raced there in I think 1997 was my first time in a Skip Barber Formula Dodge and one a couple of races there. I know Jon has been super successful there. And also won I think at least a couple of races there in the wet also.
So both of us have a lot of experience to draw on and we like to really break down each corner and talk about it in depth, and I think we've both learned a lot from each other. And so that goes a long way. Also our car has been extremely good from the first time we rolled off in 2005, it seems like it's just one of those tracks that really clicks with our team.
So all those things really add up to good weekends for us. So we're really excited to get back there.
Q: Give me an example. Give me like a lot of times golfers have a favorite hole on a certain course; do you have a favorite corner at that track where you feel you can sort of quote/unquote hit the sweet spot more often than not?
ALEX GURNEY: Turn 1 I think is always the best corner. It's super fast. We drove the Atlanta car quite a bit there and the Daytona prototype. They require a different technique. Obviously the Daytona prototype, the heavier car, is moving around a lot more. So you're kind of working the car quite a bit more.
But it's just very fast and kind of a pucker corner, if that makes sense. Every time you approach it, you're trying to get the most out of it and you really have to be very committed to the corner.
Q: I was asking, I used that word pucker but didn't think I would be able to use that on a teleconference. Jon, you, too, what corner of this track do you really like? Why does it suit your sensibility, so to speak?
JON FOGARTY: One of the great things about Mid Ohio is it does have a good mix of corners. Turn 1 is definitely fast and separated by two straightaways. You have time to think about it before you get there. And you have time to either beat yourself up or savor it once you get out of the corner and back section you have a bunch of linked sections and you're just busy the whole time.
But getting Turn 1 right is satisfying. It's just a fast corner. You just know when you get a good run out of there. And the car turns well through there and it's a long enough corner where the balance is shifting.
And I definitely, probably the most satisfying for sure. But the whole section from I think it's actually called Turn 7 on the track map. But basically off the straightaway and through the hills there, with all the elevation changes, it's right/left, right/left, right/left, it's fun and it's technical, too.
It's real interesting, like Alex said, we were able to go back and look at the telemetry and our data and comparing how we're doing that stuff. And I think that's another one of the fun things about Mid Ohio, there's definitely a little bit there's the technique track and there's a few different techniques that work.
So it's got a bit of everything. But I'm going to say Turn 1 is probably the most satisfying when you get it right.
Q: If you weren't so busy driving the car, if you were just riding, would it be almost like riding a roller coaster especially in that part in the back, the esses and stuff, where you're talking about would you liken it to that a little bit?
JON FOGARTY: Yeah, it would be a pretty fast roller coaster. It would be like that, you lose your stomach and I'd say it's fun in the race car. But there's definitely consequences back there if it goes wrong. It's not so much like that in the roller coaster.
Q: You don't put your hands in the air.
ALEX GURNEY: I was going to say our boss keeps threatening to put in a passenger seat in our car. And I hope he does that at some point. Maybe we can give you a ride.
Q: One of the things allowance for you, the success you guys have had here especially the last two years and stuff, does it fire you up more going to a place where you've had success like? Understand what I'm saying? When you're rolling up here do you get kind of a good feeling despite the fact you even like the place, but the fact that you've had great success?
ALEX GURNEY: Absolutely. I'm sure every driver feels kind of a kinship with certain tracks and this is definitely one of those.
So you just have a good feeling coming in and we know we've won there in the dry and the wet so there's no real concern there. And I think it's the perfect place to go there, to go after coming off a bad weekend.
Q: Looking back at 2007, you guys made that look so easy. Can you remember two years ago and kind of refresh our memories about that race because you dominated that from qualifying to the checkered flag?
JON FOGARTY: Yeah, we talk about that race pretty often and in hindsight maybe making it look so easy wasn't such a good plan. But the car was just fantastic. Qualifying was actually pretty tight.
We had Fittipaldi was quite close. And he was able to hang in there for the first part of the race. But after we did our pit stops and we got such a great crew, I think we probably gained, I can't remember, I think it was like 12 seconds on those guys in our pit stop alone. So it's pretty straightforward race. Not a lot of yellows.
Q: No yellows, as a matter of fact.
JON FOGARTY: Exactly, no yellows as I recall. And pretty simple fuel strategy. So it allowed us to basically get out there and run hard for the full two hours and 45 minutes. And pretty unusual in Grand Am. I think that's why you saw the big margin of victory.
ALEX GURNEY: I was going to add to that. As far as outright pace, we honestly weren't much quicker than anybody. It seemed like we just did nothing wrong the whole day and maybe our outlaps and the beginning part of the stint was just much faster than the other guys. The ultimate lap time we did I don't think we even got fastest lap on that day.
But we just had everything right and the car would come in, it seems, so much faster than the other guys. So it was really just a pleasure to drive and we pushed hard the whole way. But in the end it looked like we had a pretty big margin over the rest of the guys. It was a fun day.
Q: Compare that to then the next year, last year, when it was anything but a yellow free day with all the deluge right after the start and the cars spinning all over the place and really was a wild evening for you guys. How difficult as easy as it was the year before, how difficult was it the next year, then?
ALEX GURNEY: Yeah, it's a totally different experience. When it's really wet like that, in the dry I should say it's a physical, much more physical exercise. In the wet, it's really a mental deal, mental anguish I like to say. A tiny mistake means you're sliding away off the track.
So you have to there's no margin left in the wet. And we saw guys sliding off left and right. And off in the gravel trap and just things happening all the time. Guys running into each other. So that was a really fun way to end it to come out on top and to battle through it all and manage to keep the car on track.
Q: How about from your perspective, Jon, because I believe you were the one that was out there?
JON FOGARTY: When it started coming down, yeah. I was coming down the back straightaway and that's kind of where it started coming down first, and I literally, there were cars everywhere. Like cars off on your right. Cars off on your left. Cars straight ahead. And I really backed it up. And I came in there going geez these guys are a bunch of fools.
And I was going what I thought was like at a snail's pace and I almost did the exact same thing. I basically like lost it about halfway down the back straightaway and just gathered it up right at the edge of the racetrack before I went off.
So it was treacherous. It was so much rain that we had water coming up over the front of our splitter, and it was wild. I ended up spinning under yellow. I ended up running into somebody, coming up over the rise in the back section of the track and really had not a great day from my perspective.
But I did manage to sneak it into the pit lane before it went yellow, which helped us out a lot from a track position wise. So it was super difficult. I was having a really hard time. I'm usually pretty comfortable in the wet. But that was beyond wet.
Continued in part 2