Alex Gurney drove to victory Saturday in the Armed Forces Grand-Am 250 at Sears Point with a dramatic late-race pass of David Donohue's Brumos Porsche Riley. In doing so, he and his co-driver, Jon Fogarty, broke the Rolex Sports Car Series'...
Alex Gurney drove to victory Saturday in the Armed Forces Grand-Am 250 at Sears Point with a dramatic late-race pass of David Donohue's Brumos Porsche Riley.
In doing so, he and his co-driver, Jon Fogarty, broke the Rolex Sports Car Series' record for the most wins in a season. The Bob Stallings Racing duo have won seven of 13 races this year - one more than the six Terry Borcheller won in 2003 and five more than any other team this season. And with their record-breaking win, Gurney and Fogarty will enter the final race of the year with a one-point lead over Ganassi Racing's Scott Pruett in the Daytona Prototype drivers' championship.
Blindingly fast on a number of occasions this season, today's win was not quite as easy for Gurney and Fogarty. Fogarty started from the pole on his qualifying tires and led the race's first 29 laps, opening up a sizable six- second gap on second place Nic Jonsson in the No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley before pitting on Lap 30 - in compliance with the Rolex Series' rule mandating a pit stop in the race's first 45 minutes.
During the stop, Fogarty handed over the No. 99 Pontiac Riley to Gurney, who rejoined the race in second, just behind Pruett, who had stopped on the previous lap. Trying desperately to pass Pruett, Gurney slid off the track in Turn 6 on Lap 60, falling to third behind Donohue and Pruett. Gurney's car was not damaged and quick pit work on Lap 67 allowed him to get by Pruett during the race's second round of pit stops. But during the same sequence of stops, Donohue took two tires instead of four, enabling him to take the lead.
Gurney relentlessly hounded Donohue during the ensuing laps, desperately looking for a way around the Brumos car. But just when it looked like Gurney might try to force the issue, the race's first and only caution flew with less than six minutes remaining. On the following restart, Gurney slid past Donohue in Turn 4 and went on take the checkered flag, 1.937 seconds ahead of Donohue.
"I had to worry about Scott a little bit too," said Gurney, referring to how close Pruett was to him on the restart. "He's aggressive, too, on these restarts. When the cars get bunched up like that, any little bobble at all and it's a lot more likely to be able to make a pass in a situation like that as opposed to running at full speed and having a little more distance. I thought it might be an opportunity to get David, but at the same time I was worried about Scott.
"I was just trying to be on the ball and quick. And be in the right gear at the right time and it did open up there coming over the top of the hill. I knew he was struggling with tires a little bit so anyway hats off to him. I really don't think I would have gotten by him if it hadn't been for the yellow. Anyways, it was awesome day for us."
As Gurney pulled away, Donohue was able to fend off Pruett to finish second - the best result of the season for the second generation driver and his teammate, Darren Law. "I went through the first couple of turns and I was pretty sloppy," said Donohue, describing his view of Gurney's pass.
"I had to over-slow to keep the car on the track. I really let the opportunity begin to open up for Alex. I didn't want him to go under me going into the next couple of corners, so I took a protective line, which just continually left me vulnerable. I was sliding around. I had a bit too much pickup on the restart so I left one lane down on the inside and I went in what I thought was as deep as I could go and still be able to turn the car. And he was able to go in harder and still get it turned. I felt if I would have tried to stay with him I would have been off the side in the dirt and that would have been it."
Pruett and co-driver Memo Rojas, sharing the No. 01 Lexus Riley, came home in third, followed by Max Angelelli and Memo Gidley in the SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley and Jonsson and Ricardo Zonta. Angelelli is now three points behind Gurney and Fogarty and two points behind Pruett in the drivers' championship.
"The Brumos guys did a great job," said Pruett. "We tried to change things up a little bit. We changed our pit strategy and got back out in the lead and maintained the lead for a long time. Unfortunately, with that pit stop we also had to take a little more fuel on and for the next pit stop that let those guys get back by us. It was the gamble we took and we had to try to make something happen. Our car is running good but just a tick off. We're making some updates to the engine so I think that will put us in a good position for the last race."
The last race of the season will be at Miller Motorsports Park, in Utah, on September 15. And with the championship on the line, Pruett and Gurney are confident. "We're in a good position and we know our car is good," said Gurney. "And we had a good car there last year. So we're looking forward to it. We feel good about it. We're excited and we're confident."
"We qualified first there last year and a great car all race long," said Pruett. "Unfortunately, we had a little problem at the end with the engine. But up until that point we led pretty much the whole way. Those long races seem to work real good for us. The history of the Ganassi team in long races is really strong. We're also getting an update for the Lexus engine package, which is going to help us a lot. So I am excited about it."