Fogarty Posts Top-Five Qualifying Effort for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing at Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami Inside Row Three Spot Best for Pontiac Rileys; Da Matta and Vasser Set for Laguna Seca MIAMI (March 28, 2008) --...
Fogarty Posts Top-Five Qualifying Effort for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing at Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami
Inside Row Three Spot Best for Pontiac Rileys; Da Matta and Vasser Set for Laguna Seca
MIAMI (March 28, 2008) -- Jon Fogarty gave GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing a top-five showing in Friday's qualifying for tomorrow's GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami (SPEED TV 6 p.m. ET) Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race, improving on the team's 11th place qualifying effort at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona in January.
Fogarty's first quick time on the 2.3-mile, 11 turn Homestead road course was a 1:13.916 second lap seven minutes into the 15-minute session. He improved to a 1:13.722 second lap two minutes later and ended the session with a quick lap of 1:13.625 seconds (112.462 mph).
"We did what we could and got the most out of the Pirelli Tires," said Fogarty, who brought the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance race car to the pits with a few minutes remaining in the session. "The track was the slickest it has been all weekend, and that is probably due to the higher temperatures. We had a real good effort and we decided to save the tires and switch to race mode. We have an inside starting spot and we can certainly race them hard. We have a real good pit crew and that will make a difference."
Fogarty and teammate Alex Gurney will be looking for a strong result in Saturday's GAINSCO Grand Prix at a track that has been among the team's most challenging the last few years. The soldiered home to an 11th place showing last year after a late race restart penalty while Gurney and Jimmy Vasser finished sixth in 2006 in the team's first race at Homestead-Miami.
Saturday's race is the kick-off event of a full day of auto racing action at Homestead-Miami Speedway that will highlight one of the biggest weekends in the history of GAINSCO Auto Insurance. In addition to its flagship sponsorship of the championship-winning No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley, GAINSCO is also is the title sponsor of both races that make up Saturday's unique double-header. The GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami is Round Two of the 2008 Rolex Series while the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300 is the first race of the recently unified sport of IndyCar Racing. The GAINSCO Grand Prix kicks off the Saturday schedule with a 3 p.m. green flag and the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300 goes off at 8 p.m.
On hand to take it all in will be the largest group of sponsor guests to attend a Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race in history. GAINSCO's more than 600 guests -- made up of agent partners, sales managers and corporate employees -- is also the biggest contingent of any sponsor that is entertaining at Saturday's Rolex Sports Car/IndyCar Series double-header.
In between on-track sessions Friday, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team owner Bob Stallings and GAINSCO Senior Vice President of Corporate Marketing Andy Jordan confirmed in a press conference the highly-anticipated announcement that Cristiano da Matta and Jimmy Vasser will race a second team Pontiac Riley at the upcoming Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, May 17. Both drivers, who are good friends and former teammates on the PKV Racing Champ Car team, have won Champ Car races at Laguna Seca in the past and look forward to their first race together as co-drivers. Da Matta tested with GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing at the new Eagles Canyon track near Dallas last week.
"After the test it became very clear that we should run Cristiano," Stallings said. "He did so well that we decided to field a second car. We already have Jimmy Vasser who helps us on the longer races, so putting him together with Cristiano was a natural. Cristiano gave great feedback to Kyle [Brannan, team engineer] throughout the test. His insight into the car was great. He said that he liked the car and his times proved that. I said to Kyle that we have to find a sponsor and run him, because I don't want to compete against him."
The Laguna Seca round will be the first race for da Matta since being critically injured in a testing accident at Road America in August of 2006 when he collided with a deer. After a long and arduous recovery, da Matta quickly impressed in last week's test, his first time back in a race car since the accident.
"It was important test in many ways," da Matta said. "After waiting a year and a half to get back behind the wheel of a race car it really tested my patience. It felt good to me right away. After three or five laps it really came back to me. It was a big relief in that I could still go fast and still had the feeling for the car. It was also a big relief to know that I could continue my career in racing. I have to thank Bob and his team. A lot of teams talked to me about driving again, but Bob made it happen."
Da Matta and Vasser will race the No. 98 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley, a race car formerly owned and campaigned by George Robinson. The team has used "No. 98" as a test car the last couple of months but the Pontiac Riley is race-prepped and ready to go for da Matta and Vasser at Laguna Seca.
Vasser, who is on-hand at Homestead-Miami in his role as co-owner of the renamed KV Racing IndyCar team, is looking forward to racing with the team and da Matta again.
"It will be great to be a part of Cristiano's comeback," Vasser said. "I was in constant contact with the team during the test. It was great that it all went well. I introduced Cristiano to Bob and Linda (Stallings) and through socializing at the track he got to know everyone. When Cristiano was cleared to drive by the doctors, Bob offered to test him in the GAINSCO car. It will be great to help Cristiano make his comeback to competitive racing at Laguna Seca and I hope we can run a few more races together this year as well."