GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, Gurney and Fogarty Clinch 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Championships with fourth-place at Miami NO. 99 GAINSCO AUTO INSURANCE PONTIAC RILEY TEAM CHAMPS FOR SECOND TIME IN THREE YEARS MIAMI, Fla. (October...
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, Gurney and Fogarty Clinch 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Championships with fourth-place at Miami
NO. 99 GAINSCO AUTO INSURANCE PONTIAC RILEY TEAM CHAMPS FOR SECOND TIME IN THREE YEARS
MIAMI, Fla. (October 10, 2009) -- GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing needed to finish fourth in Saturday's Grand Prix of Miami to clinch the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Championships and the team and its drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty did just that to give the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley its second Rolex Series driver and team titles in three years.
Fogarty led a race-high 45 laps from the pole and handed the No. 99 off to Gurney who out muscled one of GAINSCO's title challengers while keeping the other in sight until the checkered flag. Gurney drove the final 72 minutes of the timed 2.5-hour sprint race and was behind the wheel of the No. 99 when the most intense racing in the top five took place with just 30 minutes remaining.
"I am so happy for Bob Stallings and everybody at GAINSCO and we got another championship," Gurney said. "It was a little nerve wracking the whole time I was in there and we came out of the pits in around sixth which really gave us no margin there, points wise. We were trying to keep that in mind the whole time, and we were playing the points game the whole time. I had quite a bit of contact several times with some guys, but we were trying to keep it on the road, keep it going straight and keep the points situation in mind."
GAINSCO and its drivers came into the final race with an eight-point lead in both the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype Team and Driver Championships over the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara of Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle while the No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas was also firmly in the mix just 10 points behind GAINSCO. A fourth-place result or better in the finale would clinch the 2009 crowns for GAINSCO, but that kind of result in the ultra-competitive Grand-Am Rolex Series is easier said than done.
"There is such a sense of relief as every race is hard in this series," Fogarty said. "It was very difficult and we knew we were going to have our work cut out for us at this track coming into the race. But with GAINSCO Auto Insurance and GNC -- General Nutrition Centers -- onboard for this race and with their support, it was an awesome job. The entire team was great and we had the total package to get it done. We are very, very happy."
Angelelli was among the drivers Gurney passed in the late action while Pruett ran just in front in second place. The race was won by the No. 59 Brumos Porsche Riley of Hurley Haywood and Joao Barbosa, Pruett and Rojas held on for second while the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley of Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson finished third. GAINSCO could have clinched the titles even with a finish outside of the top five, but Gurney raced right up until the checkered flag to complete a mission that began at last year's Rolex 24 At Daytona.
"It's a dream really for a driver, a crew and a team," Gurney said. "At the end of the year to have the most points and be a champion is really special. Our team owner Bob Stallings is always thinking about the championship and that we can do it, and he reminds of that all of the time."
In the end, GAINSCO clinched both the team and driver championships with 337 points, Ganassi, Pruett and Rojas moved to second in the final standings with 331 points and SunTrust, Angelelli and Frisselle finished third with 325 markers. The No. 99 squad also beat Ganassi and SunTrust to win the 2007 Grand-Am Rolex Series titles, but this year's pair of championships may be even more special.
"This one affirms that the 2007 title was not a flash in the pan," Fogarty said. "I really feel like this kind of solidifies things a little bit. No one really expected us to win in 2007 but now the expectation is always there, and we lived up to it."
Gurney credited a total team effort for the 2009 titles.
"It is strange to say this, but I think we extracted more out of all of us and the car this year than we did in 2007," Gurney said. "It was harder for us this year. Just a lot of team effort this year and we fought harder this year, and maybe that is the whole reason we won."
Temperatures were at record-high levels in the 90s for the third-straight day, creating extremely difficult conditions for drivers, crews and race cars.
"We were fortunate that the yellows fell the way they did because it allowed me to stay in the car a little bit longer," said Fogarty, who drove a few minutes more than Gurney. "With how hot it was today, I think it was a good thing that Alex and I were able to split up the driving a little more evenly. The car was working quite well for me and my stint was good."
The 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Series Championships were the crowing achievements of a strong season that saw GAINSCO top nearly every statistical category. The team's four race wins and six poles were both series highs, and Gurney and Fogarty combined to lead a total of 253 race laps this season. Gurney and Fogarty also end the 2009 season as the most successful Daytona Prototype duo in Grand-Am Rolex Series history with 12 wins while Fogarty is the all-time pole winner with 14 top qualifying spots.
"You just don't get opportunities like this very many times in a lifetime," Fogarty said. "Bob always reminds us of that. These achievements are very special and this feeling and this sort of thing is something you have for a lifetime. We go into the race weekend knowing what kind of a special opportunity we have and big part of that is Bob Stallings and GAINSCO Auto Insurance."