GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, Gurney and Fogarty on a fast pace in opening practice Thursday for Grand-Am Rolex Series Grand Prix of Miami NO. 99 GAINSCO AUTO INSURANCE PONTIAC RILEY SECOND OVERALL AND AHEAD OF TITLE RIVALS MIAMI, Fla....
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, Gurney and Fogarty on a fast pace in opening practice Thursday for Grand-Am Rolex Series Grand Prix of Miami
NO. 99 GAINSCO AUTO INSURANCE PONTIAC RILEY SECOND OVERALL AND AHEAD OF TITLE RIVALS
MIAMI, Fla. (October 8, 2009) -- Championship leaders GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty out-paced their championship challengers and turned in the second fastest overall lap time Thursday in a searing opening practice session for Saturday's season-ending Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The drivers and GAINSCO crew all shook off record temperatures approaching the upper 90s as Fogarty turned a top lap time of 1:13.420 (112.776 mph) late in the session.
"Tires are such a big deal with your quick laps," said Fogarty, who turned his top time on a fresh set of Pirelli P Zeros. "But it looks like most of the front runners did a tire run and we are kind of ahead of the guys we need to out pace. We really had a good car on old tires as well. We are consistently pretty quick on really old tires so it looks like we have a good car in most conditions. We are going to try to take that and be clean with it and that should put us in a good position to get enough championship points to wrap this thing up."
GAINSCO and its drivers have an eight-point lead in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype Team and Driver Championships as well as a series-leading and unmatchable total of four race wins. GAINSCO, Gurney and Fogarty have 309 points to lead both championships, the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara of Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle is second with 301 points and the No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas is third with 299 points.
"It was a pretty good day I would say," Gurney said. "Speed wise we are right up there near the top of the charts. I think tire wear is going to be a big issue in this heat and that was one of the things we were trying to manage today. We're just trying to find a good balance and I think we are real close. We feel good about tomorrow and the whole weekend."
The Grand Prix of Miami is a 2.5-hour sprint on the 2.3-mile, 11-turn Homestead-Miami Speedway road course. The green flag is scheduled to drop at 1:08 p.m. ET this Saturday, Oct. 10, with live coverage on SPEED beginning at 1 p.m. ET. The extreme hot conditions competitors endured Thursday are expected to continue through the race.
"We have been here before and it is hard in this heat every time," Fogarty said. "It never gets easy. We have had races at Barber and Daytona like this. It's pretty miserable. We are doing everything we can to mitigate it and it doesn't look like it is going to let up for the race. We'll just try to drink water, be prepared and literally stay cool."
The No. 55 SuperCar Life Racing BMW Riley was fastest overall in Thursday practice with a lap time of 1:13.118 (113.242 mph). SunTrust was third fastest at 1:13.446 (112.736 mph) while Ganassi could do no better than 10th fastest with a lap of 1:13.852 (112.116 mph). Final practice and qualifying will be held on Friday and Fogarty will be shooting for a record-extending 14th pole of his career and sixth overall of 2009. His current series-leading total of five poles in the last six races includes earning the top spot at each of the last four events.
"I haven't thought about the pole streak," said Fogarty, who usually qualifies the No. 99 for sprint races. "The focus has been on the bigger picture. Nonetheless, we want to approach this like we do every race weekend, so that's my goal, to get the pole. I'm not thinking about what we've done. I'm thinking about what we need to do to maximize points, just like every race weekend. Certainly, getting the pole is a step in the right direction. Five in a row would be nice, six on the season -- 50 percent -- would be good. You can't let down your guard in this series and wee don't know how to operate in any other fashion than going for it all, for the honest truth. We don't want to change our procedures. We don't know how to operate in any other manner than going out and try to win."
GAINSCO prevailed in a three-way battle with SunTrust and Ganassi to win the 2007 Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Driver and Team Championships. A title-winning performance this weekend would give GAINSCO its second pair of championships in the last three seasons.