Fogarty grabs pole, fifth-straight front-row start for GAINSCO team at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca MONTEREY, Calif. (May 19, 2007) -- Jon Fogarty stormed to his first-ever Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series pole in qualifying today for tomorrow's...
Fogarty grabs pole, fifth-straight front-row start for GAINSCO team at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
MONTEREY, Calif. (May 19, 2007) -- Jon Fogarty stormed to his first-ever Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series pole in qualifying today for tomorrow's U.S. Sports Car Invitational delivered by Luggage Express at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Driving the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac-powered Riley to its fifth consecutive front row start, Fogarty will now lead the field of 19 prototypes to the green flag at 1 p.m. Pacific time, live on SPEED Channel.
In the 15-minute qualifying session, which went green at 11:05 a.m., the Palo Alto, Calif. native laid down a fast lap of 1:20.787 at an average speed of 99.729 mph, just 5 hundredths of a second faster than second-place Max Angelelli's best time around the 2.23-mile natural road course. He and co-driver Alex Gurney, whose father Dan will be inducted into the Legends of Laguna Seca in a ceremony tomorrow afternoon, will now attempt to score their second victory of the 2007 season and vault the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team into championship contention. Fogarty had qualified on the outside pole in the previous three Rolex Series rounds, after Gurney scored the pole at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.
"It feels great to finally be on the pole after being so close the last three races," Fogarty said. "The GAINSCO team always gives me the tools I need to run up front and it's all come together today. Our engineer, Kyle Brannan, has put together a fantastic car that is quick and drivable and both Alex and I are very familiar with the circuit -- that gave us some extra confidence for sure."
The task ahead for the GAINSCO duo is to turn that first-place start into a first-place finish, and they both know it will be no easy task. As close as the field is, neither driver can afford to make any mistakes or let their guard down for a moment. For the pair of California-born drivers, it's a home race, and dozens of family, friends and supporters will be on hand to cheer them on.
"Qualifying was very close in the end, a lot closer than we'd thought," Gurney said. "We're in the best possible position, but we've got to see what the race brings us and run clean. I'd love to come out with a win here, with Dan and all my other friends and family in the stands. It'd be a great feeling."
Fogarty said the race, which is the second of the year to feature only DP cars, will take on "more of a sprint character and less of an endurance feeling." The lack of traffic will reduce opportunities to pass, and that, he said, puts a greater emphasis on outright speed. With Round Five of the 14-round 2007 Rolex Sports Car Series just hours away, Jon believes the time is now to turn his speed into strong results.
"We've been consistently quick in practice and qualifying, and now we need to have that sort of consistency throughout the races so that we can contend for this championship," he said. "Starting up front will help, but as we've seen, it doesn't necessarily mean you finish up front."
Team owner Bob Stallings is not on hand this weekend for the first time since he took his team into the Rolex Series -- he's been detained by some of his many business commitments. But the distance could hardly dampen his enthusiasm at Fogarty and Gurney's combined performances.
"I couldn't be more proud of Jon and Alex, who've proven once again that they're at the top of the class in the Rolex Series," Stallings said. "I have to tell you, it's very very hard for me not to be at the track this weekend, but I can be confident that even in my absence, our team will not miss a beat. Jon has done a wonderful job for us, and he's really a mature driver with a great head about him. Every team has a starter and a finisher, and Jon could be a finisher for any team in this paddock, but we've asked him to start the races for us and he's delivered every time. He and Alex and Kyle work together as a team so well that I don't believe there's a better driver combination in the series. We know there's a long race ahead, but we're awfully happy with the car and we like our odds tomorrow."