SERIES-LEADING FOURTH 2009 VICTORY PUTS GAINSCO EIGHT POINTS UP HEADING TO MIAMI FINALE TOOELE, Utah (Sept. 19, 2009) -- Capping a near-dominant weekend with a series-leading fourth 2009 victory in Saturday's Utah 250 at Miller Motorsports Park,...
SERIES-LEADING FOURTH 2009 VICTORY PUTS GAINSCO EIGHT POINTS UP HEADING TO MIAMI FINALE
TOOELE, Utah (Sept. 19, 2009) -- Capping a near-dominant weekend with a series-leading fourth 2009 victory in Saturday's Utah 250 at Miller Motorsports Park, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty extended their Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype Team and Driver Championship points leads to eight points with just next month's season-ending Grand Prix of Miami remaining on the schedule.
Gurney took the wheel of the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley from pole-sitter Fogarty 43 minutes into the a 2-3/4-hour timed race and led championship rival Max Angelelli and the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara across the finish line by 1.264 seconds just over two hours later. GAINSCO's other primary championship challenger Scott Pruett crossed the finish line in third in the No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley just 1.529 seconds behind the winners. Gurney and Fogarty were under pressure from the quick No. 10 and No. 01 cars the entire race as well as the equally fast No. 12 Verizon/Penske Racing Porsche Riley of Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas that started second.
"The opening stint was good," said Fogarty, who won a series-leading fifth pole in Friday's qualifying. "I had some pressure from the 12 car but it wasn't giving me too many worries because I was more concerned about where the 01 and 10 were and, fortunately, we were pulling away from them slightly. We had the right strategy, the GAINSCO team nailed the pit stops and the car was definitely good. We're very happy overall."
The race was slowed three times for full-course caution periods and that marked the only time GAINSCO felt any real threat. Angelelli in particular was good on race restarts on the long Miller front straight but Gurney was able to keep the No. 99 in front.
"I had to go as early as I thought I could get away with on the restarts because the 10 was a little quick on the straights and I could see he was good through Turn 1 also," Gurney said. "That was the most vulnerable part for sure and it was difficult, but once we got going we had a tiny bit of pace on the competition and that made all the difference. We rolled off the truck yesterday just crazy fast and we were just trying not to mess it up. Sometimes you don't even want to touch the car when it is that good. It seemed like the rest of the guys caught up by the end of the weekend and we saw a very close race."
GAINSCO and its drivers now have 309 points in both the Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Team and Driver Championships. Angelelli, Brian Frisselle and SunTrust have 301 markers and Pruett, Memo Rojas and the Ganassi team are third with 299 points. The great weekend started with Fogarty's fifth pole of the year on Friday, which was also his fourth straight this season and a record 13th all-time in Daytona Prototype competition. The Utah 250 marked just the second race this year along with the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park in July where GAINSCO was able to win from the pole.
"The fact that you don't always see pole winners converting into victories is a testament to how competitive the series is," Fogarty said. "There's just a ton of good drivers and obviously having two drivers in each car mixes things up a bunch. We just had a great weekend and getting the pole was indicative of our pace and that is always, for the second driver, gives you a little bit of confidence boost in knowing the car is good. A pole definitely puts you into a better mind set at the beginning of a race, and we capitalized on it today. It was just great all around."
Fogarty led every lap from the race start until the team's first pit stop on Lap 16. Gurney then retook the lead for good when the GAINSCO crew got the No. 99 out of the pits first during final pit stops on Lap 30 with 80 minutes remaining. GAINSCO led a race-high 43 of 56 laps -- Fogarty's 16 and 27 laps up front for Gurney -- while Bernard led the other 13 laps.
The victory was extra sweet for Gurney after his wife Colleen gave birth to their second child on Wednesday morning. Savannah Reese Gurney weighed in at a healthy 7 lbs., 2 ounces and both mother and child are doing fine.
"My wife had a baby girl on Wednesday and I spent one night in the hospital and then flew here from there," Gurney said. "So, a great week and something we will always remember. Winning these races is a big adventure and this just added to that. We will always look back on this with smiles."
The Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway will close the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Series season on Saturday, Oct. 10, but GAINSCO doesn't need to win there to take its second Daytona Prototype titles in the last three years.
"It looks like we don't need to dominate at Homestead, fortunately," said Gurney, who joined Fogarty and GAINSCO in winning the 2007 Rolex Series Championships. "We can finish fourth regardless of what the other guys do so that is a really nice position to be in. We are not going to let up or anything, but we are going to have that in our mind for sure. We made a nice jump today."
GAINSCO has now been on the podium seven times in the year's first 11 races. The team's other wins have come at Virginia International Raceway, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Barber. Today's Utah 250 victory by Gurney and Fogarty also extends their all-time record of Daytona Prototype victories by one duo to 12.
The Grand Prix of Miami can be seen live on SPEED at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m . PT) on Saturday, Oct. 10 .