One lap of Miller Motorsports Park with GAINSCO driver Jon Fogarty Eight-time polesitter gives a behind-the-wheel perspective of America's longest road course LEWISVILLE, Texas (Sept. 7, 2007) -- On Sept. 15, Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and Jimmy...
One lap of Miller Motorsports Park with GAINSCO driver Jon Fogarty
Eight-time polesitter gives a behind-the-wheel perspective of America's longest road course
LEWISVILLE, Texas (Sept. 7, 2007) -- On Sept. 15, Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and Jimmy Vasser will fight for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing's first-ever driver and team championships in one of the 2007 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series season's toughest tests -- the Sunchaser 1000 at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. They'll face the task of closing out the season by racing 1,000 kilometers around the 4.5-mile desert monster, the longest racetrack in North America. Fogarty, who has captured a record-setting eight poles this year behind the wheel of the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac-powered Riley, agreed to talk us around a lap, giving his driver's-eye-view of the grueling circuit.
Jon Fogarty: Miller is long with many corners, but after a few laps it's easy to break the track into sections and focus on separate parts rather than the whole. The first third for me includes what I call corners 1 through 10 (that's more than a lot of tracks have in total!) This includes the first set of esses, beginning at turn 1. This is a fast, left-right-left-left sequence that is very high speed, with the final left being flat out. Because the last corner can be taken flat, it is important to be patient in the early portions of this sequence, so that you are building speed throughout making the exit of the second to last corner the start of your straightaway leading into a slow long left hander.
This slow left that I call turn 5 is also an area of overtaking. You arrive going very fast from the previous section and the brake zone is long. There are a variety of different lines through here -- some exit wide and compromise the next right-hander (turn 6), while others hold it tight exiting the corner to maximize the entry into turn 6. For me, it depends on how the car is handling and what condition the tires are in. Putting the power down can be an issue here, and I expect it will be even more so this year as we no longer have traction control. The next slow right is turn 6, which is similar to turn 5, only going the other direction. The line of sight here is not very good because there is a slight elevation change, so it is difficult to see the exit. However, like turn 5, you may not want to track all the way out because shortly after the corner is another left-hander, which I call the triple left-hander.
The triple left-hander is a tricky section for sure, as it has a very fast entry and elevation change. It is easy to slide wide going in, and if that happens the whole sequence is ruined. I try to keep it fairly tight and maintain a high minimum speed throughout -- the problem is the balance of the car is always changing because of those elevation changes. It can be frustrating and it is hard to be consistent -- but when you get it right you know it and it is very satisfying. The next right is turn 9 and is quite fast and long in duration. The condition of the tires really seems to impact your speed through here. There is no straight after this corner, so entry speed is important. Get in here and then gather it up for turn 10, a fast, banked right-hander. Turn 10 is fast -- faster than the radius would indicate, as with the banking the car holds on very well.
This ends section 1 and begins section 2 for me. After turn 10, you have a long, flat-out, not-so-straight straightaway. Here you get all the way up into 5th before the 11-12-13-14 sequence, a right-left-right-right set that has many different variations in the possible line, and thus a lot of give and take. For me this is all one long corner, as they all interact in some way. The section begins with what can be a near-flat-out 5th-gear right hand kink. Immediately after this, you have to be hard on the brakes to slow up for the next left that transitions into another slow right. Too much speed through the first kink can throw off your rhythm for the next two corners, so there is a fine balance of aggression and restraint here -- give up some here to get it back a little later. The last right in this sequence is a little faster and has some elevation change. Again it is hard to see the exit, but fortunately the runoff areas at Miller are quite smooth.
Next we have a double left -- two left-hand corners which are almost one. The exit of the first corner is also the entry to the second. You have to give each corner equal value and not try to make more of it than is possible. It's easy to overdrive this section, and it's easy to lose the rear of the car between the two corners. Next is a short climbing straight that leads to the only chicane on the circuit. The center of the chicane is the highest point on the track, and you climb quickly to it from the previous corners and then descend rapidly away from it. The chicane itself is a quick, curbed left-right-left, and there is often dirt everywhere because people tend to drop wheels. This makes it anyones guess as to what will be the fastest route on that given lap, so it's best just to try to get through clean and maximize exit speed.
Exiting the chicane ends segment 2 for me and begins the third and final leg of the track. After the chicane there is a fairly long straight that brings you to a quick 90-degree left-hander. The entry to this corner is difficult because the track undulates right at the brake zone, which unsettles the car and makes for looseness at turn in. After that, things settle down and you exit onto another decent length straight. Here you enter the final set of corners, a banked and flowing left-right-left. The first left is quick and not quite 90 degrees, where you can get a short burst of power into a near-180-degree banked right that exits into the final near-180-degree banked left. There is a lot of speed to be had in this section, as the banking really holds the car. But if you overdo it between the corners, it can be difficult to reach the apex. You need to make the most out of the first and second left-right, but exiting the final left is crucial as it leads onto the extremely long main straight. That is one long lap of Miller Motorsports Park.
The Sunchaser 1000k at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah is set for Sept. 15. Open testing commences on Sept. 12, with official practice beginning on Sept. 13. Qualifying is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. Mountain Time on the 14th.