Pontiac Grand-Am Teams Going For Championship In Last Race GAINSCO and SunTrust in Contention for Season Ending Glory Pontiac Daytona Prototype (DP) teams are ready for the final round of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown...
Pontiac Grand-Am Teams Going For Championship In Last Race
GAINSCO and SunTrust in Contention for Season Ending Glory
Pontiac Daytona Prototype (DP) teams are ready for the final round of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve race to be held at Miller Motorsport Park in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday. The seven hour Sunchaser 1000 will decide the DP championship being contested by three teams.
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing is leading the DP points with drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty in their Pontiac powered Riley by one point, 385 points, over the second place runner Scott Pruett, in a Lexus Riley with 384 points. In third place, just three points out, is SunTrust Wayne Taylor Racing and their driver Max Angelelli in his Pontiac Riley with 382 points.
Miller Motorsport Park holds the title as being the longest road racing course in North America with its 4.5-miles and 24-turns. Miller is a daunting track that will have the Pontiac teams competing for seven-hours to decide who takes the trophy in Las Vegas at the series banquet next Monday.
*GAINSCO Pontiac has seven wins this season
*GAINSCO Pontiac has nine pole positions in a row, 10 on the season
*GAINSCO Pontiac has started on pole or the front row every race
*GAINSCO drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty lead championship by one point
*SunTrust Pontiac driver Max Angelelli is three points behind
*SunTrust has two wins on the season
*Pontiac has won nine DP races in 2007
*Pontiac has won two GT races
*Pontiac has five poles in GT
*Pontiac has a perfect 13 for 13 DP pole qualifying streak
*Pontiac DP poles, Magnussen 1, Braun 2, Gurney 2, Fogarty 8
*Pontiac has locked up the manufacturers title for 2007
GAINSCO has won seven races this season and have sat on the pole ten times to get in a position to win the DP championship. The Texas team is pulling out all of the stops, bringing in road racing veteran Jimmy Vassar to compliment the team's regulars Gurney and Fogarty. The team needs to add an eleventh win to their season dossier to take the season ending champions trophy.
"The team has been working very hard trying to anticipate all the things that might contribute to reliability problems," Gurney said. "We saw with the six-hour at The Glen that we need to run virtually flat out the whole way to win and this does put an extra strain on the cars over such a long race. Also, this track, there are not many things to hit and lots of runoff so there usually is not many yellow flag periods. Fuel mileage will likely come into play, we've been carefully looking at the strategy there. We've won seven of the 13 races this year, we are certainly hoping for business as usual. As far as the Lexus upgrades, my only comment is that I had the unique position of following Scott Pruett very closely for about 30 laps at Sears Point. I got a firsthand look at where they were losing time and it is my unbiased opinion that they do not have a power problem."
For Fogarty it is business as usual. With the time off he has kept up his fitness routine and caught up on time with the family. The Californian has confidence in his team and knows they just have to stay-the- course to be successful.
"We really aren't doing anything different. Not time to change our routine," Fogarty said. "We have kept busy with a couple weeks off. Last year we were ninth at Miller, I think we had a small gear box issue that caused a loss of gear oil. It was not the trans, but a slight oil leak, that Grand-Am made us come in and fix. We fell to dead last and marched up through the field. We have to win this weekend. This is the same pressure we are used to since Daytona. I think it is a little funny business with the Lexus upgrade, we are in a championship battle with them. I don't like the timing. I am not sure they needed it, but they got it. We have good power with the Pontiac, we have won races and have a lot of poles this season. We will be ready.
Some say that Bob Stallings, team owner, has assembled the best team in sports car racing in America. The likable Texan has faith in his driving duo to get one more win to accomplish the team goal of being champions in 2007.
"The GAINSCO BOYS have been on a terror!" Stallings exclaimed. "We are winning because each member of the team is doing their job better and more consistently than any other team in Grand-Am. According to some in the Motorsports Press, we are the best Sports Car Team in America. All we need to do in order to win this championship is to continue doing what we have been doing. This is just another race toward the ultimate goal we set for ourselves at the beginning of this year. We just have to win! The engine upgrade for Lexus is a very unfortunate turn of events. The action by the officials of the series has created an unnecessary controversy that may become worse depending on the outcome of the race in Salt Lake. I want to say for the record however, that even though I disagree with the judgment of the officials, I do not distrust their motives. Grand-Am wants honest competitive racing as much as the rest of us do. On some rare occasions they don't get it right.&n bsp; This, in my opinion is one of those occasions. Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty are indisputably the best driving tandem in motorsports today. They have become very comfortable in relying on each other to get the job done. They trust in each other and they are great friends. They also believe in the car and that is a big deal. They believe that even if something doesn't go right during the race that the Red Dragon is the best car on the track and with that car, they can overcome adversity. Their confidence is well founded too because the Pontiac power has been reliable and Kyle Brannon has given them a set up that will win races."
SunTrust Wayne Taylor Racing has been a consistent front runner all season. The team has managed to win two races and has been a fixture at the front of the field. Max Angelelli and Danish speedster Jan Magnussen will handle the driving duties for the full seven hours at Miller.
"We are feeling very positive about this race for a lot of reasons," Angelelli said. "We led the most laps there last year. We were always super fast. Unfortunately the result (14th) was bad because we had electrical problems that put us down a couple of laps. I think this year we have a good car even if the result from Sears Point did not show we were fastest. I like the track at Miller a lot. It's very different than any track I've ever been on, anywhere else in the world. Finally, we get back to racing with the GT cars. I couldn't wait for that. It gives us another variable to take advantage of in our fight for the championship. That, and the fact it's a 1,000-kilometer race. We start the season going 24 hours, and we finish going 1,000-kilometers. I think that is a very appropriate way to finish the season. As if this last race for the championship is not challenging enough, we have one more challenge to deal with. After the Sears Point race, the 01 car was allowed an engine upgrade that gives them some more horsepower. Am I wrong if I say that I feel this is not the way to decide a championship? The championship must be won on the race track. This is a big change right before the final race. Usually, these kinds of rule changes happen to help teams that are struggling and they happen much earlier in the season. I don't remember seeing the 01 car struggling this year. They won the Daytona 24-hour and they led the championship most of the season. It's a setback for the Pontiac teams, for sure. But we'll see how it plays out on the racetrack. In a 1,000-kilometer race with GT cars out there, anything can happen"
"We have no option but to go to Miller and win the event," said Taylor. "Even if we do win and the No. 99 comes second they still win. We need some luck on our side for Max to win this championship. These are no longer endurance races, they are sprint races. We have Jan with us for this race, he and Jan really like the track and drove well there last year. The wild card will be how much of a performance improvement the Lexus will have for this race. The decision has been made to give them an upgrade, there is nothing we can do about that now. However, there are two strong Pontiac teams they need to contend with. We are not running a third driver, I will do some practice laps in case something happens, but I don't see me getting in the car in the race."
In GT the Pontiac GXP.R trio will be looking to end the season on a high note. The last time the GT cars ran was at Montreal in early August, so the teams have had a lot of time to prepare for the season finale. The No. 07 Banner GXP.R of Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins still has a ray of hope for the GT championship. GT points leader Dirk Werner has to finish worse than 11th, second place runners Lally and Valentine have to finish worse than seventh and the 07 has to win. Joining Edwards and Collins will be Cadillac CTSV driver Andy Pilgrim.
"We have to win and everyone else has to break," Collins said. "We will be going after the win. We have to run flat-out. The others have to be careful. It is a long track, maybe too long. In a 45-minute practice session you get like seven laps. With so many corners if you blow one, you have pretty much blown the entire lap. The DPs are always shoving their way by so you have to be on your game the whole stint. The more turns multiplies your chances of getting hit by nearly double. It is a good track for the GXP.R. The car likes medium and high speed turns. It will be survival and hopefully we can get some luck. Andy is in our car and he has raced the Cadillac there already, so that should help."
In the No. 06 Banner Pontiac Leighton Reese and Tim Lewis Jr. will be focusing on adding another win to their record. The duo scored the first win for the new GXP.R at Lime Rock in May, Reese and Lewis would like to add another at Miller. Joining the regular duo in the 06 will be Corvette driver Johnny O'Connell.
"I am confident we can win at Miller," Reese said. "We are on our game and we have used up all of our bad luck on the season. Miller has a lot of turns. We don't have a straight line advantage. Our strength is into the corner, through the corner and off. We have been working on chassis-chassis for this race. There is no banking for the German cars to run and hide from us. O'Connell loves the track, so that will only help Tim and I go faster. I have led there in World Challenge until my drive-shaft let go, that place owes me one. It is a huge rhythm track, once you get in the groove you are on. It is like a lunar landscape out there, like the pictures of Mars from the Hubble Telescope."
Jon Mirachi's No. 30 Racers Edge Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R will have Drew Staveley, Robert Nearn and Ken Dobson at the wheel. At the last race in Montreal, Nearn was able to lead several laps in the red 30. "We have a strong driver lineup which adds a level of confidence for this weekend," Mirachi said. "We also went testing last week to develop some additional driver comfort and car performance items that we can use to our advantage at Miller. We are very well prepared and I think we really have a shot at the win. It's a long hard race, we need to stay out of trouble and have a little good luck With nearly a month off we have fully disassembled and rebuilt the car from the ground up replacing many of the components to be sure everything is fresh. Of the major components we have installed a fresh engine, fresh transaxle, new starter, new clutch, new driveshaft and completely rebuilt the brake system. I believe our preparation is the best which helps ensure our reliability over the long race and we also have a very well thought out strategy. These things will tend to show up more and more as an advantage the longer the race." The final round of the Grand-Am Rolex Series for the DP and GT cars will be run at Miller Motorsport Park outside of Salt Lake City, Utah on Sept. 15. The Race will be televised live starting at 1:00 p.m. EDT and rejoin the action again at 5:30 p.m.
-credit: gm racing