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Record eighth straight pole for Fogarty/Gurney
Jon Fogarty and GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing captured another Grand-Am record this afternoon in qualifying for tomorrow’s Armed Forces Grand-Am 250, as he torched the 2.52-mile Infineon Raceway to score his eighth pole of the 2007 Rolex Sports Car Series season. Piloting the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac-powered Riley that he shares with fellow Californian Alex Gurney, the Palo Alto native set a new track record with a time of 1:28.028 at an average speed of 103.058 mph. Fogarty considers the circuit to be his home track, as he ran his first-ever sanctioned race here in 1995, behind the wheel of an SCCA Formula Vee.
Tomorrow, Fogarty will lead the 18-car Daytona Prototype field to the green flag, a critical advantage given the tight, three-way championship battle that he and Gurney face. With two races remaining, the duo sits in third with 350 points, just four markers behind tied leaders, Scott Pruett and Max Angelelli. A victory on home turf would keep the No. 99 on a championship-winning trajectory.
“It feels great to be on the pole again in the GAINSCO Pontiac, and it feels even better because our championship rivals are a row or two behind us. It couldn’t be a better situation for the start of the race.,” Fogarty said. “The car was really good, and we were fortunate to draw third in the qualifying order, because this place is pretty notorious for being difficult to get a clear lap. On my out lap, I got around the 39 and the 19, and that allowed me to click off a couple clear ones when the tires were at their best. I didn’t make many mistakes on that lap so I feel good – I think I got the most I could out of the car.”
Gurney was thrilled to see his teammate once again set the No. 99 in perfect position to contend for a win and the championship. The task at hand now, he said, is to run a winning race strategy.
“As usual, Jon did an excellent job in qualifying – we’re in great position and it’s exactly what we needed,” the second-generation star said. “We’re still behind in the points so we’ve got to do everything we can to win these races. Our task tomorrow is to execute.”
Fogarty’s seventh straight pole adds to the record of qualifying superlatives that he and Gurney have racked up this season. In 13 attempts, the GAINSCO team has captured 10 poles, with no start worse than second. That includes the Grand-Am record for consecutive team poles, at nine, and Fogarty’s eighth gives him the series record for most poles by a driver in a single season. No other car has taken a DP pole since April. That consistent speed has given the No. 99’s drivers a confidence boost every weekend – and, Fogarty said, forces the team’s competition to rethink their strategies.
“As a driver, it’s huge, because we know we always have a solid piece beneath us,” Fogarty said. “I think what’s also good about it is that our competitors can’t believe we’re this fast at every track. We race at a variety of different circuits in this series, and we’re good at all of them. That’s got everyone else scratching their heads, we think, so it’s a double whammy – good for us and bad for the other guys.”
Several guest drivers are making appearances behind the wheel of Daytona Prototypes this weekend, and Gurney said they could provide an opportunity to pick up points — or pose a challenge to the title fighters.
“We’re really primarily worried about where we are in relation to the 10 and the 01, but it looks like a couple of the other teams could play a part in this,” Gurney said. “The 75 car has (F1 driver) Ricardo Zonta and the 19 has Alex Lloyd, who did a good job today, so there’s a lot of other strong guys out there. Hopefully, some of them can be a buffer between us and the 10 and the 01.”
Team owner Bob Stallings watched from the pit box, grinning, as Fogarty, the driver he picked as his own replacement, wrote another chapter in Grand-Am history. Together with Gurney, the third-year Rolex Series owner believes he has the best pairing of drivers anywhere in sports car racing.
“Jon has made me look like the smartest guy in the world for getting out of the car and choosing him to get in the 99,” Stallings said. “I’m so proud and happy for him and Alex both, because it’s great to see them finally get their due. What those two guys have done with this team this season has given them national and international recognition as the best sports car drivers in the world – and they deserve that, because that’s what they are.”
With his team having set a course for the championship over the last seven races, picking up five wins and a pair of third-places, Stallings could think of no better way to wrap up the season and the title than by scoring wins here and in the season finale at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah on Sept. 15.
“There’s a lot of positive psyche involved with these performances, and that’s big,” Stallings said. “We’ve gotten to the point where we expect to get the pole and we expect to win. That’s not arrogance, that’s our confidence level. With two races to go, if we win them both, we win the title, and that takes all the nuances out of it. Just win. We think it would be the appropriate and fitting end to a great season.”
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