Fogarty leads Thursday Grand-Am practice
Competition is hot heading into Saturday's Grand Prix of Miami, the season finale for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16, with the Daytona Prototype championship down to a three-team fight.
Conditions at Homestead-Miami Speedway are expected to be even hotter when the two-and-a-half hour race takes the green flag shortly after 1 p.m. ET Saturday (SPEED, Live at 1 p.m. ET), with temperatures expected to be in the mid-90s, along with high humidity.
"The thermometer said 109 (degrees Fahrenheit) in our pit, so you've got to add about 30 degrees to that in the car," explained Alex Gurney, who currently holds an eight-point lead (309-301) in the standings with co-driver Jon Fogarty in Bob Stallings Racing's No. 99 GAINSCO Pontiac Riley. "The longer you are in these cars, the hotter it's going to get."
Fogarty - the fastest of the title contenders and second overall at 1:13.420 (112.776 mph) - is looking for his fifth consecutive pole in qualifying at 2:45 p.m. Friday, said that extending that streak is not his main concern, but it is on his mind.
"We want to approach this like we do every race weekend, so that's my goal, to get the pole," Fogarty said. "I'm not thinking about what we've done. I'm thinking about what we need to do to maximize points, just like every race weekend. Certainly, getting the pole is a step in the right direction. With that said, getting five straight poles and six in seven races would be nice."
Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle - drivers of the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara - are second in the championship. Defending champs Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas are another two points back (299), driving the No. 01 TELMEX Lexus Riley.
Christophe Bouchut ran the fastest lap in Thursday's opening practice, running a lap of 1:13.118 (113.242 mph) on the 2.21-mile circuit in the No. 55 Supercar Life/Edata Solutions BMW Riley. Fogarty was second, followed by Angelelli at 1:13.320 (112.776 mph).
"The car is good, and we will fight for the championship," Angelelli said. "I think we can have a good car for qualifying, and I'm sure it will be strong at the beginning of every single set of tires. But I don't know how it will be at the end of the stint, because everybody seems to be pretty strong on that, maybe better than us."
The Ganassi team was 10th in the two-and-a-half hour session, running a limited number of laps after Pruett shot to the top of the charts on his first lap, 1:13.852 (112.116 mph).
"We were real pleased with how it was when we unloaded," Pruett said. "We've been fast right out of the box at every race we've been to this year, and the same thing here. Now, we're fine-tuning it. This is pretty unique with all the heat. We're looking to see what we need to do to get a more consistent car running 50 laps on a set of tires and still have good speed. There's only one lap that counts in racing, and that's the last one - and it's typically run on a set of tires that are junk. Our focus is trying to get the most out of the car on old tires."
Robin Liddell ran the fastest lap in the Acxiom GT division, unofficially topping the track record with a lap of 1:19.065 (104.724 mph) in the No. 57 BryanMark Financial/Stevenson Automotive Pontiac GXP.R shared by Andrew Davis. Second was Sylvain Tremblay, running 1:19.538 (104.101 mph) in the No. 70 Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8 co-driven by Nick Ham.
Dirk Werner and Leh Keen need to each drive 30 minutes to share the GT title in the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3. They were fourth fastest Thursday, 1:20.000 (103.500 mph). Kelly Collins is the only driver who can catch them for the championship, but he will need to finish first or second and neither Werner nor Keen score points to claim the title. Collins and teammate Paul Edwards, the 2008 GT co-champions, were third Thursday with a lap of 1:19.769 (103.800 mph) in the No. 07 Team Drinkin' Mate Pontiac GXP.R.
Friday's schedule includes practice from 11 a.m. - noon, with 15-minute qualifying sessions to set the Daytona Prototype and Acxiom GT grids beginning at 2:45 p.m.