Jon Fogarty put GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing in the best possible position to clinch the team's second Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Championships Friday when he won his fifth straight pole of the 2009 season and sixth of the year in qualifying for Saturday's season-ending Grand Prix of Miami. The 2.5-hour sprint on the 2.3-mile, 11-turn Homestead-Miami Speedway road course is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. ET tomorrow, with live coverage on SPEED.
The Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Team and Driver Championship leaders, the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley with Fogarty and Alex Gurney at the wheel out-paced their title rivals for the second consecutive day at Homestead. Fogarty set a new track record of 1:12.879 (113.613 mph) and closed out the season by winning half of the poles on the 12-race 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Series schedule. The series-leading run saw all six pole-winning efforts come in the span of the last seven races.
“It was a good run and we are definitely pleased to be running up front,” said Fogarty, who turned the pole-winning time on just his second qualifying lap. “We knew we had to maximize our tires early in the run and I was able to do that and get a clear lap. I was en route to maybe matching our time but we were keeping tabs on where our competitors were. I didn't want to put any more miles on my tires unnecessarily. We decided to pull it in a little early to give them a rest and save the tires for tomorrow. It was a great effort from the whole GAINSCO Auto Insurance team and we are just looking to have a good race and make it exciting for the fans.”
Fogarty will share the front row with the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara of Brian Frisselle and Max Angelelli, GAINSCO's closest championship challengers. GAINSCO and its drivers have an eight-point lead in both the team and driver championship standings as well as a series-leading and unmatchable total of four race wins. GAINSCO, Gurney and Fogarty have 309 points to lead both championships, SunTrust and its drivers are second with 301 points and the No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas is third with 299 points. GAINSCO can clinch the titles with a finish of fourth place or better. Rojas qualified seventh in the No. 01.
“Certainly, with the championship on the line it is nerve-wracking,” Fogarty said. “We are approaching this as if we need to win. It is so competitive and it is just a wild series and there is literally no margin. Even though we do have the points lead we can't assume that is a cushion. Anything can happen and we have a lot of quick cars here. We are just going to keep ourselves focused and not try to let anything else get to us.”
Temperatures continued to soar to record heights at Homestead-Miami on Friday and the trend will continue for tomorrow's race. In addition to creating extremely hot conditions inside the closed Daytona Prototypes of well over 100 degrees, the unseasonably high heat has also combined with Homestead's notoriously tough racing surface to make tire conservation a primary strategy concern for tomorrow's race.
“We are in a good position for tomorrow but it is going to be a long hard race,” Gurney said. “It is really hot and there are a lot of fast cars. The tire issue with the heat and this track is our biggest issue this weekend. You are going to see cars sliding around a lot and it should be fun to watch the cars at the end of an hour-long stint.”
“We know who our competition is and who we need to manage and so far we have done a good job with that,” Fogarty said.
Fogarty also extended his lead as the all-time Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype pole winner to 14.
Qualifying on the third row were Ryan Hunter-Reay, 1:13.421 in the No. 95 Supercar Life/Edata Solutions BMW Riley shared by Scott Tucker, and Darren Law, 1:13.745 (112.774 mph) in the No. 58 Brumos Porsche Riley co-driven by David Donohue.
Ham Captures Fifth Acxiom GT Pole
Nick Ham captured his fifth Acxiom GT pole of the season, running a lap of 1:18:848 (105.012 mph) in the No. 70 SpeedSource/Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8 co-driven by Sylvain Tremblay. He will be joined on the front row by Paul Edwards, who ran a lap of 1:19.227 (104.510 mph) in the No. 07 Team Drinkin' Mate Pontiac GXP.R.
"I knew we had a good shot, because we had a fast car all weekend," Ham said. "We've struggled like everybody else this weekend with our setup, but on new tires, the car is fantastic. We made a few changes this morning that helped a bit, and then I made a sway bar adjustment during the qualifying session that got us the pole."
Kelly Collins, who co-drives with Edwards, is the only driver who can take the GT title from Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche drivers Leh Keen and Dirk Werner. The drivers of the No. 87 Porsche GT3 need to each drive 30 minutes to share the title, while Collins needs to finish first or second and the Porsche fail to complete 30 minutes. Keen qualified fifth with a lap of 1:19/812 (103.744 mph).
Andrew Davis qualified third in the No. 57 Stevenson Automotive/BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R co-driven by Robin Liddell, 1:19.554 (104.080 mph). He will be joined on the second row by Jeff Segal, 1:19.799 (103.781 mph) in the No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8 co-driver by Emil Assentato.
The two-hour, 30-minute race takes the green flag at 1 p.m. Saturday live on SPEED, followed by the IndyCar Series season finale on Versus.