Qualify Fourth For Supercar Life 250 at New Jersey’s Thunderbolt Raceway
GAINSCO Rebounds from a Slow Saturday Practice To Record Fastest Laps of Weekend
Jon Fogarty and GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing turned their fastest laps of the weekend so far Saturday in qualifying for tomorrow's inaugural Supercar Life 250 on Thunderbolt Raceway at the debuting New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP). Fogarty recorded a lap time of 1:12.068 (112.394 mph) on the 2.25-mile Thunderbolt layout in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley.
The solid qualifying effort came after GAINSCO struggled in this morning's only practice session after experimenting with some changes. Some pre-qualifying adjustments, however, put them back in front-of-the-pack form for qualifying.
"It's been a little bit of a mystery as to where we have been all weekend because it is so difficult to get a clear lap here," said Fogarty, who qualified for the final time this season. "Personally, qualifying was my first clear laps of the weekend. We have kind of been all over the map on the timing sheets, but we really didn't have any true idea whether or not that was representative."
After recording the fourth fastest time in each of Friday's opening sessions, GAINSCO took a step backwards in Saturday's lone practice when Fogarty clocked in at 1:13.503 (110.199 mph), which was only the 11th fastest lap of the session. It was the second-straight race where GAINSCO was 11th in the final practice before qualifying, but like today at Thunderbolt, they rebounded last weekend at Infineon Raceway to qualify third and finish second in the race.
"I think our qualifying effort shows we are mixing it up with everybody but the Ford No. 61," Fogarty said. "You have a bunch of cars within 1/10th and one guy pulling away, which is a little disconcerting. None the less, we have got a good race car and obviously we have a great team. We're looking to be in good shape for the race."
While the pole-winning No. 61 AIM Ford Riley of Mark Wilkins was more than a quarter-of-a-second faster than its nearest competitor with a time 1:11.761 (112.875 mph), little more than 1/10th of a second split the next three race cars. The No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Dallara of Michael Valiante will share the front-row with the No. 61 AIM team while the No. 99 GAINSCO race car will be on the outside of the third-place qualifying No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Porsche Riley of Joey Hand in row two.
"It seemed like a real good qualifying session," said Gurney, who will drive the GAINSCO car in qualifying for the season-ending Sunchaser 1000 at Miller Motorsports Park next month. "We were just on the wrong side of a 1/10th it looked like, but we are ready to race those guys. I am looking forward to a good day."
Track officials have continued to make changes to the Thunderbolt track since Scott Pruett escaped injury in a heavy accident at pit-in on Thursday. Pruett, Rojas and the Ganassi team have not competed at Thunderbolt since the accident, but they are expected to be ready for tomorrow's race in a back-up car that is currently being transported in from Indianapolis.
"The problem dust came back a little today," said Gurney, who didn't drive today but spent most of Saturday's on-track time observing alongside team owner Bob Stallings in the spotter's tower. "Now that it is really dry out and the rain is not there, we have as much dust as before. Hopefully they will take another stab at it tonight. Rain tonight would actually help a lot."
The No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley is currently second in Rolex Series Team Championship with 322 points heading into tomorrow's Supercar Life 250. The same number of points has Gurney and Fogarty second in the Rolex Series Driver Championship. GAINSCO and its drivers trail only Pruett, Rojas and the No. 01 Ganassi team, who lead both championships with 364 points.
Sunday's Supercar Life 250 caps three-full days of holiday weekend racing action at Thunderbolt on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (Live on SPEED). The race is scheduled for 112 laps, with a 2-¾ hour time limit, and is the final Rolex Series sprint of the season.