Gurney shaves Pruett for Barber victory
20 July 2009
Alex Gurney held off Scott Pruett in a 20-minute sprint to win Sunday's Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsport Park and move himself and co-driver Jon Fogarty into a tie for the lead of the Daytona Prototype standings with only four races remaining in the 2009 season.
Gurney clinched the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team's third win of the season by getting the #99 Pontiac Riley to the line 0.759secs ahead of reigning champion Pruett, who took over from Memo Rojas in the #01 TELMEX Lexus Riley. It was the sixth time in eight races this year that the margin of victory was under a second.
"We didn't want to see that last yellow," Gurney admitted, "We had a great strategy that kept us out front and our car was good enough to win, so it was a great day. Scott drove really clean and it looked like he was a little quicker, so I was really happy about that. I'm really happy for everyone at GAINSCO and that we can fight it out these last four races."
The closing laps encompassed a three-car fight, with Michael Valiante able to pull alongside Pruett several times in the #6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley started by John Pew. Valiante eventually finished third, 1.261secs back. Fogarty led 48 laps and Gurney 41 as the GAINSCO duo led the most laps at Barber for the third consecutive year.
"We weren't going for the points, we were going for the win," Pruett said, having seen the TELMEX team tied by its GAINSCO rival on 231 points, "It was another great race for Grand-Am - it was close and a great race for the fans. The points race is tied up again, and the fight is on for the championship."
Buddy Rice and Antonio Garcia finished fourth in Spirit of Daytona's #09 AMA Pro Racing Porsche Coyote, with Garcia leading two laps midway through the race. Fifth went to Ricardo Zonta and Nic Jonsson in the #76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley.
While the Stallings and Ganassi crews took the top positions, two other championship contenders experienced problems in the opening laps. Penske Racing entered the event fourth, 17 points back, but Romain Dumas went off course moments after the drop of the green flag, causing damage to the front of the #12 Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley. The team lost three laps making repairs, and Dumas and Timo Bernhard went on to finish 15th. They now sit 33 behind the leaders, while Valiante took over fourth with 215 points.
"This was a weekend to forget," said Bernhard, who confirmed that the Penske crew had worked until 3am on Saturday after a practice crash had destroyed the bottom of the team's race car, "The crew worked very hard to fix the car, but we could not get a good result to repay them for their hard work."
SunTrust Racing drivers Brian Frisselle and Max Angelelli entered the race one point behind Pruett and Rojas, but Frisselle also went off course and was stuck in a gravel trap on lap three, bringing out the first caution period and losing four laps. The team was able to make up one lap before the end but finished 14th, and is now 16 points out of the overall lead.
Following Frisselle's incident, the race ran caution-free until the #30 Mazda RX-8 of Dane Cameron stopped at turn nine entering the race's final half hour.
David Donohue led 13 laps in the #58 Brumos Porsche Riley before contact with a GT car resulted in a cut tyre and a tenth-place finish, while Rojas, Valiante and Mark Wilkins also completed at least one lap at the front.
In the Acxiom GT class, Stevenson Motorsports stretched the opening shifts for both Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell, who had fresher tyres in the stretch en route to a second victory of the campaign.
Liddell won over SpeedSource's #70 Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8 of Nick Ham and Sylvain Tremblay, while Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins took third in the #07 Pontiac GXP.R, followed by Joe Foster and Charles Espenlaub, who gave the #40 Dempsey Racing entry its best finish to date.
"Nick kept me honest in the closing laps because he could match our times," Liddell admitted, "but, honestly, I knew we had it in the bag."
Liddell led 60 laps and Davis 14, while defending race co-winners Ham and Tremblay led 14 and four laps respectively. The only other leader was polesitter and point co-leader Leh Keen, who led the opening eleven laps in the #87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3.
Keen and Dirk Werner placed fifth after winning the past three GT races and four of the last five. They maintained their points lead over Edwards and Collins, but saw the gap close to 25 points with four events remaining. Tremblay and Ham moved from fifth to third in the standings with 211 points.