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Joy for Gurney, Fogarty at MMP.

From championship to heartbreak, Saturday's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve season finale at Miller Motorsports Park was a true representation of the season as a whole - including one team's championship hopes literally going up in smoke.

The Sunchaser 1000 was a race for the ages, not in the least because of Riley-Matthews Motorsports first career Rolex Series win. Jim Matthews, Marc Goossens and Ryan Hunter-Reay persevered in the #91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley throughout the 1000k marathon, climbing 18 spots from their starting position to the top of the podium.

“Our car was very strong toward the end of the race,” said Goossens, who ran the team's final stint. “We kept trying and trying all afternoon long. We were running some of our fastest times toward the end of the day. The car wasn't fantastic, but we kept going thanks to my team.”

Equally as impressive though was the battle for the Daytona Prototype championship, which entered the day as the closest in all of motorsports.

As many expected, the championship outcome wasn't decided until the final laps of a drama filled race. Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty entered the season finale in the #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley one point ahead of Scott Pruett in the #01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley and three points ahead of Max Angelelli in the #10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley.

The championship drama began to unfold on Lap 110 when Pruett took over for co-pilot Salvador Duran, exiting pit lane in second place – just behind Angelelli in the SunTrust machine and five seconds ahead Jon Fogarty in the GAINSCO car. Five laps later, Pruett was locked in a nose-to-tail battle with Angelelli while Fogarty had closed the gap to just three seconds behind the leaders.

While holding Pruett at bay, smoke clouds began to puff from the back of Angelelli's Pontiac Riley. What was feared to be an engine ready to fail turned out to be the rear tire rubbing on the fender. A lap 113 pit stop fixed the problem but sent the SunTrust machine back to seventh place.

Meanwhile, Fogarty had closed the gap to Pruett and was searching for a pass to take both the race and championship lead. Fogarty chose his opportunity on Lap 115 and as the pair battled through the track's first few turns Fogarty moved to the inside entering Turn 5. Contact send Pruett wide and Fogarty found himself in the race lead.

Pruett recovered, but the incident left the #01 Lexus Riley with a flat left rear tyre and the #99 Pontiac Riley with a flat left front. With 20 of the 4.486-mile track's turns remaining between the two cars and the pit lane, Pruett's tyre began to shred – taking body work from that corner of the car with it. The GAINSCO team took their opportunity in the pits to make their final driver change, putting Gurney back in the car for the race's final stint.



Related Pictures

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Max Angelelli / Jordan Taylor. GRAND-AM Championship Weekend Presented by BMW at Lime Rock Park. 2013 Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series
Max Angelelli / Jordan Taylor. Continental Tire Sports Car Festival. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. 2013 Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series
Action. VisitFlorida.com Sports Car 250 at Road America. Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series [Pic credit: Grand AM]
Starworks Motorsport BMW/Riley duo Brendon Hartley and Scott Mayer celebrate their first Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series victory at Road America [Pic credit: Grand AM]
Max Angelelli and Jordan Taylor drive the #10 Velocity Worldwide Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype to victory Saturday, April 6, 2013 in the third race of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevrolet)
Max Angelelli and Jordan Taylor drive the #10 Velocity Worldwide Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype (left) to victory Saturday, April 6, 2013 in the third race of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Alex Gurney and Jo Fogarty, drivers of the #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP (right) finish in second place. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevrolet)
John Edwards and Robin Liddell, drivers of the # 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GT.R., race to victory Saturday, April 6, 2013 in the Grand Touring (GT) class of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevrolet)
John Edwards and Matt Bell, drivers of the # 9 Camaro GS.R, race to second place Saturday, April 6, 2013 in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevrolet)
Juan Pablo Montoya, Memo Rojas, Scott Pruett and Charlie Kimball, co-drivers of the #01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates TELMEX/Target Ford BMW Riley celebrate their win in victory lane at the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 27, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Rolex Series action [Pic credit: Grand-Am]
Alex Popow and Sebastian Bourdais, drivers of the #2 Ford Riley, celebrate in Victory Lane after wininng the Grand-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2012, in Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Alex Popow and Sebastien Bourdais, drivers of the #2 Soloson Ford Riley, celebrate after winning the Grand-AM Rolex Sports Car Series inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2012, in Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
The winning #60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Ford Riley car is brought into victory lane after a gruelling 50th anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona. [Picture Credit: Daytona International Speedway]
Action Express win the Rolex 24 [Pic credit: Grand Am]
Derek Johnston [Pic credit: Grand Am]
Wilkins/Frisselle - AIM Autosport [Pic credit: Grand Am]
Spencer Pumpelly - TRG Porsche [Pic credit: Grand Am]
Borcheller/Barbosa - Action Express Racing Porsche Riley [Pic credit: Grand Am Media]

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