By Tim May
The Columbus Dispatch Saturday June 9, 2012 5:54 AM
LEXINGTON, Ohio — As setup men go, Jon Fogarty is the best there’s ever been in Grand Am Daytona Prototype racing.
He proved it again yesterday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in qualifying for today’s EMCO Gears Classic, extending his series record by earning his 21st pole. In the tag-team realm of this series, the driver who wins the pole has to start the race, which means that Fogarty’s job is to set the pace and then hand off the Gainsco Corvette DP to teammate Alex Gurney, with whom he won here in 2007 and 2008.
In the two-hour, 45-minute timed event, which amounts to a sprint race for these cars, drivers usually get just one stint in the race. Which is why winning poles brings its own satisfaction, Fogarty said.
“Being able to qualify is just a fantastic opportunity I get each weekend, so I want to make the most of it,” said Fogarty, who earned his second straight pole at Mid-Ohio. “It’s kind of my time to shine, to go out on a clear track in a good car and make the most out of it.”
He did that yesterday on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course with a hot lap of 78.079 seconds, edging Michael Valiante (78.443) in the Spirit of Daytona Racing Corvette DP. The top five in qualifying were all driving Corvette DPs.
That’s one reason why Pataskala-based team owner Mike Shank said earlier this week that he’d be happy with a top-three finish for his team in its Ford/Riley car. He thinks it’s obvious that the Corvette prototypes have a horsepower and downforce advantage over the Riley chassis, especially on the short, tight tracks such as Mid-Ohio.
“Really, it’s ridiculous, because anybody can see it,” said Shank, whose driver John Pew will start seventh before handing off to teammate Ozz Negri. “I’m so frustrated I don’t know where to begin.
“I try to be reasonable about it, and we had a hell of a run at Daytona (winning the 24-hour race this year), but at tracks like this that demand higher efficiency downforce, we’re just out to lunch.”
That includes the Chip Ganassi Racing car of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, the highest-qualifying Riley (fifth) with BMW power, and season points leader Ryan Dalziel, whose teammate Enzo Potolicchio will start next to last in their Starworks Ford/Riley after not making a qualifying run yesterday.
But Fogarty said the drivers in the Corvettes felt just as slighted at Daytona, where the Riley cars held sway.
“We didn’t have a chance at Daytona,” Fogarty said. “If you’re a driver, or team owner … you want your car to be fastest everywhere. But I think it makes it interesting to have different chassis, different bodywork, different motors that seem to have advantages in certain areas.”