GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing ready to close first half of the season with a Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen victory
GAINSCO, Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty look for first 2011 win Saturday at The Glen
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, will look to close out the first half of the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series season with a much-need victory in Saturday’s 39th Annual Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley. Round six of this year’s 12-race Rolex Series schedule, the six-hour endurance race starts at 1 p.m. ET this Saturday, June 4.
GAINSCO won the 2007 Sahlen’s Six Hours from the pole and came back that August for the annual NASCAR short course race to score another victory from the top starting spot. Although the team has run competitively at the Glen in the three years that followed 2007’s dream season – including a pole and two podium results in the short course race and a pair of front row starts in the Sahlen’s Six Hours – the majority of the results have not reflected the team’s overall performance. The same thing can be said of the 2011 season, but GAINSCO, Gurney and Fogarty are determined to reverse that trend this weekend at The Glen.
“We have always finished well at The Glen,” said Gurney, who co-drove to GAINSCO’s first career podium finish with team owner Bob Stallings six years ago in The Glen’s August race. “From the first time we got there in 2005, finishing second with Bob, we loved the place. It is still a challenge this year because we just haven’t zeroed in on what we need to run at the very front, but we are trying hard.”
GAINSCO has had the pace this season but unforeseen mechanical issues, a race-ending contact incident and even a problem with a cool suit hose connector this past Monday in the Memorial Day Classic at Lime Rock Park have combined for a frustrating season to date. Teams and drivers are back on track again tomorrow for Sahlen’s Six Hours practice and qualifying, but GAINSCO planned to put the short, three-day break between events to good use.
“We are definitely going to want to sit down with the team engineers before the weekend comes and try to pull from what we have learned from the Lime Rock weekend and basically this whole year,” Fogarty said. “We have got to unload well at The Glen, and we need to put our heads together and make sure we unload with a fast car.”
This season’s highlights have been a second-place finish in April at Barber Motorsports Park, Fogarty’s pole at the Grand Prix of Miami and the performance of the team’s Chevrolet motors built by Earnhardt Childress Racing (ECR) Engines. Last year, GAINSCO was the first Daytona Prototype team to switch to and win with, last July at New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP), Chevrolet motors built by ECR. SunTrust Racing scored ECR’s second victory Monday at Lime Rock where the Spirit of Daytona team also ran well with ECR power. For the first time since perhaps the 2007 season, GAINSCO feels like they are coming to The Glen with an engine on pace with the competition.
“Our ECR Chevy engine will make a big difference,” Gurney said. “On that front we should be right in there with everyone else.”
Horsepower is only part of what it takes for success on The Glen’s legendary “Formula 1” long course. A solid race car setup is also needed, and GAINSCO has done well in that area in the past.
“At The Glen there is enough variety and mix between straights and corners that you can kind of make a lot of different setups work,” Fogarty said. “We think we have a good car for the place and we’re looking forward to it. The long course in particular is just a great circuit with a lot of variety, a lot of history, a great fan base, and it’s a place we like to go. It is very different from where we are coming from this past Monday at Lime Rock. If you have any weakness at Lime Rock there is really no way to make up for it; it just really exposes any handling issues.”
I love the long course layout ...
The Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, which will be run for the 39th time on Saturday, is almost as legendary as the iconic race course that hosts the internationally recognized endurance race.
“The six hours of the Glen is another one of those races that every team would love to win,” Gurney said. “I love the long course layout with its very fast corners and big elevation changes. We’ve always run well there; it’s definitely a GAINSCO track.”
Although the Sahlen’s joins the daylong Rolex 24 At Daytona as the only endurance races on the GRAND-AM Rolex Series schedule, the six hour is a unique event in its own right.
“I would compare the six hour far more to a sprint race than an endurance event,” Fogarty said. It is like a sprint race with a four-hour qualifying session attached to the front. You drive hard the entire race, going as fast as you can go, and you are really just trying to be out front come the final stop. Then you have to race and drive hard. It is short enough that the car should stay together but long enough that weather can really come into play. The team has to execute double the number of stops, so it is more taxing on the guys, but the engineer really has to be calculating how to be in front come the final stop. It is a tough race.”
It has also been a tough season for GAINSCO. The team encountered unforeseen brake issues in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona and struggled one race later with tire setup problems in March’s Grand Prix of Miami despite winning the pole. While the Barber podium result made up for disappointing finishes of 12th and eighth at Daytona and Miami, respectively, any momentum was short-lived when another competitor knocked Gurney out of last month’s race at Virginia International Raceway (VIR). Monday at Lime Rock, the cool suit issue forced an overheated Gurney out of the car with a top-three finish in sight, but GAINSCO recovered well from the unscheduled pit stop and driver change, and Fogarty crossed the finish line fourth.
The No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley team comes to The Glen sixth in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype Team Championship standings with 123 points.