GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing shooting for third Porsche 250 victory this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park
Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty look for more odd-year success after 2007 and 2009 wins
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (April 5, 2011) — GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, will shoot for their third Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park victory in five years when they take the green flag in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley this Saturday, April 9, at 3 p.m. local time. The 2-¾-hour timed sprint race on the scenic 2.3-mile, 17-turn road course can be seen in a three-hour show on SPEED this Sunday, April 10, at Noon ET/9 a.m. PT.
A victory would be a huge step for GAINSCO in rebounding from disappointing showings in the opening pair of races this year at Daytona International Speedway in January and last month at Homestead-Miami Speedway. GAINSCO persevered through a myriad of mechanical and contact-related issues in the season-opening Rolex 24 to finish 12th, then finished an equally frustrating eighth in last month’s Grand Prix of Miami after dealing with race-long tire woes. Having won the Porsche 250 and the GRAND-AM Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Championships in 2007 and 2009, GAINSCO now finds itself in unfamiliar territory at seventh place in the Daytona Prototype Team Championship standings with 42 points.
“We’ve put ourselves in a difficult spot championship-wise but we feel there is plenty of time to get back in the game,” Gurney said. “There’s a lot of racing to come, and if we can simply avoid making any big mistakes, then I think we’ll be in the hunt for the title by the end of the season.”
In each of the team’s victories at Barber, Fogarty drove the opening race shift, as he usually does, while Gurney brought the No. 99 GAINSCO “Red Dragon” to the finish line.
“Points-wise, a good result is critical,” said Fogarty. “We’re behind and need to catch up, and the most effective way to do that is to win and score maximum points. With only two races this season, it’s hard for me to feel ‘off track.’ The results are not want we want, but the team is as determined as always to win. Our issues have been frustrating, but we will maintain our composure and focus, and with that, we have the ability to win, consistently.”
GAINSCO’s mission this weekend takes place at a track where the team has always seemed to shine.
“Barber has always been good to us,” Gurney said. “If not for a clutch problem in 2008 while leading, and a penalty back in 2005, I think we could have won a couple more than we did. We’ve always managed to have a good car at Barber and we just love the atmosphere.”
Another encouraging development for the team was 2010’s mid-season arrival of new Chevrolet motors built by ECR Engines. An early failure in last year’s Porsche 250 was a key motivation for the switch.
“Our ECR Chevy is more competitive than what we had in 2008 through last year,” Fogarty said. “That is great news. The drivability is much improved, and with the technical nature of Barber, that is a great help. I am concerned that our closest competition has both done tire testing with the new Continentals at Barber. We are a step behind here, and there is not a lot of time for catch-up on a race weekend.”
Like Homestead, Barber has a reputation for being tough on tires, but GAINSCO has compiled quite a bit of technical information since its first race at the Birmingham-area track in 2005.
“We are encouraged because we have a lot of good data to draw on from past years,” Gurney said. “The tires are the big unknown, though, and I think how the teams manage the tires throughout the weekend will be the key to winning this race.”
We’re behind and need to catch up, and the most effective way to do that is to win and score maximum points.
Cooler spring temperatures may help with tire management, but so far a race date change to early April introduced last year hasn’t delivered total relief. Although lacking July’s blistering heat, last April’s Barber race was still plenty hot.
“I will believe the weather only when I am about to step into the car,” Fogarty said. “What may seem mild can still be brutal in the car. But yes, I’m happy to be at Barber in April as opposed to mid-summer, which is a guaranteed roasting.”
Gurney isn’t about to let his guard down when it comes to the weather either.
“Last time I checked it said it would be 84 degrees on race day,” Gurney said. “That will still make for a very long day because Barber is such a demanding place physically. Some of the past Barber races have been stunningly humid, especially in the ‘Red Dragon,’ so it will be nice if we can avoid that.”
A victory this weekend wouldn’t be unexpected, but it will be an “odd” but welcome occurrence. After wins in 2007 and 2009, the odd-year cycle may be just what the team needs for its first victory of 2011.
“Yes, I will admit to being a little superstitious,” Fogarty said. “Of course we will win, it is 2011! Back in open wheel racing, I could only win in even years. Sports cars, odd years. It’s all very logical.”
Gurney has a more succinct view of the odd-year trend.
“We’ll take anything we can get at this point,” Gurney said.