GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing ready for first 2011 win in Saturday’s debut Daytona Prototype race at Road America
Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty look forward to first Road America run in GAINSCO No. 99
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, are more than ready to score the team’s first victory of the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series season in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley in Saturday’s inaugural Daytona Prototype race on the legendary Road America road course.
Although the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series has raced at Road America in the past, those events took place before the introduction of the premier Daytona Prototype division in 2003. This weekend’s Road America race features a combined event for both the Daytona Prototypes and the GT (Grand Touring) class competitors, as is usually the case in GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series competition.
Gurney and Fogarty have plenty of experience at Road America but still can’t wait to get back to the monstrous 4-mile road course just north of Milwaukee.
“I've been looking forward to this race for a long time,” Gurney said. “Jon and I both have been saying for years now that we wish the Rolex series could go to Elkhart Lake because I think it’s the perfect track for these cars. I've always loved the circuit, one of the best in the world without a doubt.”
Gurney and Fogarty each have Toyota Atlantic, Barber Dodge Pro Series and Barber Formula Dodge experience at Road America, in addition to Fogarty’s single ALMS start in a Flying Lizard Porsche GT3 in 2005.
“It’s just another awesome road course,” Fogarty said. “GRAND-AM really gets to all of the best tracks in North America; adding Road America is just icing on the cake.”
The No. 99 GAINSCO “Red Dragon” team finished third two weeks ago in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen to close out the opening half of the 2011 season with top-four finishes in three of the last four races. In addition to The Glen podium showing, GAINSCO, Gurney and Fogarty finished a season-best second in April’s race at Barber Motorsports Park and fourth at Lime Rock Park on Memorial Day. Despite the modest run of success, everybody on the GAINSCO team knows some improved performance is needed to close on the competition.
“The Glen podium was nice but we really want to win,” Gurney said. “We're not interested in just getting podiums.”
A recent test session at The Glen the Monday after the Sahlen’s Six Hours proved to be productive.
“We are going in the right direction and the limited testing we have been able to do this year is bearing fruit now,” Fogarty said. “It’s a lot later than what we would prefer, but better than no fruit at all. We really need to win and we have a package capable of winning. The other chassis manufacturers have made huge strides this year, but each make has its strengths and weaknesses. Each track suits each car differently, but I think Road America is going to be good for us.”
The No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing BMW Riley team leads the Daytona Prototype Team Championship point standings while the No. 10 SunTrust Chevrolet Dallara has moved to second after winning the last two races. The No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley team is tied for fifth place in the team battle with 153 points heading to Road America.
“We know we need some more pace to catch the 10 and the 01, and we think we may have made a nice gain in the test just after the Watkins Glen race,” Gurney said. “So I think the whole team is cautiously optimistic about having a real shot at winning this weekend.”
As is always the case at Road America, fuel mileage will be a huge strategy factor for teams. The two-hour time limit is 45 minutes shorter than the usual sprint race distance and recently downsized fuel tanks for all competing cars may still be an unknown, particularly on a track as long as Road America.
“In a two-hour race I am not sure how the fuel will play out,” Fogarty said. “It seems as though all the teams have adapted right away. The usual risk takers are still gambling. It really is almost just a numbers game with an element of risk and luck, like gambling.”
Fuel mileage will be just one of several areas GAINSCO’s engineering team will evaluate in the official Thursday and Friday practice sessions prior to the race. A special unofficial test, held today at Road America for all competitors, is also a valuable addition to the schedule.
“We'll have to wait and see what kind of mileage we are seeing during the run up to the race,” Gurney said. “Since this is a two-hour event, it will definitely mix up the strategy a little more as well.”
In addition to the test day and Thursday and Friday practice, the Road America schedule also features qualifying Friday afternoon at 2:35 p.m. CT. Race-day Saturday starts with a 9:15 a.m. CT final practice before the scheduled green flag for the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series 250 Driven by VISIT FLORIDA at 11 a.m. CT local time.