Virginia International Raceway
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing knocked out late in Bosch Engineering 250 at VIR after “Red Dragon” leads early Rare contact-related retirement GAINSCO “Red Dragon” after Alex Gurney is punted
DANVILLE, Va. — An up-and-down Bosch Engineering 250 that could have gone any direction for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing ended up going the wrong one, and with Alex Gurney and the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley in the fence, Saturday afternoon at Virginia International Raceway (VIR).
Gurney was battling with the pole-winning Chevrolet Coyote of Antonio Garcia for a lead-lap, Top-10 finish less than 15 minutes from the end when the final blow of several in the eventful 2-3/4-hour timed sprint brought the No. 99’s race to a premature end. Gurney was uninjured after hitting the tire wall.
“At the end I was behind Antonio, we went into Turn 1 and he made a little mistake and slid a little bit wide, so I got underneath him,” Gurney said. “Exiting Turn 1 I felt like I was clear of him and then when I turned into Turn 3 I felt the tap at the back, went spinning off, and that was it. I don’t know, I think he needs to learn how to race clean. He hits too many people. It’s a shame, I think our car was quick but we didn’t get to show it today. We were just kind of stuck in the pack there.”
The race-ending incident – GAINSCO’s first contact-related retirement since the 2009 Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen – was the last of several setbacks the No. 99 “Red Dragon” team endured in the race that was run in a mix of heavy rain and then drying conditions. The first issue occurred even before the green flag dropped when the No. 99’s windshield wiper blew off and starting driver Jon Fogarty came to the pits for repairs. A hard-earned front-row starting spot was squandered when Fogarty had to take the green flag last and from the pits, but he and the GAINSCO team quickly recovered and got back in the race. Fogarty even climbed into the race lead by Lap 17 only to drive off course in the tricky, wet conditions four laps later.
“Obviously a wet track is a difficult beast to tame but I had a comfortable lead and gave it away,” Fogarty said. “It’s frustrating as all hell, you try to minimize those things from happening but no matter how hard you try they still do happen, as much as I hate to accept that. I just locked up the front brakes, pushing hard and just racing, but there is no margin in the wet. Once the brakes locked, it was just straight off the track. You can’t really recover, but we will get over it and go one and keep focused on performance, tighten things up, push 100% and win. That’s what we want.”
Fogarty recovered and drove the No. 99 back to the pits where the GAINSCO crew discovered no major damage and Gurney took over the driving duties. The team’s Chevy Riley was competitive at VIR but the conditions and hectic nature of the race never really let GAINSCO hit its stride.
“I think we have improved our package,” Gurney said. “I don’t know how much it showed on the race track, but I think we made the car better from all of the practices. So, it’s somewhat encouraging, but we are hurting in the points now, so we go for wins I guess.”
“I think we have improved our package.
After disappointing 12th and eighth-place results in the year’s opening races at Daytona and Miami, respectively, GAINSCO moved back into the top-five in the season championship one race ago at Barber Motorsports Park with a second-place finish. The disappointing VIR retirement, however, saw the No. 99 classified 10th in the final results and lose valuable ground to the championship leaders. Although GAINSCO remains fifth in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype Team Championship standings with 95 points, they are now more than a full race out of first place and 20 points behind the second-place team.
“We created a lot of work for the crew guys this weekend, we have got a test coming up in a couple of days and hopefully the car is ready to go,” Fogarty said. “We’ll put it together, get that done and head off to Lime Rock with some more knowledge.”
Next up for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series is the Memorial Day Classic at Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park on Memorial Day Monday, May 30. The race can be seen live on SPEED that day at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT. Last year GAINSCO unveiled its new partnership with ECR Engines as its exclusive Chevrolet engine builder at the Lime Rock event.
“The debut last year was a little bit of a rushed event,” Fogarty said. “Obviously we have had a lot more time with the motor and it’s a really strong one. That’s good, Lime Rock is a challenging place, a very unique circuit, but we don’t have any questions as far as what we have in the back of the car.”