Watkins Glen International
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and Alex Gurney qualify fourth for Saturday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen; No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley to grid inside of row two
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Turning his fastest lap in his sixth and final flyer of a competitive qualifying session, Alex Gurney and GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing will start on the inside of row two in fourth place for tomorrow’s 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.
Gurney qualified the No. 99 GAINSCO “Red Dragon” for the first time since January’s season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. He turned a top lap time of 1:41.787 (120.251 mph), but Gurney, his co-driver Jon Fogarty and the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team were looking for a little bit more.
“That didn’t go quite as planned,” Gurney said. “We just had too much understeer in the car and that really adds up around here. I felt like I got a good lap but it just wasn’t turning around the middle. It’s disappointing, awfully big gap to the front so we need to do some good work tonight.”
Ricky Taylor won the pole in the No. 10 SunTrust Chevrolet Dallara with a time over a second faster than the No. 99’s top lap. GAINSCO has already proven this weekend, however, they can make up a gap even that substantial.
“Jon this morning in practice gained a second over his best time by making one little change,” Gurney said. “So getting understeer out really adds up, and that’s what we need to do.”
Another strategy complication for GAINSCO is that teams are limited to nine sets of Continental slick racing tires for the entire Sahlen’s weekend.
“Honestly, we are in a really bad situation tire wise,” Fogarty said. “For the warm-up we don’t know what we are going to do because we need to save all of our remaining tires for the race. We get nine sets of tires but we need eight for the race, and that includes the set we just qualified on. We have close to 150 miles on our practice set, which is about 60 miles more than they should have on them. It’s frustrating because we obviously, from qualifying, need to work on the setup.”
Rain seems to always be a part of the Sahlen’s Six Hours and there is a 30% chance for showers tomorrow. Teams are not limited on how many rain tires, which last longer than dry-weather racing slicks, they can use in a race.
“Maybe we will take a gamble and assume there is going to be rain tomorrow and that will allow us to have enough sets,” Fogarty said. “We could use one of our slick sets for warm-up. We will see and talk it over tonight with the engineers.”
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.
Fogarty drove in the rain in last year’s Sahlen’s Six Hours. “Racing in the rain on slicks last year was real sketchy,” Fogarty said. “The weather was dicey during the start of the race, I opted for slicks. It was the right call until it began to rain again, but stopping was not really in the cards as it was what looked to be an isolated shower. It wasn't, so I raced on slicks for quite a while, a lot of big saves.”… The Glen is a favorite for both GAINSCO drivers and Gurney has a couple of sections that he finds fun … “The chicane is a real gut-check section,” Gurney said. “I always try to take a deep breath before I begin my braking for that one! It has a very high-speed entry and several different ways to approach the four different curbs that you encounter. It has a sort of ‘thread the needle’ feel to it, very fun and very quick.”… Fogarty finds the final turn before the front straight, and another famous section, to be among the most challenging and enjoyable on the circuit. “The final corner is always difficult,” Fogarty said. “It never suits are gearing, and the track surface changes mid corner, throwing off the balance of the car. It rarely feels right. The toe of the boot is a great corner, the brakes work really well because the car is compressing, and there is a strip of concrete that gives good grip mid corner, and the back end of the car is really doing the steering coming off.”