GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing tops opening practice session in debut Daytona Prototype race at Road America Alex Gurney takes advantage of briefly dry track for P1 time in GAINSCO No. 99

GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing took advantage of what little dry-track time there was at Road America on Thursday to post the fastest practice lap of the day with Alex Gurney at the wheel of the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley.

#99 GAINSCO/ Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley: Jon Fogarty, Alex Gurney
#99 GAINSCO/ Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley: Jon Fogarty, Alex Gurney

Photo by: Greg Nichols

While it rained for the majority of the day Thursday, the track dried just long enough in the late afternoon for Gurney to post a lap of 2:03.132 (118.351 mph) to top all competitors in the first official day of practice for the debut race of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype division on the legendary four-mile track.

“We didn’t get a lot of running but the car felt really good,” Gurney said. “We rolled off the truck pretty quick yesterday in the test and made a couple of changes in the right direction too. We are pretty happy so far, we are not sure where the pace of the 01 car is, so we are waiting to see on that one, but I think it is the most competitive we have been so far this year. We are optimistic at least.”

Fogarty didn’t have a chance to drive Thursday but he did get some laps in the GAINSCO “Red Dragon” in Wednesday’s unofficial test session.

“The car was good at the end of the day yesterday, last I got out, and really we just kind of tightened things up on it for today,” Fogarty said. “It’s quick in these mixed conditions as well, so that’s promising, that means we only need to do some fine tuning, get some running in tomorrow and go qualify.”

As he usually does in GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series sprint races, Fogarty will qualify the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevy in tomorrow’s afternoon session. He credits the team’s recent test at The Glen just after the Sahlen’s Six Hours as one of the reasons for the fast start at Road America.

“The test was good, finally good weather,” Fogarty said. “We got more done in that day than just about all the testing from last November to now combined.”

A solid result in Saturday’s race could put GAINSCO back in the hunt for a top-three championship position. Although the leading No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing BMW Riley team has a sizable points advantage over the field, GAINSCO is not out of top-three contention in fifth place with 153 points.

Noteworthy Gurney’s first visits to Road America came before he was even old enough to drive. “I've been to Elkhart many times as a spectator and racer,” Gurney said. “I've been there for some of my dad's teams in mid-80's Indy Car races when I was just a kid and also during the GTP days. I also raced there in Formula Dodge, Barber Pro and Atlantic, so I have lots of experience there. I think its one of the best layouts for spectators because they can get really close to the action. From the driver's perspective, it’s about as good as it gets.”… Fogarty also has plenty of experience at Road America. “I first ran at Road America in 1996 in a 2-liter Skip Barber car, but it was a shortened course,” Fogarty said. “My first real race there was in 1997 in the Barber Dodge Pro Series. It was wild, bump drafting, multi-car drafting, lots of overtaking. I ran in Barber Dodge from 1998 through 2000 as well, all crazy races. Then Atlantics in 2002 and 2004, and one American Le Mans start in 2005. I like the track; it is one of the best around with a lot of variety and challenges. The only problem with the place is that I have never won a race there. I would like to change that this weekend.”… The NASCAR Nationwide Series will join the GRAND-AM Rolex Series at Road America tomorrow and Gurney already plans to check them out at one particular spot on the track. “Those things haul the mail in a straight line and they look so tough to corral under braking,” Gurney said. “I think we'll definitely go out to Turn 5 to see who's the last of the late brakers.”