Monterey, Calif. – GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, came up just short in a competitive bid for victory in the 99th career race for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing’s No. 99 “Red Dagon” Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca where the team finished second for the fourth time this season in GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series competition.
GAINSCO, Gurney and Fogarty came into this weekend’s Continental Tire Sports Car Festival ready to celebrate the team’s 99th start as the two-time defending Laguna Seca race winners. GAINSCO began its GRAND-AM Rolex Series career at the scenic Monterey circuit in 2005 and nearly celebrated the milestone start with its third-consecutive victory at the track on Sunday.
The team’s landmark race instead was a lesson in perseverance as GAINSCO and its drivers overcame more than one setback to reach the podium for the second race in a row.
A fuel-filler cap stuck open during a pit stop and not long after that the No. 99 GAINSCO/BobStallingsCars.com team was hit with a drive-through penalty after Gurney was forced to drive over a pit-out “verge” line while passing Scott Pruett for position.
“Given our problems today, we are pretty happy with the result,” Gurney said. “When I got in the car we had a little problem with the fuel, they said it was spilling out of the car, gushing out of the car I guess, so we had to come back in and reset it and fill it back up a little.”
Gurney was just beginning a charge from the back of the field after the fueling mishap when the penalty was assessed for what appeared to be one of the best passes of the race.
“On a restart I was able to start passing guys, and coming on to the front straight I had a really good run on Pruett,” Gurney said. “I guess the rule says you can’t get over on the white line, but there are two people in that game.
If he pushes me over there, I don’t really have any place to go. Anyway, we got a drive-through penalty, I had to go to the back again, climbed back from there, the car was amazing, really fast the whole time and hung in there on the tires.”
Gurney worked his ways back to second place and focused on ripping off fast race laps as the GAINSCO team decided on a fuel-stretching strategy in an attempt to win the race. As the other leaders ducked into the pits in the race’s final 45 minutes for their last stops, Gurney kept the No. 99 on track and the pedal down.
He moved into the lead with 25 minutes to go and built as much as an 18-second cushion on the field before darting into the pits for a final splash of fuel just minutes from the finish.
Despite Gurney’s quick pace, slower GT traffic kept him from building enough of a margin over the field to make the splash-and-go strategy a winning one. Antonio Garcia slipped by for the lead and eventual victory in the No. 90 Corvette Daytona Prototype but Gurney did get out ahead of Ryan Dalziel’s No. 8 Ford Riley to secure runner-up honors.
Gurney crossed the finish line 3.878 seconds behind the No. 90 and was at the wheel for all 13 of the laps that the No. 99 “Red Dragon” led in the race.
“I wasn’t quite sure what we were going to do with the strategy at the end,” Gurney said. “We were looking for a yellow, it didn’t happen, but even with that we thought we could get out in front of the 90 on that last stop, but I caught the GT field and had four pretty slow laps in a row and that did it. A win wasn’t meant to be but a good result nonetheless for everyone at GAINSCO.”
Fogarty started the No. 99 from the outside pole position where he joined the pole-winning No. 90 and its starting driver Richard Westbrook on the front row.
“The car ran strong in the race,” Fogarty said. “I was a little concerned after qualifying that we weren’t going to have the pace for the 90 car but we put our thinking hats on and made some changes and I was pretty pleasantly surprised once the race started. We had a very fast race car today.
We had some things that set us back in the race, and to be able to battle back and finish second was an accomplishment. We are pleased with that but at the same time we felt like today was an opportunity to win, and to do that on GAINSCO’s 99th running would have been an awesome thing, but it was still a good day.”
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team owner Bob Stallings came into this weekend’s milestone race thinking he would only be satisfied with a victory.
“When I came to this race I thought the only acceptable outcome would be a win,” Stallings said. “Given all of the circumstances that happened today, the fun and the disappointments, I am very happy with a second place. We are improving as a team, used some great strategy to get back in the race and to the podium, not only today but one race ago at Montreal as well.
Alex ran a great race, he kept his head in the game, ran every single lap like qualifying, and with a little less traffic we might have pulled it off.”
In addition to the runner-up showings today and at Montreal, GAINSCO also finished second at Barber Motorsports Park in April and in July’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
The team has one more shot a victory this year in the season-ending GRAND-AM Road Racing Championship Weekend at Lime Rock Park, September 27 – 29. The weekend’s featured GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race can be seen live on SPEED, Saturday, September 29, at 3 p.m. EDT/12 p.m. EDT.
Noteworthy: Just escaping the fuel-filler malfunction was almost a victory in itself for GAINSCO on Sunday. “We were worried,” Fogarty said. “That fuel was gushing out and was flowing to the back of the car and had the potential, if it hit a hot header or something, it could have ignited, and that would have been really bad news.
So we got back in the pits ASAP and all it took was a quick tap and it reset itself. It was definitely a potential tragedy narrowly averted, we have no idea what happened, it has never happened to us before, and we will have to take a look at it closely.”
Source: GAINSCO-Bob Stallings Racing