GAINSCO drivers look to heat up the desert night under the lights at Phoenix PHOENIX- Close but not quite could sum up the last three races for GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing, as two races led from the pole were negated by penalties and mechanical ...
GAINSCO drivers look to heat up the desert night under the lights at Phoenix
PHOENIX- Close but not quite could sum up the last three races for GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing, as two races led from the pole were negated by penalties and mechanical failures while the third featured an astounding charge from a 21st-place start to the team's first-ever podium.
This weekend, Alex Gurney and Bob Stallings will take on another formidable challenge in the GAINSCO Auto Insurance/Wells Fargo Pontiac Riley - the unforgiving walls and twisting confines of Phoenix International Raceway's 1.51-mile infield road course for Saturday evening's Rolex Sports Car Series Phoenix 250. The difficulty factor ratchets up another notch, as the lights will come on for the 7 p.m. start, where the team will race in front of a hometown crowd of friends, family and GAINSCO employees. The race also marks a milestone for the Daytona Prototypes, racing for the first time without the Rolex GT cars on course.
"We've been competitive at every track we've been to so far and we are just loving our time so far in the Rolex Series," Gurney said. "Phoenix is a big weekend for GAINSCO and we really hope to put on a great show for them and all the fans. I've never raced here but Bob has won races and I know he will be on his game. I think we can get on the podium again."
Stallings, who won several SCCA Formula Atlantic races at the Arizona track, said he enjoys the technical nature of the infield course but isn't sure how much of that open-wheel experience will translate to the handling characteristics of the team's Pontiac-powered Riley Daytona Prototype. "In my Atlantic, I could take the NASCAR-banked Turns 3 and 4 with my foot to the floor and come off the oval into the infield through Turn 1 at full- throttle doing 144 mph," Bob said with a grin. "It's not likely the GAINSCO car can do that."
With just 90 minutes of practice available, Stallings said setting up the car would be crucial to making a successful run at the podium.
"Phoenix is a 'roval' and we only have one race under our belts on those. We've never been here in a DP and there's precious little time to shake out the car," Bob said. "With any luck, our engineer, Kyle Brannan, will roll the Riley off the truck and be close right away. Otherwise, it might be a long weekend."
Otherwise, Bob's outlook is one of cautious optimism - consistent with the long view of this season as a learning experience for the entire team. "I think if we can put a drivable car underneath myself and Alex, we should have a shot," Stallings said. "With a little bit of luck we'll take away a lasting memory or two of our first trip to Phoenix with the GAINSCO/Blackhawk No. 99."
Fans can watch those memories in the making as Bob, Alex and the GAINSCO Auto Insurance team kick the Phoenix 250 weekend off this evening with practice beginning at 7:25 p.m. Mountain Standard Time. Qualifying is set for 6:45 p.m. Friday, and the 166-lap, two-hour, 45-minute race will go green Saturday at 7 p.m. local time, 10 p.m. Eastern. The Daytona Prototype race will be broadcast Sunday on SPEED Channel on a tape-delayed basis at 4 p.m. Eastern, 1 p.m. Pacific. Live timing and Web radio coverage of all the exciting Rolex Sports Car Series action will be available at www.Grand-Am.com.