Gurney avoids carnage, puts GAINSCO Pontiac on the podium in crash-filled Phoenix qualifier PHOENIX (May 12, 2006) -- Before tonight's qualifying race for Saturday night's GAINSCO Grand Prix at the Phoenix International Raceway, Alex Gurney ...
Gurney avoids carnage, puts GAINSCO Pontiac on the podium in crash-filled Phoenix qualifier
PHOENIX (May 12, 2006) -- Before tonight's qualifying race for Saturday night's GAINSCO Grand Prix at the Phoenix International Raceway, Alex Gurney predicted that starting up front would be critical for the GAINSCO Auto Insurance team. A six-car mêlee on Lap 11 proved Gurney's point -- as Alex turned a third-place start into a third-place finish for the No. 99 Pontiac Riley while several of the team's championship rivals ran into big trouble in the middle of the pack. Gurney's second-straight podium finish moves the team up into ninth in the team championship, just one point out of eighth and six points out of seventh. For Saturday night's feature, Jon Fogarty will start the No. 99 from inside the second row.
"We liked our third-place starting spot because it's on the inside and that's a big advantage here at Phoenix -- and it paid off tonight," Gurney said. "I'm happy to get another podium, especially because this is a huge race for GAINSCO Auto Insurance and we'll get to start up front tomorrow night in front of our hometown fans. That makes two straight podiums and it's putting us back in a good situation in the points. We need to keep that up tomorrow. Being clean will be crucial because as soon as we catch the GT cars the race is going to be mayhem."
Fogarty echoed Gurney's number-one concern: running a clean race and preserving the car for the finish. He said he expected to run into GT traffic "immediately" upon the start, which presents both passing opportunities and collision-inducing traffic jams at 150 mph.
"Being clean will be absolutely key. It's a long race and I think it'll be critical to let the race work itself out -- nobody wins one of these things in the first hour, but you can sure lose one then," Fogarty quipped. "The GAINSCO car has good pace and handles consistently, which helps me drive a solid stint. We have been dealing with a bit of a push in the car but I don't think there's any way to make a car perfect at this track because there's so many different corners. We'll take what we learned this evening and perhaps do a few tweaks for tomorrow."
Team owner Bob Stallings was very pleased at his team's performance at a race that's very important for the primary sponsor -- GAINSCO Auto Insurance will be hosting as many as 700 agents in the Bobby Allison Grandstand tomorrow.
"We're stoked to have back-to-back podium finishes and we're also gratified that we weren't part of that Turn 7 melee -- we've been in too many of those lately," Stallings said. "We're excited about our prospects of sticking the No. 99 GAINSCO car on the podium at our hometown race, the GAINSCO Grand Prix."
Alex and Jon will take to the demanding 1.5-mile circuit tomorrow for Rolex Series final practice at 3:15 p.m. Mountain time. The GAINSCO Grand Prix presented by GAINSCO Auto Insurance, scheduled for 166 laps or two hours and 45 minutes, will roll off the grid at 7 p.m.