GAINSCO, GURNEY, FOGARTY AND VASSER READY FOR RACE DESPITE QUALIFYING SETBACK SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (September 19) -- Alex Gurney will start Saturday's SunRichGourmet.com 1000 seventh on the grid after spinning halfway through qualifying Friday,...
GAINSCO, GURNEY, FOGARTY AND VASSER READY FOR RACE DESPITE QUALIFYING SETBACK
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (September 19) -- Alex Gurney will start Saturday's SunRichGourmet.com 1000 seventh on the grid after spinning halfway through qualifying Friday, but the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team proved earlier in the session and in morning practice that they have the pace and a race car capable of winning the season-ending Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race.
Gurney set the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley's top qualifying time on Lap 3 of the 15-minute session and was looking for more speed one lap later when he spun in Turn 13. Gurney continued without damage, but flat-spotted tires and rapidly expiring time prevented him from turning another quick lap before the session ended. He will start on the inside of row four based in his Lap 3 time of 2:36.908 (102.924 mph).
"I'm really disappointed," said Gurney, who qualified for the third and final time this season. "We made a change after this morning's practice and maybe it didn't help. The biggest problem was that it was raining for the guys who went out at the very beginning, and it was just starting to stop when I was starting my second lap. Really, your second lap is your best run on the tires, but I was still sliding around a bit. On my next lap, I was just pushing too hard trying to make it up and I grabbed too much curb and spun it. I went up into the dirt and that was it."
Gurney will share the GAINSCO race car with regular teammate Jon Fogarty and all-star stand-in Jimmy Vasser. The No. 99, with Gurney behind the wheel, was second fastest in Friday's morning practice session with a lap time of 2:36.150 (103.424 mph), which was quicker than the team's qualifying effort. Gurney also briefly held the provisional pole early in qualifying before he and the rest of the field picked up the pace.
Despite the qualifying disappointment, Gurney kept it in perspective and was quick to point out that he, Fogarty, Vasser and the GAINSCO team have a long and arduous race ahead of them on Saturday.
"Qualifying, unless your on the pole, doesn't matter that much. It's a six or seven hour race, we have got a long way to go and we have a warm-up to make more changes. We will be in good shape."
As the No. 99 team prepares for its final race in what has been a challenging season, Fogarty had high praise for the outstanding effort of the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing crew. "I am always proud of our team," Fogarty said. "We have a great bunch of individuals both at and away from the track. We all know how hard race team mechanics, engineers, team managers, data acquisition guys and crew chiefs all work and what is amazing is that you never see anything resembling a complaint from any of our guys. They are great at what they do, they love what they do and I love them for that. I can look forward to off-season testing just to hang out with our team, and I get to drive a well-prepared race car. I am a lucky guy."-- Vasser, who is expected to drive a stint in tomorrow's 1000k race, is competing in his third race with GAINSCO this year and fourth in total after also running in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Champ Car event. Despite what seems like a light schedule, this is the busiest Vasser has been as a driver in the last few years. His last race before this weekend came in May where he co-drove the No. 98 GAINSCO Pontiac Riley with Cristiano da Matta at Laguna Seca. Usually, his time between races has been much longer. "This is actually the shortest gap I have had in between races in the last few years," said Vasser, who was also part of GAINSCO's second-place finishing team at the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January with Gurney, Fogarty and Jimmie Johnson -- All three GAINSCO drivers enjoy racing on the monster 4.486-mile Utah track. "I like the Miller track," Fogarty said. "It is a little lacking in the visual department, but the length and number of corners really make it a challenge. To put in a good lap takes a lot of focus and aggression for a long period of time. Miller is unique in that way and it makes for good racing as well."