Late tire strategy pays off with third-place finish for No. 99 Corvette Daytona Prototype; “Red Dragon” squad maintains second-place points position.
BRASELTON, Georgia – GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, used some late-race tire strategy to score their third consecutive podium finish of the 2013 season Saturday in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance® Corvette Daytona Prototype with a third-place showing in the debut sports car race at Road Atlanta.
Instead of taking on both a new set of Continental tires and a full tank of Sunoco, however, the GAINSCO crew opted to only top up the BobStallingsCars.com 99 with fuel.
The move put Gurney back on track in third and in front of some fast closing Daytona Prototype competitors that were never able to make a move on the No. 99.
“I had terrible runs through traffic all day, so that was more of the frustrating thing for me than running on old tires at the end of the race,” Gurney said. “The car was OK.
It definitely was not as good as it was in the practice sessions, so we were a little thrown off by that, but the team made a good strategy call.”
GAINSCO was anticipating heavy traffic from the slower GT class entries and setup the “Red Dragon” to handle that type of race. Instead, the 2-3/4 hour timed sprint race was slowed by only one early-race caution period and ended up featuring a lot of wide-open and clear running.
“Dealing with traffic on this track was not as big as an issue as we anticipated,” Fogarty said. “That was a little bit of our failing in setting up the car. We had thought we were going to be held up more than we were, so we opted for a car that would get us down the straights efficiently.
That was a little bit a part of our lack of pace but I really don’t think anybody had the pace for the 01 car today.”
The championship-leading No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing BMW Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas won Saturday’s race but GAINSCO remains very much in the thick of the points race.
The No. 99 team, Gurney and Fogarty trail Ganassi by just seven points, 128 – 121. GAINSCO and Ganassi are the only teams to post podium finishes in three of this season’s first four races, but only the “Red Dragon” squad has scored three consecutive podium results.
“We are doing what we need to do to be in contention for the championship,” Gurney said. “Hopefully we will get to some tracks where we can contend for the win again.”
Fogarty did a double stint to start the race and was somewhat of a reluctant participant in the decision to keep Gurney on old tires during the final pit stop.
“We ran a good race,” Fogarty said. “To come out of here with third-place points is pretty good. We used a little bit of creativity to get ourselves up there.
The crew even asked me if we should take tires or not, I was kind of feeling a lot of pressure to make that call because I know how AG is about tires, but the reality is that we had no other option.
Luckily, it was the right call, the track temperatures dropped as the evening set in, that really helped, and the Continentals hung in there.”
The GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series now has a more than a six-week break before the next series race in early June.
“All in all we are executing quite well,” Fogarty said. “The competition is massively stiff, though, and even when you are hitting all of your marks it is never easy.
We are going to have good weekends and not so good weekends, but if a weekend like this is considered not so good that bodes well for the championship.”
Next up for the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series is the Chevrolet GRAND-AM Detroit 200 at Belle Isle on Saturday, June 1. The race can be seen in same-day coverage on SPEED at 5 p.m. EDT/2 p.m. PDT.
Bob Stallings Racing