Virginia Int'l Raceway 250
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing heads to VIR’s Bosch Engineering 250 set for second-straight podium result Season-best second one race ago has Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty back on track
DANVILLE, Va. (May 10, 2011) — Coming off of a season-best second-place finish one race ago at Barber Motorsports Park, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, will be looking to improve one more position in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley this weekend in the Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway (VIR). Saturday’s featured 2-3/4-hour timed sprint race on the 3.27-mile road course is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. local time and can be seen in same-day, “virtual-live” coverage at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT.
GAINSCO, Gurney and Fogarty co-drove to their only VIR victory in 2009 to start a four-race winning run to the team’s second GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype Championships. Both the team and drivers are confident in their ability to pick up another Bosch Engineering 250 trophy on Saturday after the encouraging runner-up finish last month on the Barber circuit in Alabama.
“VIR is an amazing circuit, very fast and gnarly, a real challenge both to drive and to find the best compromise for the setup of the car,” Gurney said. “I think it’s taken us a few years to figure it out but we feel confident that we have made great strides. Getting a win under our belt there in 2009 was a milestone for us and we are very much focused on getting it done again in 2011.”
Gurney and Fogarty, who also won the 2007 GRAND-AM Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Championships with GAINSCO, both enjoy racing at VIR, but it will be all business when the green flag drops.
“You always look forward to a track that is fun to drive, but the reality is we are not really driving around for fun, we are driving to win,” Fogarty said. “Having said that, I think VIR is a track that is good for us. There are still many variables heading into this fourth race of the year that we are trying to get a line on. The tire situation – the wear and varying numbers of sets among teams – and now the new fuel cell size will challenge us. However, we are making the car faster and better on tire wear each time we run so the further into the season we get the closer we are to the teams who developed the new tire. I know we will be in contention for a victory.”
... the reality is we are not really driving around for fun, we are driving to win.
The VIR race will be the first to see GRAND-AM Rolex Series teams compete with recently mandated smaller fuel tanks, or “cells,” which will add yet another strategy element to a racing season already filled with technical challenges. This season is also the first to feature the series-standard Continental tires, which have required teams to deal with an entirely new set of strategy and tire management issues.
“Until there is a significant change to this tire, these races are going to be about tire management,” Gurney said. “It will be more of the same at VIR. It’s something we haven’t dealt with much in the past so we are learning as we go. It definitely changes the whole strategy of the race. With the big breaks between these first few races, it’s given us lots of time to go over all the data gathered so far and we feel that we have made gains in the way that we will approach the race weekend.” While smaller fuel loads will almost certainly require an additional stop, the tire-wear situation already had most teams making an extra visit to the pits in the year’s opening pair of sprint races at Miami and Barber.
“The fuel cell rule doesn’t change much as most teams were already somewhat pushed into making an extra stop to make best use of the tires,” Gurney said. “It does make it a bit more iron-clad that all teams must make that extra stop. It also puts a little more emphasis on the teams that can make great stops along with quick driver changes. I think this has always been a strength of the GAINSCO team.”
Another strong area for the team should be its No. 99 GAINSCO “Red Dragon” Daytona Prototype Chevy Riley.
It seems like there is some heavy competition now from the other chassis makes.
“Our current Chevy Riley is very good,” Fogarty said. “We have a great package with both the chassis and motor. We are ahead of our past package that brought us to victory in 2009. Not to beat a dead horse, but it really is going to be about making the most of the Continental tires. The tire of course is where the rubber meets the road, and even with the strongest car you will struggle if your tires are not as good as or better than your competitors.”
Gurney believes the competition in total has upped its game this year.
“It seems like there is some heavy competition now from the other chassis makes,” Gurney said. “The Dallara and the Coyote are performing very well but the Riley is still a winning car. Our ECR Chevy is very competitive as well.”
The second-place run at Barber helped GAINSCO make up for disappointing 12th and eighth-place results in the year’s opening race at Daytona and Miami, respectively, and moved GAINSCO into the top-five in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype Team Championship standings for the first time this season. The No. 99 has jumped to fifth with 74 points, just two points out of fourth place and within six points of second place.
The top-three showing at Barber was also the first time GAINSCO had made it to victory lane since closing the 2010 season with a run of four-straight podiums that started with the team’s most recent victory at New Jersey Motorsports Park last July. GAINSCO finished fifth in last year’s VIR race.