Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty ready for repeat race win this weekend at Laguna Seca No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevy team won in last series appearance in 2009
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, return to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend as the defending winners of the Continental Tire Festival of Speed Powered by Mazda, July 7 – 9, a race that marks the return of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series to the legendary Monterey Bay Peninsula road course after a one-year absence.
A winning performance that is considered one of the best in team history, GAINSCO, Gurney and Fogarty overcame what could have been a major setback to score the 2009 victory the last time the GRAND-AM Rolex Series came to town. A second-straight win at Laguna Seca would also give GAINSCO its first victory of the 2011 season, and it couldn’t come at a better time or on a better track.
“I think it’s just awesome that we are returning to Laguna Seca,” Gurney said. “The Rolex series goes to so many of the truly great road courses in North America and it just didn’t seem right to not have Laguna on the schedule. With corners like Turn 6, the Corkscrew and Turn 9, this place is really a lot of fun to drive. We won there last time and as a team we have lots of experience there. I can’t think of a better place for us to get our first win of 2011.”
The 2009 Laguna Seca win could be considered the turning point of what turned out to be that year’s championship season for GAINSCO. Laguna was one of a series-leading four wins that helped GAINSCO, Gurney and Fogarty capture their second set of GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Team and Driver Championships in three years after first taking the titles in 2007.
Fogarty, the team’s usual starting driver, was called to the pits at the 2009 race’s 30-minute mark only to be told after he handed the car over to Gurney that he exited just a few seconds too soon. GRAND-AM rules require a driver to be at the wheel for at least 30 minutes to score championship points, so the quick decision was made to bring Gurney back in later in the race for a rare second driver change. The pit stop was flawless and Fogarty later muscled past Scott Pruett for the race-winning pass. It was the first and still only time Fogarty has taken the winner’s checkered flag in the No. 99.
“It was cool,” Fogarty said. “I have always felt a part of each and every one of our team’s wins, but there is no doubt that I had a pretty big smile on my face in the winners’ circle. It is hard to know how much of it was simply for the win, and how much of it was for passing Pruett for the win. In either case, it was great and I am happy I was able to capitalize on the opportunity in a rather grand fashion. That race kind of typified our entire championship season in 2009. We never gave up, worked through every problem as a team and battled the 01 to the end.”
GAINSCO has 13 career Daytona Prototype victories and Gurney has driven to the finish for all of those races except the 2009 Laguna Seca victory. He was happy to see his teammate get the chance to share the experience, even if it wasn’t exactly planned.
“I think the 2009 win was all about Jon,” Gurney said. “I drove the middle stint but because of a slightly different interpretation of the 30-minute rule we had to change course and do an extra driver change on the last stop in order for Jon to get points. I thought at that point that we might have thrown away a possible win but we had a great pit stop and then Jon had that extremely gnarly pass on Scott Pruett on the run up to the Corkscrew near the end of the race, a classic.”
Returning to a favorite track with a No. 99 “Red Dragon” Chevy that is the best it has been all season also bodes well for GAINSCO’s first win of the year at Laguna Seca. The team finished second three weeks ago at Road America and placed third earlier in June at Watkins Glen International. Combined with another runner-up showing at Barber Motorsports Park in April, and winning the pole in Miami in March, GAINSCO has done everything but score a victory so far this season. The ingredients could be right for a win at Laguna Seca.
“We have made great strides in the last couple races to the point where we are really knocking on the door for a win again,” Gurney said. “We are finally coming to grips with the new Continental tires and we’re just going to keep chipping away at it.”
A repeat win this weekend would also be a big help in the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Championship standings. The No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley is currently fifth in the team standings, just a few points shy of breaking into the top three. The No. 99 team has 185 points, just two points out of fourth place and only three points away from third.
“We do have room to improve,” Fogarty said. “These last bits are the most difficult, but where we are now with the car are the changes that are smaller and more deliberate. Knowing the track as well as we do is a bonus, as we can get right down to work as soon as we roll onto the racing surface.”
A recent test session that followed the Watkins Glen race played a key part in GAINSCO’s improved performance at Road America, a trend that should continue at Laguna Seca.
“I’m confident that what we’ve learned will transfer over to Laguna,” Gurney said. “It’s been a difficult journey for us this year in understanding the tires, but the team has never given up. We feel like we are almost there. Hopefully Laguna will be the real turning point for us.”
After an unofficial test day on Thursday, Friday’s schedule includes official practice and qualifying. Race-day Saturday starts with final practice at 8:55 a.m. before that afternoon’s race at 2:30 p.m.
GRAND-AM Road Racing announced Wednesday that the Rolex Sports Car Series will be part of NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 schedule at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) next year. “It is going to be huge,” Fogarty said. “It is going to be a massive event. It’s a fun course in these cars and we are going to be in front of a tremendous crowd. Just being there, period, is a positive for the series and the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings team.” Fogarty and team owner Bob Stallings drove the No. 99 in a special test on the IMS road course in 2009, but Gurney – even with his father Dan Gurney’s Indy 500 success as a driver and winning constructor and car owner – has never driven on any of the legendary track’s configurations. “I didn’t participate in the test a couple of years ago,” Gurney said. “I have never driven there at all. I went around in a bus!”… As they did in 2009, GAINSCO Auto Insurance is entertaining a large group of agent partners and employees this weekend at Laguna Seca. “It has been said before, but in all honesty without these agents selling GAINSCO policies, we cannot go racing,” Fogarty said. “I am grateful for what they do for us and it is great to have them for the extra motivation and support. Our actual race team is quite small, but having the agents at the track makes me recognize that really the GAINSCO team is massive. Being part of that, being one of the drivers that get to drive the red GAINCSO car is a special feeling.”
By: bob stallings racing