Strong effort by GAINSCO team at Homestead goes for naught after late-race penalty drops 99 car out of top-10 HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 24, 2007) -- It just wasn't meant to be for the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team today at the Grand-Am ...
Strong effort by GAINSCO team at Homestead goes for naught after late-race penalty drops 99 car out of top-10
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 24, 2007) -- It just wasn't meant to be for the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team today at the Grand-Am Linder Industrial Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead/Miami Speedway, as a late-race penalty took Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac-powered Riley out of the top-5 and out of the hunt for a possible podium. The GAINSCO machine started on the outside front row and finished in 11th -- not a bad spot to be in, but certainly not what the team was hoping for as a follow-up to its breakthrough victory three weeks ago in Mexico City.
On Lap 74, Gurney had the 99 car in fifth spot and was preparing to make a run toward the front, when Grand-Am Rolex Series officials decided that he had jumped the restart from a full-course caution. Gurney had to serve a drive-through penalty for the infraction, and that dropped the GAINSCO team to the back of the pack. This came after the team fought an ill-handling racecar all day to secure a place in the fight.
"It was a pretty disappointing day for the GAINSCO team. Nothing seemed to go right," Gurney said. "We might have missed a chance to make an adjustment to the car after the warmup and we didn't anticipate how bad the track would become. We were fifth when I had a chance to get by Patrick Carpentier on a restart, and he slowed down or just didn't get on it when everyone took off. I pulled out of line so I wouldn't hit him, but didn't pass him. They gave us a penalty and that was that. We ate our humble pie after the win last race and it didn't taste good. It's a long season and there's a lot of time left to get back in the hunt, but we'll have to be smart and strong from here on out."
Fogarty felt like a pinball on track, as several other cars involved him in incidents not of his doing throughout his 51-lap stint. The heat of the afternoon threw him and the team for a loop, as grip was as valuable as gold on the slippery, sun-baked South Florida racetrack.
"We had a good start in the GAINSCO Pontiac, but it was a struggle on-course because the car just wasn't working like we wanted it to," Fogarty said. "We got banged around a lot, but we were able to hang in there on the tail end of the top-5, and then we got into that unfortunate situation and things just cascaded downhill from there. It was a tough day for us, but we'll go on and keep working hard to be there at the end."
Gurney was particularly pleased at the performance of the GAINSCO Boys in the pits, who turned two quick and mistake-free pit stops to give the 99 car a fighting chance on course.
Team owner Bob Stallings was disappointed at the on-track result, but pleased that the dozens of GAINSCO agents, executives, employees and guests on hand for the race enjoyed their visit to the track. Florida is the auto insurer's largest market, and the company hosted a sales meeting and hospitality event during the race, which included driver visits and behind-the-scenes tours. This result, he said, was a bit of a reality check -- the work for the GAINSCO team is not done.
"I thought we had a car that could finish up on the podium, but we ended up being a pingpong ball that got slapped around by several paddles," Stallings said. "As for the penalty, according to the rules, Alex should hit his brakes to not run into the back of the 11 car on that restart, because you're not allowed to move out of the way on a restart. That doesn't make any sense to me, but that's the rule and that's what we should have done. That's the way racing goes sometimes and it just wasn't our day. This is the same team that won one of the most competitive races in the series three weeks ago and I've got every confidence that we'll be back in full force at Virginia."
The GAINSCO team will return to its Lewisville, Texas shops to prepare for that Virginia race, the Rolex Sports Car Series VIR 400k at the beautiful Virginia International Raceway in Danville, Va. on April 29. The 77-lap race of the 3.27-mile road course will go green at 1 p.m. Eastern time, and will be the first race of the season where the Daytona Prototypes race separately from the GT class. The race will be televised live on SPEED Channel.