Iowa short-track shootout puts Gurney, Fogarty's title fights in the spotlight GAINSCO team's goal: survive 192 laps under the lights, win series-record fourth straight race NEWTON, Iowa (July 11, 2007) -- As the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series...
Iowa short-track shootout puts Gurney, Fogarty's title fights in
GAINSCO team's goal: survive 192 laps under the lights, win series-record fourth straight race
NEWTON, Iowa (July 11, 2007) -- As the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series rolls into the 1.3-mile Iowa Speedway infield road course this week, Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty are aiming to put their No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac-powered Riley in Victory Lane for a series-record fourth consecutive race and fifth of the year. But as the clock winds down on the 2007 season, they'll be keeping their eyes on the bigger prize: the battle for the 2007 Rolex Series driver and team championships.
The duo now sit third in both standings, having charged back from early-season misfortunes to place themselves squarely in position to contend for the titles. To do so, however, they'll have to keep closing the 17-point gap to points leader Scott Pruett and the 13-point gap to second-place Max Angelelli. Win or lose, Alex and Jon have got to finish the tough, 192-lap, 400-kilometer race, and that finish has to be ahead of the team's two championship rivals. With just six races remaining, every point is precious.
"What we have to do is go out and collect as many points as we are able to," Fogarty said. "We need to keep the car in one piece, because time and time again we've seen Pruett playing it smart on the track -- and lo and behold, he's the championship leader. Going fast but racing smart -- that's what it will take and that's what we plan on doing this weekend and for the rest of the year."
Gurney said the No. 99 team's test at the circuit in May should be key to his and Fogarty's ability to come up to speed at the unfamiliar facility. He praised the brand-new track as "state of the art" and said it poses unique challenges to drivers, pit crews and engineers alike.
"Setup-wise, Iowa is unlike any other track we go to, so I think we were fortunate to test here," he said. "Because of the very short lap times, there'll be a real emphasis on strategy and pit stop times. You're almost guaranteed to go down a lap if you pit under green, and this will really make the pit races interesting."
Those pit battles could be advantage GAINSCO, as the GAINSCO team's stellar pit stop performances in recent races drew praise from the second-generation star.
"Our crew guys have worked very hard to be quick over the wall and they've really delivered, especially in the last few races," Gurney said. "It's so much fun to be a part of this team right now -- we're really on a roll and we're all trying to stay focused so we can continue this streak."
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team owner Bob Stallings has made his drivers' marching orders clear. The all-out speed the No. 99 team has shown over the past few races is an important piece of the puzzle, but that speed must be translated into consistent results on the track for it to mean anything in the points battle, he said.
"Iowa is a very important race for the GAINSCO team, and I'm quite certain that success this weekend will not come from speed, but from racecraft, pit strategy and precision driving," Stallings said. "Staying out of trouble will be key, because I believe there will be plenty of it."
Driver fatigue from the punishing, non-stop nature of the infield road course could be a cause of much of that trouble, as Fogarty reported from testing that that it demands the utmost in endurance and patience from a driver. Passing opportunities could also be at a premium.
"This track takes a lot out of us behind the wheel," he said. "There's no time to relax on this circuit at all, so the mental aspect will compound the physical difficulties. It seems as though overtaking will be difficult (though is it ever easy in Grand-Am?) so we will try hard to start up front again."
Tomorrow, the No. 99 GAINSCO machine will roll out of the garage for unofficial promoter testing, with three sessions for the Daytona Prototypes beginning at 10 a.m. On Friday, Gurney, Fogarty and the GAINSCO team will tackle the challenge of a one-day show, with DP practices beginning at 9 a.m., followed by a 15-minute qualifying session that goes green at 5 p.m. The 192-lap or two-hour, 30-minute Iowa 400k goes green at 8 p.m., concluding under the lights. The race will be televised on a same-day delay basis on SPEED Channel, beginning at 10 p.m. Eastern time.