Hard-charging GAINSCO team takes home second at Laguna Seca MONTEREY, Calif. (May 7, 2006) -- In a wild, caution-filled day at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty put a battle-scarred No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac...
Hard-charging GAINSCO team takes home second at Laguna Seca
MONTEREY, Calif. (May 7, 2006) -- In a wild, caution-filled day at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty put a battle-scarred No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley on the second step of the podium in today's Grand-Am Rolex Series Road & Track 250. The second-place finish is the team's best result since taking second at the CompUSA 200 at Watkins Glen last August, and represents a comeback drive after a string of bad luck in the first half of the 2006 season. The No. 99 now sits tenth in the championship.
Fogarty made a strong start from seventh, and moved up to fourth by Lap 4. He described the car as "solid" and said he was settling into a race pace when disaster struck on the first restart from a yellow on Lap 10. A BMW GT car speared the left rear corner of the No. 99 GAINSCO Pontiac entering Turn 2, ripping away much of the bodywork and downforce-producing spoilers.
"I was just trying to get relaxed and settled into the race and I guess a GT car tried to use me for a pick," Fogarty said. "It was a pretty big hit, and it tore the tail up pretty good. Luckily, though, the way he hit buckled the rear up just right so it gave us back a little downforce. The car was a real handful as the tires started to go away, but the guys in the pits ran smart strategy and the yellows helped out as well. This team is driven."
At first, the mood in the team pits was one of utter disbelief -- how many times this season can the No. 99 get hit? But crew chief Terry Wilbert, lead mechanic Ryan Reid and the rest of the GAINSCO Boys buckled down and delivered a perfect pit stop to put Alex in the car on a Lap 22 caution -- and the mood suddenly turned for the better. "We can still salvage something from this," team engineer Kyle Brannan said as the No. 99 pulled out of the pits.
"When I got in the car, I was thinking it was going to be pretty sketchy, because the damage looked pretty bad," Gurney said. "But as I drove it I found that the car wasn't too bad, and we could get it working strong. The track was slippery and the racing was flat-out manic -- good stuff all the way, classic Grand-Am racing. I bet it looked great on TV."
Once Gurney got the No. 99 rolling, it was well nigh unstoppable. Only the race-winning SunTrust car proved to be too great an obstacle, as Alex tried valiantly to catch the No. 10 but couldn't quite make it happen as the checkered flag fell on Lap 88 with the GAINSCO Pontiac in second. But nobody on the GAINSCO team is disappointed about finishing runner-up -- it's the kind of strong performance that has eluded the No. 99 all year.
"We got lucky because both the 23 car and the 01 car had their troubles this weekend, and we were in the right place to take advantage of that," Alex said. "I can't say enough about the crew, because this team has built and rebuilt cars all year and it's high time we rewarded them with the kind of finish their efforts deserve."
Team owner Bob Stallings was flat-out "stoked" by the team's comeback effort, and said the podium finish sets the team up well for the second half of the season, which kicks off next weekend with the GAINSCO Grand Prix presented by GAINSCO Auto Insurance, at the Phoenix International Raceway.
"This team has so much heart, I can't believe their efforts over the last few weeks and their hard work made this podium possible," Stallings said. "This team is tough and we don't say quit and that's why we finished second today. We took a hit but Jon and Alex and the team kept their heads in the game and just kept pushing. I knew Alex had it in him, and he hung on to that car for dear life all afternoon. Any race where you have a real shot to push for the win, you can go home satisfied. Now we've just got to move up one more step, and it would be great to do that next weekend at our home race, the GAINSCO Grand Prix."