Laguna Seca: Blackhawk Racing race report

GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing scores solid sixth-place finish in first Rolex Series race MONTEREY, Calif.-- In a promising start to a long season, Alex Gurney and Bob Stallings soldiered through contact, a cut tire and niggling electronic gremlins to...

GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing scores solid sixth-place finish in first Rolex Series race

MONTEREY, Calif.-- In a promising start to a long season, Alex Gurney and Bob Stallings soldiered through contact, a cut tire and niggling electronic gremlins to finish sixth at the Road & Track 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

After qualifying the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance/Wells Fargo Pontiac Riley in sixteenth, Stallings built a steady race pace at the drop of the green, and by Lap 17 had fought his way to the cusp of the top 10. But on Lap 22, the Riley's right rear tire went flat without warning, causing Bob to slide wide and make contact with a GT car. That contact caused substantial damage to the nose and right side of the Riley. "I was very pleased with my stint, all the way up until the tire went down," Stallings said. "The car was pretty easy to drive until that point."

Fortunately, the team caught a full-course caution just one lap later. and Stallings brought the car in for service, turning the wheel over to Gurney. The time taken to make the driver swap and effect minor repairs dropped Alex to 16th at the restart, but he wouldn't remain there long. 15 laps later, the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Riley was right back in the top 10 and Alex was pushing hard to go farther. It was then that another setback hit the team -- the traction control system began to cut in and out, a problem traced to a wheelspeed sensor.

But Alex's refuse-to-lose spirit shone through and he wrestled the car into a dogfight for a top-5 finish, coming up just short at the end due to the late-race caution which brought the checkers down on the field behind the Pontiac GTO pace car on Lap 97.

"The GAINSCO Riley was still driveable with all the damage, but we had big understeer in the high-speed corners, especially 4 and 10. It was a shame we had those issues and the traction control problem because I think we might have had a car to make it to the podium," Gurney said. "It was just mayhem out there with that many cars, but it was so much fun as well. I think it was the most exciting race I've ever been in."

The team's collective effort impressed both drivers and instilled a sense of confidence going forward.

"The crew did a great job adapting to unfamiliar and sometimes difficult circumstances that gave us a chance to compete, and I'm extremely pleased with their performance," Stallings said. "Our experience at Laguna Seca makes me believe we have an opportunity to contend right now."

For Gurney, things almost couldn't be better coming off a debut weekend.

"I am really proud of my team. To have gotten this car two weeks ago and pull off a result like that takes a massive effort from everybody," Gurney said. "I would say the weekend was a huge success."

GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing will skip the Mont-Tremblant round in order to test and develop the team's Pontiac Riley. Depending on testing results, the team will return to Rolex Sports Car Series action at either the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen, June 10-12, or the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway, June 29-30. The races will be shown live on SPEED Channel.

-www.GAINSCORacing.com.

-bhr-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Bob Stallings