Gurney, Fogarty fight clutch woes en route to disappointing sixth for GAINSCO team MONTEREY, Calif. (May 20, 2007) -- Another promising, potentially race-winning run for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing was turned into a fight for survival today....
Gurney, Fogarty fight clutch woes en route to disappointing sixth for GAINSCO team
MONTEREY, Calif. (May 20, 2007) -- Another promising, potentially race-winning run for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing was turned into a fight for survival today. Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney battled a fading clutch in their No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac-powered Riley through the latter stages of today's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series U.S. Sports Car Invitational delivered by Luggage Express at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and managed to come home in sixth place. But the result is small consolation, as Fogarty led much of the opening stages from the pole before being struck by the problem.
The opening stages of the event went flawlessly, as the GAINSCO Boys executed a perfect pit stop on Lap 5 to top the tanks and satisfy the Grand-Am mandatory pit stop rule. The race was running as the team had hoped, and Fogarty led a race-high 38 laps. But around an hour into the two-hour, 30-minute event, Fogarty reported over the radio that his clutch was slipping severely. From then on, the team shifted gears -- they'd hoped to run a race for victory on home turf, in front of dozens of fans from GAINSCO and from Dan Gurney's All American Racers, but instead had to help first Fogarty and then Gurney cope with a race car that just didn't want to go.
"When I first felt it slip, I hoped my mind was playing tricks on me but I knew in the back of my mind that we had a problem," Fogarty said. "Luckily, Alex and I were able to baby the clutch a bit -- lifting during shifts -- and we could hang in there for a finish. It easily could have burned up and put us out of the race entirely. It wasn't a disaster but it was a disappointment."
After the driver change stop at Lap 59, Gurney had the task of taking the GAINSCO Pontiac through the closing stages of the race, and it took a real feat of driving skill to feel the car out and avoid making the clutch problem even worse as he made his way to the checkered flag. He even turned some of the fastest laps of the race, but could not make up ground and crossed the stripe under yellow at Lap 91 in sixth. Once again, he noted, Lady Luck had not smiled upon the team's flying start to the weekend.
"When I got in the car under yellow, I could tell it was bad and when we restarted, the clutch just slipped all the way down the frontstraight. It was pretty tough," Gurney said. "It's a real shame because I definitely think we had a car to win the race. It's just a bummer when you're so fast all weekend and don't have an opportunity to capitalize on it."
In three weeks' time, the GAINSCO team will head back to upstate New York for the second of three endurance rounds in the 14-race series, the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen at Watkins Glen, N.Y. on June 9. Last year, Fogarty dominated in the wet and Gurney drove a strong anchor leg in the dry to secure a runner-up finish for the team, and both drivers are hoping to do that performance one better.
"Watkins Glen is another race we should have won last year and I think we'll be even stronger this time around. Sooner or later things will fall our way again," Gurney said.
"I'm excited to run a six-hour race because it brings a whole different set of issues to the table," Fogarty said. "We should certainly have a good car and as the season progresses we just need to keep improving what we're doing with every run. That's how you win championships."