Vicious crash for Rocky Moran, Jr. ends GAINSCO team's day at Long Beach LONG BEACH, Calif.-- After a strong start that saw Rocky Moran, Jr. move the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance/King Taco Pontiac Riley up three positions early on from eighth...
Vicious crash for Rocky Moran, Jr. ends GAINSCO team's day at Long Beach
LONG BEACH, Calif.-- After a strong start that saw Rocky Moran, Jr. move the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance/King Taco Pontiac Riley up three positions early on from eighth on the grid at Saturday's Crown Royal Grand American Challenge on the streets of Long Beach, a 150-mph multi-car crash on Lap 11 sent Moran, Jr. to a local hospital with minor injuries and put an end to GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing's quest for its first Grand-Am victory.
The accident occurred on the front straightaway, after the No. 8 Synergy Racing car slowed and made an abrupt turn to the right, whereupon the No. 39 Cheever Racing prototype struck it in the rear and turned it to the left. The No. 8 was spun directly in Moran's path, causing him to make contact with the Synergy machine and then the outside retaining wall. Initial examinations at the track medical facility indicated that Moran, Jr. had potentially suffered a broken left lower leg, but fortunately a subsequent exam at St. Mary's Hospital in Long Beach determined that the injury was simply a severe bruise. Rocky was released that evening.
"We had a great start in the No. 99 GAINSCO machine and I was moving up pretty solidly and trying to stay out of trouble," Moran, Jr. said. "I came up on the No. 8 going real slow, whose driver didn't really seem to make up his mind whether to go high or low. The Crown Royal (No. 39) car hit him and spun him up to the left, where I was -- and I just drilled him at 147 miles per hour. It was definitely a record-breaking impact for me. I'm just deeply disappointed that I wasn't able to bring home a good finish for the GAINSCO people and Bob Stallings and Alex Gurney, who gave me a shot in their car. Hopefully this black cloud over me will go away one of these days."
The impact destroyed the team's Riley, and with a chassis beyond repair, the team will have to rebuild the No. 99 from scratch. But Stallings, the team's owner, is determined to press on toward the season championship, and to that end will rent a Riley from Brian Tuttle for the team to campaign until repairs are complete.
"I'm disappointed with the outcome, quite obviously, because we went into Long Beach with two very experienced drivers and some high expectations. I felt like we had a third-to-fifth place car, and I think we would have had a strong result if we hadn't run into that rolling chicane (the No. 8 car)," Stallings said. "In a flash, this weekend went from very promising to very expensive, because we basically have to get a completely new car. It's definitely a setback for us, because we're a pretty small-budget team compared to the bigger outfits in this series. But we will be showing up at the next race at VIR and our car should even be mostly Blackhawk Red! There's no quit in this team and we're not out of it by a long shot."
Stallings also pointed out that once again, the team's Pontiac motor seemed handicapped in performance relative to other engine manufacturers, and expressed his belief that Grand-Am should take further action to ensure that the various powerplants are on a level playing field.
"It's frustrating to have an engine that's a half-second off right now, but I have faith that Grand-Am is seeing what I see, and that in turn they'll allow Pontiac to make some changes in the rules to allow us to run right with Pruett and Long and Rockenfeller, That's where we want to run and that's who we have to beat and we intend to do just that," Stallings said.
Perhaps the person who feels the most acute disappointment is the team's lead driver, Alex Gurney, who didn't even get a chance to drive before his hometown crowd at Long Beach before the No. 99 was taken out.
"I still don't understand what the 8 car was thinking, because he picked the worst part of the track to do what he did and we paid a huge price for his error," Gurney said. "Rocky was doing an excellent job and it's simply terribly disappointing to have this happen. Our team is strong, and I know our crew is working very hard to make sure we recover and make it to VIR -- and most importantly, we're all relieved that Rocky will be OK."
The next stop for GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series is at the VIRginia International Raceway in Danville, Va., set for the weekend of April 20-23. Testing begins the morning of April 20, and qualifying will begin April 22. The 250-mile race gets the green flag at 1 p.m. Eastern time, and will be broadcast live on SPEED Channel. Fans can keep up with all the action live with free Web radio, live timing and scoring and race updates at Grand-Am.com.