Dominating start for GAINSCO team sent off-course by power steering gremlins LEXINGTON, Ohio- After leading the first 36 laps of Saturday's EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course going away, polesitter Alex Gurney turned the No. 99 ...
Dominating start for GAINSCO team sent off-course by power steering gremlins
LEXINGTON, Ohio- After leading the first 36 laps of Saturday's EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course going away, polesitter Alex Gurney turned the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance/Wells Fargo Pontiac Riley over to Bob Stallings with the team's first Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series victory seemingly just 90 minutes away.
But the promise went unfulfilled, as Stallings' strong mid-race performance was derailed by an intermittent failure of the GAINSCO Riley's power steering system. Bob soldiered on, fighting an unwieldy racecar for an hour and a half to hold on for 11th place when the checkers waved.
"When the steering cut out, I couldn't turn the car right or left," Stallings said. "The weird thing was, I couldn't predict when it was going to come back on so I would end up getting loose in some corners as a result of oversteering the car. It would go off sometimes for a couple of laps or just for half a lap. That made it very difficult hard to drive through corners. For example, Turn 1 was a 3.6 second turn from entry to exit with it on - and over 10 seconds with it off."
Before the trouble struck, Stallings held his ground through fierce battles and kept the car in or near the top five. As the team's initial two-driver- change strategy was foiled, engineer Kyle Brannan decided to leave Bob in the car until the end of the race, an experience that left him exhausted but undaunted. After fighting competitively and surviving adversity, Stallings is more determined than ever to nail down a maiden victory for the GAINSCO team.
"I was doing pretty well up until the power steering went out and I really felt like we would end up with a top five or six race despite spending an hour and a half in the car. However, it was simply impossible to produce fast laps without the power steering." Bob said. "We were hoping for more yellows to get me in the pits and Alex back in the car, but unfortunately the green stayed out until it was too late. Kyle gave Alex and myself a driveable car that was solid throughout. Even as we approached the checkered flag on very worn tires, the Riley felt good - when the power steering was working, anyway. It's disappointing to end our streak of top- 10 finishes but we will do well at Phoenix."
For his part, Gurney's stint made the GAINSCO Riley the most dominant car on track. Given clean air, Alex was able to drive away with impunity - which was aptly demonstrated on the race's second restart, when in one lap, Gurney pulled out to a 2.7 second lead on second place.
"It was another great weekend for the GAINSCO team even though the final scoreboard didn't show it," Gurney said. "We got another pole, led the most laps and were strong all weekend. It was unfortunate to not catch a yellow when we needed it and to have the problem with the power steering. My teammate, Bob Stallings, keeps upping his game every weekend, and we were all very excited to see him running comfortably in the top 7 for much of his stint. He did an excellent job under very tough conditions. We both can't wait for Phoenix."
The GAINSCO team will now prepare for the next Rolex Sports Car Series race, the Phoenix 250 at Phoenix International Raceway, set for the evening of Sept. 10. The 166-lap, two-hour, 45-minute race will mark a milestone for the Rolex Series - the first-ever stand-alone event for the Daytona Prototypes. The race also marks a homecoming, as Bob competed successfully in SCCA events across the Southwest before joining the Rolex Series and Arizona is a major market for GAINSCO's auto insurance products. The green flag is scheduled to drop at 7 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, 10 p.m. Eastern and SPEED Channel will feature flag-to-flag coverage of the race on a tape- delayed basis on Sept. 11 at 4 p.m. Eastern, 1 p.m. Pacific.