GAINSCO/Blackhawk's finishing streak brought to a fiery end at Phoenix INDIANAPOLIS- After five consecutive race finishes, GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing's hope for a strong result at Saturday's Racetickets.com 250 at Phoenix International Raceway...
GAINSCO/Blackhawk's finishing streak brought to a fiery end at Phoenix
INDIANAPOLIS- After five consecutive race finishes, GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing's hope for a strong result at Saturday's Racetickets.com 250 at Phoenix International Raceway went up in smoke on Lap 66 after the team's GAINSCO Auto Insurance/Wells Fargo Pontiac Riley caught fire in Turn 4.
Thinking quickly, driver Alex Gurney pulled the car up directly in front of a safety station and bailed out of the car unhurt just as fire trucks arrived to extinguish the flames. Gurney was taken to the track medical facility for a mandatory evaluation and released.
"I turned into Turn 1 and saw a flash of light in my mirrors," Gurney recounted. "Then, all of a sudden, the inside of the cockpit just filled with fire. I bailed out as quick as I could, and felt lucky to get out without any problems."
The cause of the fire - one of two cars to burst into flame on the same lap - is under investigation by the team, its technical partners and Grand-Am officials. The flames forced the team to retire from the race in 18th place, marking the team's first DNF in six Rolex Series starts.
"Losing the opportunity to complete the race as a result of the fire was extremely disappointing," team owner and driver Bob Stallings said. "However, Alex escaped injury, and that's what's really important. We're extremely grateful for his safe exit from the fire and the great job done by the PIR Safety Team to control the fire as fast as they did." Alex was most disappointed at the lost potential - saying that he felt he had a strong, competitive car underneath him.
"I had just watched Bob drive a very strong first stint, and when I got in the car, I could tell immediately that we had improved the car quite a bit from practice," Gurney said. "I made a few passes for position quickly and then the flames started. It was just awful seeing our beautiful car go up in smoke."
Damage to the car was extensive, involving the engine compartment, bodywork and wiring harness. However, the team is committed to rebuilding the car in time for the next Rolex Sports Car Series race, the Crown Royal 250 at Watkins Glen International, Sept. 22-24.
"We are a small budget team so this is definitely a setback for us financially, but we will find the resources necessary to repair the car and compete in New York," Stallings said. "Alex and I love driving the GAINSCO No. 99 car in this series and we can't wait for the next race. Bring on The Glen!"
The GAINSCO team is hard at work at the Indianapolis shops to make the car ready for the Sept. 24 running of the Crown Royal 250 at the Glen at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, N.Y. The 74-lap, 250-mile or two-hour, 45-minute race will take place on the 3.4-mile long course in conjunction with the inaugural Indy Racing League weekend. Practice begins Sept. 22 at 3 p.m. Eastern time and the green flag is scheduled to drop Sept. 24 at 3 p.m. Eastern Time, noon Pacific. SPEED Channel will feature live, flag-to-flag coverage of the race.