First to last: Crash damage takes GAINSCO team out of the lead and out of the race at Infineon Raceway SONOMA, Calif. (August 26, 2006) For the GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing team, today's Sonoma 250 at Infineon Raceway was yet another frustratingly...
First to last: Crash damage takes GAINSCO team out of the lead and out of the race at Infineon Raceway
SONOMA, Calif. (August 26, 2006) For the GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing team, today's Sonoma 250 at Infineon Raceway was yet another frustratingly near thing. Jon Fogarty's race-dominating run behind the wheel of the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley was cut short at Lap 21, when contact with the No. 75 car in Turn 2 broke the GAINSCO machine's front suspension. The broken steering link caused Fogarty to go off in Turn 3 and impact the wall, further damaging the car and the tough decision was made to park the No. 99 for the race. Jon's teammate, Alex Gurney, didn't even get behind the wheel and the team was scored in last place.
Up until the incident, Fogarty and the 99 car were the class of the field, having led the previous 11 laps unchallenged after passing the leaders on track - after all was said and done, Jon owned the fastest lap of the race by nearly half a second. Gurney had set the fastest time in the morning warmup and was poised to take the 99 home in its strongest position yet. But once again, the team couldn't convert quick laps and strong race performances into a win or even a finish.
"It's just so frustrating to be so close to getting that first win and every time we go out there we find that something else gets in our way this time, literally," Fogarty said. "The GAINSCO team did an awesome job, the Pontiac motor was money and we nailed the setup it just handled perfectly. We know we have the speed to beat just about anyone. Now we just need to work on finishing these races without any problems."
Gurney's blues were acute - for the second time at a California event, he didn't even get a chance to drive in the race because the 99 car was taken out of contention before the scheduled driver change. "It was a very disappointing day again for us - we keep taking comfort from our speed but this one just broke our hearts," Gurney said. "Jon was doing a great job behind the wheel and just driving away from the field, but got caught up with a backmarker. I think this was the first race I've ever been involved in where I think we could have just walked away from everyone, because the car was just that good and that makes it a hard pill to swallow. It's a real shame, but the season's not over yet and we'll be back fighting hard next week."
Team owner Bob Stallings called the day another tough lesson for a team that's still learning and building in preparation for a run at the Rolex Sports Car Series championship in 2007.
"Obviously, we've got mixed emotions. On the one hand, to not be able to finish was quite disappointing that was only our second DNF of the whole year, both due to crash damage. On the other hand, we were once again by far the fastest car on the track and we just couldn't get a break," Stallings said. "But taking the long view, we're really focusing right now on learning as much as we possibly can about what it takes to win. What we've found out is that quite often the lessons come hard you don't get any gifts in the Rolex Series. But I am personally very enthusiastic, very excited and full of confidence in this GAINSCO team. We've got two fantastically talented drivers, a great engineer, an excellent crew and a commitment to win. I can't wait to get started next year."
But there's still one race left and one more shot for the 99 this year. Next week, Alex and Jon will be joined by 1996 Champ Car champion Jimmy Vasser as the GAINSCO team heads to Salt Lake City, Utah for the 2006 season finale, a nine-hour endurance event at the brand-new, 4.5-mile Miller Motorsports Park. The Discount Tire Sunchaser will start at noon Mountain Time on Saturday, Sept. 2 and run into the night until the checkered flag falls at 9 p.m. SPEED Channel will broadcast the race live at 2 p.m. Eastern time.