REIGNING EVENT AND ROLEX SERIES CHAMPS SET TO BUILD ON STRONG GLEN RUN A RACE AGO Californians Gurney and Fogarty Bring GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Home to Continue Late-Season Surge Saturday at Infineon SONOMA, Calif. (August 19, 2008) -- Hot...
REIGNING EVENT AND ROLEX SERIES CHAMPS SET TO BUILD ON STRONG GLEN RUN A
Californians Gurney and Fogarty Bring GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Home to Continue Late-Season Surge Saturday at Infineon
SONOMA, Calif. (August 19, 2008) -- Hot on the heels of one of its best races of the season, and returning to Infineon Raceway which is a home track for team drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, reigning Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Champions and defending race winners GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing charge into this weekend's Armed Forces Grand-Am 250 determined to continue a late-season assault on the Rolex Series titles.
The Armed Forces Grand-Am 250 is scheduled for 102 laps with a 2-¾ hour time limit on the 2.47-mile Napa Valley road course, and joins the Crown Royal 200 at The Glen two weeks ago as the second and final Daytona Prototype feature race of the season. The green flag is scheduled to drop at 3:00 p.m. PT this Saturday August 23, and the race can be seen in next-day coverage on SPEED, Sunday, August 24 at Noon ET.
The GAINSCO team finished a hard-earned second one race ago in the wet and wild Crown Royal 200 sprint to jump start a stretch-run bid for the Rolex Series Championship with just three races remaining on the schedule. The podium result, and rare off-day for championship leaders Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Chip Ganassi Racing, allowed the GAINSCO team and drivers to move to within 49 points of the leaders. Although that deficit is still a major mountain to climb in the Rolex Series, the GAINSCO team and its pair of California-born Champions are far from throwing in the towel.
"We are not conceding anything," said Fogarty, who drove the opening shift at The Glen in wet conditions before handing the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley over to Gurney. "Watkins Glen was a great event and that track seems to be good to us. Infineon has also been one of our better tracks so if we can put together another podium or win, we can still stay in this thing."
Last year at Infineon, Fogarty drove the opening stint and handed off to Gurney who muscled past race leader David Donohue late in the event to give GAINSCO a record seventh win of the season. More significantly, GAINSCO left Infineon with its first championship lead of the season after ranking third in the points heading into the race. GAINSCO carried that lead to the season-ending SunChaser 1000 one event later and left that race as the 2007 Rolex Series Champions. The recent Glen result brought some of those championship feelings back to GAINSCO.
"Watkins Glen was a real needed boost for our team," Gurney said. "We finally got a result on the board after a stretch of rotten luck. Leading the three previous races and not finishing well has been tough on all of us but now we feel we've turned things around. If last year's Infineon race is any indication, then I think we're in for a great race. The 2007 race was definitely a career highlight for me and sneaking out a win on those last two laps was a very special feeling, especially with the championship on the line."
Gurney set the fastest lap in last year's race a full 6/10ths of a second quicker than the competition and considers Infineon one of his favorite tracks.
"I really love this place," Gurney said. "I like that so many different racing lines are possible and that there is a difficult balance of give and take in how you approach a series of corners. It's a great challenge."
GAINSCO and its drivers have been quick at Infineon in Daytona Prototype competition. In addition to last year's win from the pole, in 2006 the team qualified fifth and led 11 laps before being taken out in a contact incident early in the race. In total, GAINSCO has led 40 laps in the two Rolex Series races that have been run at Infineon.
"It should be a great track for us as it is mostly a handling circuit," Fogarty said. "We have been strong here in our previous two visits and I think this year should be no different. I would really like to get the pole. It has been a long time since we have had one and my opportunities are starting to run out."
GAINSCO is still looking for its first pole of the season after winning a record 10 top starting spots in 2007. The team has broken into the win column, however, with the lone victory of 2008 coming in a skillful come-back drive in the rain at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in June's EMCO Gears Classic. The Crown Royal 200 result was GAINSCO's third second-place finish of the year. The team also swept the runner-up podium slot at both Daytona races, including the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona with guest all-star drivers Jimmie Johnson and Jimmy Vasser. Gurney later dueled with Pruett in July's Brumos Porsche 250 At Daytona where the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley was out-horsepowered at the finish as the Rolex Series Champs crossed the line in a near dead heat.
"There has been a lot of heartbreak this year, so any time a race goes according to plan we are happy," Fogarty said. "It has been up and down and really the only consistent thing has been the inconsistency in our finishing positions. We just need to relax and do our thing, finish the year with some solid results, and remind ourselves that we know how to win championships."
Fogarty is a native of nearby Palo Alto who now lives in Bend, Oregon, and actually arrived in the central California region last week to visit with family and friends, and attend a wedding. "I came home early as I was the Best Man in my best friend's wedding, which was in Lodi. Miles pretty much had to schedule his wedding around my racing schedule and here made sense as I was headed down this way anyway." -- Like he usually does for the Laguna Seca race, Gurney and his wife Colleen will drive to Sonoma from their home in Irvine in Southern California -- GAINSCO will entertain a large group of agent partners and employees at this weekend's race with the off-track highlight being a Friday-night dinner with the drivers at the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa -- Infineon Raceway -- previously known as Sears Point -- is one of three tracks on which Alex Gurney and his legendary father Dan Gurney have each won races. The elder Gurney won the 1970 USAC Champ Car (IndyCar) race in one of his own Eagles just before his retirement. "I have a tape of when my Dad won his last IndyCar race here in 1970 over Mario Andretti. That was another classic. With almost no down force, those cars really slid around." The Gurneys have also each been victorious at Daytona International Speedway and Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City -- Although Dan Gurney will not be at Infineon this weekend, the younger Gurney will have some strong support. "I will have a big contingent of family and friends at the track and I would like nothing more than to share a win with all of them. I think we can do it but I do expect more contenders for the win than ever before. We will need to do everything perfectly!"