Defending race winners GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing looking for major momentum shift this weekend at VIR DANVILLE, Va. (April 21, 2010) -- Defending Bosch Engineering 250 race winners and reigning GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by ...
Defending race winners GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing looking for major momentum shift this weekend at VIR
DANVILLE, Va. (April 21, 2010) -- Defending Bosch Engineering 250 race winners and reigning GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Champions GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, head back to Virginia International Raceway (VIR) this weekend ready to rebound from a recent run of mechanical failures that kept the team from finishing two of the 2010 season's first three races.
Last year, GAINSCO's Gurney and Fogarty celebrated their 40th race start together with the team's first win of 2009 and first-ever victory at VIR. The dream weekend proved to be a springboard to GAINSCO's second GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype Team and Driver Championships in three years as the team went on to win series-high totals of four races and six poles en route to the 2009 titles. GAINSCO, Gurney and Fogarty also won the 2007 GRAND-AM Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Team and Driver Championships in dominating fashion.
Fast-forward to this year's VIR race and the situation couldn't be more different. While the 2009 Bosch Engineering 250 was just the second round of that season's 12 events, this weekend's race will bring the 2010 calendar all the way to the one-quarter complete mark. A strong result in the Bosch Engineering 250 would be a giant step in getting GAINSCO back in the 2010 title picture with eight races remaining after Virginia.
"For sure it has been a difficult start to the season, but that is the nature of the sport," Fogarty said. "You can't let it get you down. A positive attitude and approach is the key to winning, and I know we can win at VIR. Will it be difficult? Yes, but it always is. Our issues up to this point should not affect our performance. We have the points stacked against us, but two bad races for the leaders and two good races for us, and we are right back in it."
GAINSCO finished third in March's Grand Prix of Miami but that result was sandwiched by a pair of engine failures in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona in January and two weeks ago at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. A blown engine just over 30 minutes into the latter race ended the day early for the No. 99 GAINSCO "Red Dragon" and will likely keep Gurney and Fogarty from sharing a record third GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype Driver Championship. Gurney never had a chance to drive in Alabama and missed out on the 18 championship points that Fogarty and the No. 99 team each received after being classified 13th in the final results. It is the first time in their four full seasons racing together that Gurney and Fogarty don't have the same championship points totals.
"Coming off a tough weekend at Barber, we're definitely excited to be back at the race track," Gurney said. "We have to be totally focused on race wins now and a little less concerned about our points situation."
A return to the 3.27-mile VIR road course may be just what the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley team needs. The track is a universal team favorite and may bring some positive energy and results to GAINSCO this weekend.
"For sure, VIR is a driver's favorite," Fogarty said. "It has it all: slow, fast, quick, technical, elevation, passing. It is just a great track that has taken advantage of the natural terrain. We had a great crowd last year, as well, which we always like to see."
Gurney also enjoys driving at VIR and proved it with a thrilling pass for the lead last year that was one of the highlights of the 2009 season.
"The VIR circuit is really nice, one of my favorites, and it has a real old-school feeling and is very fast," Gurney said. "We had a great race there last year and I had a nice fight with Michael Valiante as the race wound down. I never quite forgave him for passing me at Long Beach back in 2002 at my home Atlantic race. I was leading the race there back then with not many laps to go and he passed me on the outside of Turn 1 with a miracle pass. I was happy that an opportunity arose so that I could pay him back seven years later. This time he was leading when he got caught up in traffic with two GT cars in front of him. He had to check up in an awkward spot just as we got onto the straight before the fast esses. There was very little room because of the GTs, and I was able to stay full throttle and I just slipped past. We held on for the win so I think now we're even!"
Traffic should also factor in to Saturday's Bosch Engineering 250 as GT competitors out number the Daytona Prototypes by nearly a third.
"Alex's pass was a great example of how GT traffic can create opportunities," Fogarty said. "He certainly aggressively seized that one. It wasn't exactly a straight or slow part of the track, so it took a lot of foresight and precise timing to get it right. It was really close, but very clean. Getting those points was one of the many keys to the 2009 championship, and a great example of how you must be in position and ready to get any and all points all of the time."
Despite the early-season setbacks, the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance team is still tied for fifth in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Team Championship standings with 71 points. Gurney and Fogarty rank lower in the driver standings due to the multiple-driver format of the series, and particularly the season-opening Rolex 24, but both know they have a proven race car and team for Saturday's race that can produce a gap-closing race result.
"We have a good car at VIR and I think we have always been in the hunt for a win at this track," Fogarty said. "It's a tough place to get the aero balance optimized, and requires a lot from the driver. The esses are a place where being brave can be productive, but you also have a lot of technical sections that require patience and smarts. I think anytime there are a lot of dimensions to a track our team has a great chance of doing well."
Virginia International Raceway is one of the few tracks on the GRAND-AM Rolex Series tour where GAINSCO has never started from the pole, joining only the two-year-old New Jersey Motorsports Park facility. The team's best starting position at VIR was second in 2007^a The day after the VIR race Gurney and Fogarty will take a two-day driving trip up to Connecticut where the No. 99 team will participate in a GRAND-AM Rolex Series test session on Tuesday at Lime Rock Park. The GRAND-AM Rolex Series will run its first combined-class race at Lime Rock since the Daytona Prototype era began in 2003 next month on Memorial Day Monday. "I will always take the opportunity to take a road trip," Fogarty said. "I did a lot of driving around when I was younger, but as things have gotten busy - racing, married, kids, etcetera - the time a road trip takes has made them few and far between. Last year I went up the East Coast after VIR, so a more inland route will be interesting. I would actually prefer even more of an inland route so we could drive through the Blue Ridge Mountain range. It is somewhere I have never been and I heard there are a lot of great driver's roads in those parts, so perhaps another year." Gurney is looking forward to the drive on the Lime Rock Park circuit. "The only time I've raced there was when I first started out racing in the Barber Dodge Pro Series in 1998," Gurney said. "I think it will be a mega track for the Daytona Prototypes: very fast, bumpy and tricky."