Two-for-two, six-for-six: Gurney rocks The Glen for his second pole in two tries, putting GAINSCO car on sixth-straight front row WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (June 8, 2007) -- Alex Gurney shook up the Grand-Am garage this afternoon with a blistering lap...
Two-for-two, six-for-six: Gurney rocks The Glen for his second pole in two tries, putting GAINSCO car on sixth-straight front row
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (June 8, 2007) -- Alex Gurney shook up the Grand-Am garage this afternoon with a blistering lap of Watkins Glen International that put his No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac-powered Riley on the point for tomorrow's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen. It's the second-straight pole and third on the season for Bob Stallings Racing. With the team's streak of consecutive front-row starts extended to six, Gurney will lead the field to the green at 11 a.m. tomorrow with but one goal: a second career Daytona Prototype victory for himself and co-driver Jon Fogarty.
In the 15-minute DP qualifying session, which got underway at 4:20 p.m., Gurney wasted no time letting the 20-car field know that, once again, the 99 car would be second to none on the track. After an initial exploratory lap, the second-generation star ripped off a lap of the 3.4-mile road course in 1:43.878, at an average speed of 117.831 mph -- and that time would stand for the remainder of the afternoon. No other car even got into the one-minute, 43-second range, with Scott Pruett being the closest contender, and even he was more than four-tenths of a second in arrears. That kind of unmatched speed has given the GAINSCO team confidence going into tomorrow's race -- but that confidence is tempered by the hard-learned lesson that turning speed into victory is no easy task.
"It's exciting to be on the pole again in the GAINSCO car, but we really want to show our stuff in the race," Gurney said. "We know we can get this car up front when the green flag drops, but we need to keep the car clean, get good pit stops and run a smart race strategy to be up front at the checkered."
In just over two years of competition in the Rolex Series, Bob Stallings Racing has vaulted itself squarely into the top rank of Daytona Prototype teams, and Gurney credits this season's consistent front-running speed with the team's growing sense of cohesion and the growing number of races under its belt. Every event is a learning experience for all involved, and everyone has taken those lessons to heart. Last year in this event, the GAINSCO Pontiac finished second.
"Our success is a combination of a lot of things -- Jon and I have developed a great working relationship, Kyle (Brannan, team engineer) has been able to do a lot of things to work on the car, finding little bits here and there, and Pontiac is giving us the power we need to run up front," Gurney said. "The whole package that we have is clicking and it's a privilege for Jon and I to drive it."
Fogarty, who'll take over for the middle stint of the six-hour endurance classic, says the GAINSCO car is a pleasure to drive, and his lap times, running neck-and-neck with Gurney's, prove that. Fogarty took the pole at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca two weeks ago and before that, gave the 99 car three consecutive outside poles. But only one of those qualifying performances, at Mexico City, has resulted in a victory for the GAINSCO team -- so he knows how tough the task ahead will be.
"The speed Alex showed today is a good indicator of what the car's capable of in the race, and what we need to do is carry that speed throughout the race -- really, that's what we need to do every weekend to finish up front consistently," he said. "We've all worked really hard to put together a car that is forgiving and fast, and that's huge come race-time."
In his return to the pit box after a one-race absence dictated by business commitments, team owner Bob Stallings celebrated Gurney's pole and the team's unbroken front-row qualifying streak as evidence that the GAINSCO team, which entered Rolex Series competition in May, 2005, is maturing into a cohesive unit that can compete anytime, anywhere. He praised the devotion of his drivers, engineer and crew to the team's collective goal of victory.
"I don't think you can do what our team has consistently done with this car without, frankly, the entire team being mature in everything they do," Stallings said. "This is not the result of one individual growing, but of the entire team growing and learning together. I believe that, if there is one reason for our success, it is the fact that there is no group in the garage that works together better than this team in the red trailer. Alex and Jon work together with Kyle extremely well, our data acquisition guy, Eric Crowder, works with everybody and the guys on the crew are working their butts off to make sure the GAINSCO car is dialed in."
But he knows there's still a race to run. "Tomorrow, that all has to come together," Stallings said. "The guys in the pits have to do a good job, anticipate what's going on and respond to the unexpected, and the drivers have to keep their cool and drive the car they have. Their task is to drive the car safely and smartly for six hours to that checkered flag."
Alex, Jon and the GAINSCO Pontiac will look for those checkers tomorrow, in the Rolex Series season's sixth race. The duo will take to the track for a 20-minute final practice session beginning at 8:20 a.m., before gridding up for the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen at 10:45 a.m. The six-hour race will get the green flag at 11 a.m. GAINSCO fans can watch all the action live on SPEED Channel -- with the broadcast being in two segments, at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. -- or log in to live timing and scoring and Internet radio at Grand-Am.com.