Closer than ever to a breakthrough win, fuel probe woes deny GAINSCO team a chance at Watkins Glen glory WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (August 11, 2006) -- With 32 laps in the books at today's Crown Royal 200, the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance...
Closer than ever to a breakthrough win, fuel probe woes deny GAINSCO team a chance at Watkins Glen glory
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (August 11, 2006) -- With 32 laps in the books at today's Crown Royal 200, the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley looked unstoppable -- Alex Gurney had led every lap from the pole and with a perfect pit stop to hand the car over to Jon Fogarty, the team's first-ever Rolex Series victory seemed within reach. But it was not to be, as Fogarty left the pit box with the fuel hose attached, resulting in a penalty that all of Jon's efforts could not overcome. A second penalty assessed post-race added insult to injury, relegating the GAINSCO 99 to 13th place.
The Lap 33 pit stop went flawlessly until the twin-drybreak fuel probe hung up on the fueling port ever so slightly, and Fogarty drove out of the pit box unaware that he was still attached to the fuel rig -- breaking the mechanism and spraying fuel everywhere. Quick action by the team prevented any ignition of the spilled fuel but Grand-Am officials penalized the team with a stop-and-go, dropping the 99 out of the lead pack. Determined not to let the setback get to him, Fogarty mounted a spectacular charge through the field, slicing and dicing his opponents and making his way up to sixth place on track when the checkered flag fell. But after being forced to shortcut the "Bus Stop" chicane late in the race during a battle with the 39 car, a 15-second penalty was added to the team's time after the race, dropping the No. 99 to 13th in the official series results.
Before the stop, Alex had led the whole race virtually unopposed, and was generally able to drive away from the field with impunity, making the pit problem that much more painful for Gurney. "It was a pretty disappointing day -- clearly we had one of the fastest cars out there and we were running very strong until the pit incident. We had a shot to win," Gurney said. "It just seems like we can't catch a break right now -- but we don't give up and we'll be on to Infineon Raceway in a couple of weeks and take another shot at it."
Fogarty felt the disappointment acutely -- though he had a series of fierce battles and made great moves to help the GAINSCO team recover from the pit problems, he couldn't help but wonder what might have been. "This stuff seems to always happen when you're in a position to win," Fogarty said. "Alex was perfect in his stint and did everything he had to do, and one little hiccup sent it all wrong. The real bummer for me this weekend is the penalty I got, because I really don't think what happened with the 39 was anything other than a racing incident and it's just out of our hands. The pit stuff, the rest of it is all stuff we can work on and get better at."
Team owner Bob Stallings would have loved to see the GAINSCO car in Victory Lane for the first time -- but once again he had to watch his team work to triumph over adversity. "The thing I'm keeping in mind is that, as a team, we get better and better every week and everywhere we go. We showed up, rolled the GAINSCO car off the trailer and had the car and drivers to beat -- everyone in the paddock knew that if they wanted to win they were going to have to beat us," Stallings said. "Unfortunately we just had a tiny thing go wrong and if there's one thing we're learning this year it's that you can't have anything go wrong. You have to be absolutely, 100 percent perfect to win in Grand-Am because it's such a competitive series. We just need to stick to our game plan and let these races come to us."
The GAINSCO team next heads west for a two-race swing that wraps up the 2006 Rolex Sports Car Series season. In two weeks, the team will roll into Infineon Raceway outside Sonoma, Calif. for a 250-mile race in conjunction with the Indy Racing League. The Sonoma 250 will go green at 3 p.m. Pacific time on Saturday, August 26. SPEED Channel will broadcast the race on a tape-delayed basis on Sunday, August 27 at 3 p.m. Eastern time.
-credit: GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing