Grand Am Prototype - GAINSCO, Gurney And Fogarty Shooting For Consecutive 2011 Wins
MILLVILLE, July 20, 2011: Aiming for consecutive victories at New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP) and in the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series season, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, and champion drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, will bring maximum momentum to NJMP’s Thunderbolt Raceway this weekend for the American Red Cross 250. The weekend’s featured 2-3/4-hour timed sprint race can be seen live on SPEED this Sunday, July 24, at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT.
Gurney and Fogarty co-drove the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley to their only win of the 2010 season in last year’s NJMP 250 and scored an even more convincing triumph two weeks ago at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, their first victory this season and since last year at Thunderbolt. The Laguna Seca win was the 14th career Daytona Prototype victory for GAINSCO, Gurney and Fogarty and was the result of some improved pace in the No. 99 “Red Dragon” and a mistake-free performance from the entire team.
“Laguna Seca was a huge win for us and it couldn’t have come at a better time or place,” Gurney said. “We needed a complete team effort in order to capitalize on the little slip-ups from the other top teams and we got exactly that. Everything worked beautifully that day. The car was fast, the strategy was correct, the pit stops were excellent; that’s what we need in order to win in GRAND-AM. As a team, we’ve always historically gotten stronger as the season wears on and it seems it’s no different again this year.”
Last year’s New Jersey win kicked off a strong run that saw GAINSCO close out the season with four-consecutive top-three podium finishes. After challenging for the lead earlier in his driving stint, Gurney was in second with just minutes to go in the race when leader Scott Pruett slowed with a flat tire after a brush with a lapped Daytona Prototype competitor.
“That was a big surprise,” Gurney said. “I’ve never had that situation before in any race where the car in front of you has a problem at exactly the right time. It was insanely hot last year, and Pruett always seems totally immune to the heat, but I like to think that he was feeling a little extra heat from the ‘Red Dragon’ late in the race that day. Anyway, it was a huge relief to finally get a win in 2010 and to keep our streak alive of winning a race in each of the last four years, and now five with the Laguna Seca win.”
The heat took a toll on all teams last year and there is no reason to think this weekend’s mid-July race date will not bring the same conditions. Forecasters are already calling for high humidity and grueling temperatures in the high 90s and possibly even 100 degrees.
“The heat last year was rough,” Fogarty said. “About halfway through my opening stint I started feeling bad, really bad. Somehow, I got over that hump and got a second wind, and was able to power through. Running that long on my qualifying set of tires was tough as well.”
The mid-summer heat is the only major concern GAINSCO has about racing at New Jersey Motorsports Park this weekend.
“The big issue this weekend will definitely be the temperature,” Gurney said. “With a forecast of high 90s, and with the New Jersey humidity, I think this race has the makings of being the hottest-ever GRAND-AM race, and that is really saying something. I think that will be the biggest factor in this race.”
The NJMP complex itself has developed into a favorite for some on the No. 99 team.
“I think the NJMP facility is quite nice with some nice flowing corners and some good passing zones,” Gurney said. “This is actually a pretty cool circuit. The fans really turn out for this event. I like the mix of corners and it seems like the track lends itself to some good racing. I like Turn 2. The entry is blind, you come over a steep rise, the car gets real light, and the road just falls away, and it seems like you have to pick up the throttle before your brain allows you to in order to get down the next little straight!”
Fogarty also has some favorite sections of NJMP’s 2.25-mile Thunderbolt circuit.
“The chicane feature we ran last year is the highlight for me,” Fogarty said. “It is tough, but great when you nail it. Again, a corner that can be approached different ways. Our car seemed to work really well over the curbing and that gave us an advantage there.”
A repeat at New Jersey would make it a pair of back-to-back track victories for GAINSCO. The Laguna Seca win successfully defended the No. 99 team’s 2009 victory there, the last time the series raced on the California circuit after skipping the venue last year. A win this weekend would also give GAINSCO its first consecutive victories in a season since 2007’s record-setting championship run. GAINSCO did it twice that year, winning three-in-a-row at Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio and Daytona in the summer before back-to-back victories later in the season on the Watkins Glen NASCAR circuit and at Infineon Raceway.
In addition to the 2007 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Championships, GAINSCO, Gurney and Fogarty also captured the team and driver titles in 2009. The Laguna Seca win also gave GAINSCO a boost in 2011’s championship race, moving the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley from fifth to third in the team and driver standings. GAINSCO now has 220 points, 14 behind the No. 10 SunTrust Chevrolet Dallara and 40 markers behind Pruett and the leading No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing BMW Riley.
“Momentum is always a good thing, and I think when you win a race it always makes you hungry for more,” Gurney said. “I think we’re still aware that we need a tiny bit more pace to be in the thick of it over a race distance, but we are very close.”
In addition to mounting historically strong stretch runs, GAINSCO has four career victories on three of the four tracks that close out the 2011 schedule. In addition to last year at NJMP, GAINSCO has the 2007 victory on The Glen’s NASCAR circuit and a 2008 win at Mid-Ohio to go along with the previous year’s victory on the Buckeye circuit. GAINSCO has also finished on the podium in three of the four races run at Montreal, including third-place showings in 2007 and 2009 and a team-best second place result last year.
“I certainly hope we finish with more wins,” Gurney said. “The competition hasn’t gotten any easier, that is for sure. That being said, the remaining four tracks I think are all GAINSCO ‘Red Dragon’ tracks!”