Grand Am Prototype - Gurney And Fogarty Ready For More GAINSCO Red Dragon Success
BIRMINGHAM, March 29, 2012: Two-time Barber Motorsports Park race winners GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, will look for more success at one of the team’s best tracks when the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series returns to action after an eight-week break for this weekend’s Porsche 250. The featured 2-3/4 hour sprint race is scheduled to start at 12:15 p.m. local time this Saturday, March 31, and can been seen in same-day “virtual live” coverage on SPEED at 4 p.m. EDT/1 p.m. PDT.
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing found the Barber road course to its liking from the moment the “Red Dragon” first took to the scenic track in 2005 and Gurney won the No. 99’s first pole position in what was only the team’s third race. Since that strong debut, GAINSCO, Gurney and Fogarty won the Porsche 250 in 2007 and 2009, both times after Fogarty captured the pole, and earned a second-place finish in last year’s race.“We love coming to Barber; it has such a great atmosphere and has been one of our best tracks results-wise,” Gurney said. “We weren’t super-quick last year and we had trouble keeping the tires underneath us, but we feel the new car addresses some of those issues, and some of the things we learned at our last test were all-around gains as well.”
The team is racing the all-new No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Corvette Daytona Prototype this season, a car that proved quick in January’s season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona despite a disappointing 13th-place finish. Saturday’s Porsche 250, the first of 10 sprint races on this year’s schedule, is considered by many competitors to be the true start of the racing season.
“I am certainly ready to get the ‘regular’ season underway,” Fogarty said. “While the rest of this year’s races are obviously much shorter than the 24, the objective is still the same: execute to the best of our ability, maximize what we have and do our best to win. It seems like a long time since the 24, so I am just ready to get back to work.”
Another new addition to the team debuting at Barber is accomplished Lead Engineer John Ward, who takes over for Kyle Brannan, who had been with GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing since its inception. Ward brings extensive experience to the job as a veteran and race-winning engineer for an impressive list of IndyCar and sports car teams, including All American Racers (AAR), the iconic Southern California race shop owned and operated by Alex Gurney’s famous father, Dan Gurney.
“I’m really looking forward to getting the regular season underway as we have lots of new elements in the team,” Gurney said. “I want to thank Kyle Brannan for all his years with the team. Those are some big shoes to fill and we feel extremely lucky to have someone the caliber of John Ward to fill them. He fits in very well and we had a very productive first test out in New Orleans recently.”
While the recent test at Nola Motorsports Park near New Orleans could lead to a possible race event in the future, GAINSCO treated it as a test run for Barber.
“While it would always be great to do more testing between races, we have had a few productive days,” Fogarty said. “I feel good about what we learned at our test, but this is still a relatively new car. The configuration we will be running at Barber is quite a bit different than the Daytona package, but I think we have a good handle on handling tracks like Barber.”
Both GAINSCO drivers are looking forward to racing the new Corvette Daytona Prototype at Barber.
“Barber is one of the tracks on the schedule where we tend to run maximum downforce, and I think that is a strength of the new Corvette,” Gurney said. “We had a really good test in what we expect to be our Barber configuration and we’re all cautiously optimistic. We are still learning but I would say we’re definitely going in with the intention of winning the race.”
“The Corvette should be well suited to a track like Barber,” Fogarty said. “We are making more downforce than years past and, with no really long straights at Barber, that should be to our advantage. I do not think that the new bodywork of the 2012 cars will change the raceability of Barber; the passing zones will remain the same. The new Corvette should be just right for Barber if the weather cooperates and I am predicting times to be quicker than 2011.”
The annual visit to Barber – the most picturesque and well-maintained road course in the country – always brings with it ample praise from the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series community.
“The best thing about going to Barber is really the attention to detail that is paid to the venue; the place is just visually stunning,” Fogarty said. “It is always nice to have an aesthetically pleasing environment and it is always great to be racing. Put the two together and it’s a great time. The toughest part about Barber historically has been the heat, but seeing as this is the earliest we have ever gone I am expecting pleasant weather. Hopefully people will integrate the race weekend into their spring break and we will have an even larger turnout than usual.”
As spectacular as the facility is, the 2.3-mile road course is still tough to tame for teams and drivers alike.
“The most challenging part of the track is the second half of a lap,” Gurney said. “You have some very fast, high-commitment corners followed by a very tricky set of final switchbacks where there are lots of different possible racing lines.”
Official practice for the Porsche 250 begins Thursday, with final practice and qualifying on the schedule Friday morning. Race-day Saturday features only the Porsche 250 at 12:15 p.m. local time.
“We have had some great races at Barber, and our wins there have all been nail-biters,” Fogarty said. “I like the track and I like the event equally as much. It always has a great vibe, a good spectator turnout and the schedule is good. Not too many early sessions!”
The two-month break since the season-opening Rolex 24 has been a little long, but Fogarty used it to his advantage. “Personally I am ready to go,” Fogarty said. “The off-season has been good to me. Both kids in school has allowed more focus on fitness and fair weather has allowed for more cross-training outside the gym.”… Gurney had one final thought about the season-opening Rolex 24 before shifting his focus to Barber. “The Rolex 24 continues to be elusive for us,” Gurney said. “One of these years it will come our way! We had some pace at times but we also saw the competition is going to be incredibly tough again this year as usual.” This weekend’s Porsche 250 will be the first time the race is run this early in the year. The March date follows April runnings the last two years and a string of grueling races for several years in July before that. “It’s nice that we’re running earlier in the year but it is always still too hot,” Gurney said. “They don’t call it the ‘Red Dragon’ for nothing!”