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Grand Am Prototypes - Gurney, Fogerty In Top 3 During First Practice At Miami

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MIAMI, April 27, 2012: GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, clocked in third fastest Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway in opening practice for the Grand Prix of Miami with a top lap time of 1:14.474 (111.180 mph) in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Corvette Daytona Prototype. This weekend’s featured Grand Prix of Miami, which is a timed 2-3/4-hour sprint race, can be seen live on SPEED this Sunday, April 29, at 1 p.m. EDT/10 a.m. PDT.

The top time for the No. 99 GAINSCO “Red Dragon” was set on just the second lap in the first of Friday’s two practice sessions this morning. GAINSCO, Gurney and Fogarty then spent the balance of the day’s remaining practice time working on a setup that will handle the Homestead circuit’s notoriously tough conditions and extreme demands on tires.

“It is kind of the same ball game, mainly because of the track, it is just incredibly hard on tires and kind of a cheese grater,” Gurney said. “We are just working with it, trying to make sure that there will be tires at the end."

GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series rules limit the number of sets of Continental tires competitors can use each race weekend. A team like GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, with professional, championship-winning drivers like Gurney and Fogarty, is limited to just five sets of tires for the entire race weekend.

“We are pretty pleased with where we are at,” Fogarty said. “It’s really hard to know with the limitations on our tires, we are having to use the same set to have enough for the race, and this place is kind of all about tire wear. We were able to do a lot of laps, not a lot of consecutive laps, but a lot of laps, and it looks like relative to the field we are in reasonable shape over a stint.”

GAINSCO is also looking for more top speed. Although they were third fastest overall on Friday, the No. 99 trailed the fastest competitor by .311 of a second.

“Outright pace, we are not so certain, but that’s not necessarily how you win this race,” Fogarty said. “It certainly played that way last year. Semi-fast and steady seemed to be the ticket, and we are kind of working toward that, and it looks as though we are headed in the right direction.”

Rain could be in the forecast for Sunday race day and could prove to be an equalizer or a complete unknown. A GRAND-AM Rolex Series Daytona Prototype race has never been run in a full-on downpour at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“It would be really interesting to drive on the oval in the wet,” Gurney said. “This is one of those places where you are actually on the limit on the oval whereas at Daytona it is not really at that limit of the car, so in the rain it is not particularly hard in the oval section. Here at Homestead that will play a big part.”

Although GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing clinched its second GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Championship at Homestead in 2009, finished third in the 2010 race, and won the pole last year and in 2009, the team has yet to win a race on the challenging 2.3-mile Homestead road course. The six-year winless streak at Homestead-Miami is GAINSCO’s longest at any track on the GRAND-AM Rolex Series circuit.

“Homestead is predominately a power track,” Fogarty said. “It is a bit like Daytona in many ways. Handling always matters, but so does power, and the extended period of time that you spend at wide-open throttle around the oval portion is a big percentage of overall lap time.”

A good finish in Sunday’s race could set the tone for the balance of the year’s remaining 10 races.

“Every year it seems the GAINSCO team continues to improve as the season wears on,” Gurney said. “So if we can finish well at Homestead and be up in the points, then I think we can be serious contenders for the championship.”