of 2008 in Mid-Ohio EMCO Gears Classic
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Back On Rolex Series Championship Track With First Win of 2008 in Mid-Ohio EMCO Gears Classic
Fogarty, Gurney Give Team First Win Since Infineon Last August in Wet and Wild RaceReigning Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Champions GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty got their title defense back on track Saturday with their first win of the 2008 season in a wet and wild EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The victory was the first for the GAINSCO team since last August at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., where they scored a seventh win in a dominating 2007 season that saw them capture both the Rolex Series Team and Driver Championships. The team has been on pace at the majority of 2008 races, but a variety of problems and circumstances kept them out of victory lane until today's Mid-Ohio race, which was Round 7 of this year's 14 race Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series schedule.
"This win is a lot later than I expected it to be by a long shot," said Team Owner Bob Stallings. "Honestly, I have kind of forgotten how it feels to be a winner because we haven't won since Sonoma last year. I am really happy for our team because winning is a routine that you get into clearly as evidenced by last year, and I want this team to get back into a rhythm. There were eight races left and I said I want to win all eight of them and now we have one down and seven to go."
The race was run in consistent and frequently heavy rainy conditions that began just minutes after the green flag dropped. After starting on the outside front row, Fogarty was running second when he spun in the treacherous conditions early in the race, but he climbed back from being as far down as 23rd place overall (12th in class) when he and the GAINSCO team perfectly timed a yellow-flag pit stop on Lap 27.
"It was a pretty wild race for sure," Gurney said. "I didn't envy being in the car there at the beginning, it looked really difficult and I thought they might even red flag it or we would go yellow all day. When Jon went to the back it actually ended up working out for us because we ended up pitting at an earlier point than we probably would have. We got the driver change done and that made us good to the end."
Gurney took over during the stop and began a march to the front after rejoining the race in 14th place overall and ninth in the Daytona Prototype running order. He passed the No. 7 RumBum.com BMW Riley of Matt Plumb in Mid-Ohio's trademark esses with 14 minutes to go in what turned out to be a timed race and quickly opened up to a more than three-second lead. Gurney was comfortably in front when the eighth and final yellow-flag period of the day saw the race end under caution.
"I could tell that the No. 7 was starting to struggle," Gurney said. "When it was a little less wet he was really out of shape, so I really wasn't that concerned about getting by him. Our car was just working really well in those in between conditions. It was a very fun race and very satisfying and I am just really happy for everyone on the team. It is nice to get one on the board finally."
The winners averaged just 62.317 mph in the victory on the rain soaked track, and 37 of the race's 76 laps were run under caution.
"It was a nightmare when it first started raining," Fogarty said. "When we were on slicks and it first started coming down, it was unbelievable. I was going as slow as I possibly could and was still almost crashing. It was difficult for sure and I am just glad I didn't throw it away when I spun. It is great to get the first win of the season. The team never gave up hope and they have been doing as awesome of a job as they always do."
The win gave GAINSCO a huge jump in the championship standings. The No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley is now second in the team championship with 188 points. The same number of points also has Gurney and Fogarty with the second highest total in the Rolex Series Driver Championship. Leaders Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and the No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley now have 225 points in both championships after finishing eighth in the EMCO Gears Classic.