Begin Stretch Run to the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Championship Friday in Montreal
GAINSCO, Gurney and Fogarty Set to Avenge 2007 Result with Second Win of the Year
A tough stretch of four races in five weeks that will likely decide the outcome of the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series championships kicks off this Friday, August 1, for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and its competition with a return visit to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Isle Notre Dame in Montreal. The Friday "happy hour" race is scheduled to start at 4:15 p.m. ET for 74 laps on the 2.709-mile Montreal Formula 1 circuit and can be seen in same-day coverage on SPEED later on Friday at 8 p.m. ET.
The No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley team, and reigning Rolex Series Co-Champions Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, are currently second in the respective team and driver standings but trail leaders Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and the No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley by 60 points. With a Grand-Am Rolex Series race win worth a maximum 35 points, the GAINSCO squad may need to "run the table" in the next four races if they hope to earn repeat Rolex Series Team and Driver Championships this year.
"What we learned last year is that there were a lot of times we could have given up on the championship but didn't," said team owner Bob Stallings. "Even as late as the Montreal race last year we were very concerned that the championship might be out of reach, but what we learned is that you don't give up."
In 2007 the GAINSCO team finally took the points lead with their record seventh win of the season in the penultimate round of the championship at Infineon Raceway last August. GAINSCO then out-dueled the Ganassi team for the 2007 Rolex Series titles in the season-ending SunChaser 1000K at Miller Motorsports Park in Salt Lake City, Utah, in September.
"Even during the final race at Salt Lake City last season we could have given up, but you just have to wait and see what happens," Stallings said. "Our job is to come out and give it everything we have got every time we race. The way point structure works, it's awfully hard when you are this far behind, but that won't change our strategy in any way. We come full bore at every race and try to win as many as we can."
While Montreal was not one of GAINSCO's record wins last year, in many ways the race defined the team's championship resolve. Running second and in contention for the win, Fogarty brought the No. 99 in for its final pit stop and the driver switch with Gurney only to lose valuable time when an air wrench failed during a tire change.
"Last year, it looked like we were headed for a win but a faulty wheel gun put a stop to that," said Gurney, who put on the drive of the race as he charged back through the field. "We fell to 10th after our mishap and I had a great time trying to make it back toward the front. I made it up to third and was very happy to get by Scott Pruett in the last few laps for the last podium spot."
Fogarty is anxious to avenge last year's narrow loss.
"Alex did a good job coming through the field to put it on the podium, but everyone fells like the Montreal race was one that got away," Fogarty said. "The whole team would like to get that one back."
The 2007 Montreal charge was similar to the effort Gurney put in for the team's only victory of this season in the rain at Mid-Ohio in June. In that race, Fogarty spun and dropped to 23rd early in near flood-like conditions but raced all the way back to 10th before handing over to Gurney. Just like Montreal, Gurney charge from 10th in the field to the front, but this time he and the GAINSCO team were victorious. Earning their second win of the season on a Montreal circuit that is a favorite of Gurney's would be ideal.
"Montreal is a great track and one I've always loved," Gurney said. "Having watched the F1 races over the years, it's always a special kind of feeling racing on the same track as they do. Now, with the NASCAR Nationwide Series there as well, our Montreal weekend is a very big happening."
While the fast Montreal track may not be the best fit for the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley combination, the team has been working with its technical partners to maximize the race car's performance.
"There are some very long straights at Montreal, which hasn't been our strong suit this year, but everyone on the team and at Pontiac has been doing everything possible to give us the best possible package," Gurney said. "With the championship looking more and more difficult, we very much want to win this race."
Including joining Gurney on the victory lane podium last year after finishing third, Fogarty hasn't finished out of the top three in his three career races on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. He won the 2004 Toyota Atlantic race in Montreal en route to the series championship and finished second in Montreal in the 2002 Atlantic event. "I have been on the podium in each of my visits to Montreal, a streak I would like to keep going," Fogarty said …. Heading to Montreal, the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley holds down second in the team championship with 235 points. The same number of points also has Gurney and Fogarty with the second highest total in the Rolex Series Driver Championship. Pruett, Rojas and the No. 01 Ganassi team now have 295 points to lead both championships.