Sees GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Leave with a Disappointing Eighth-Place Finish
Gurney and Fogarty Lead But Are Foiled By a Penalty and Numerous Contact Incidents
Reigning Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Champions GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty salvaged an eighth-place finish from a frustrating weekend and even rougher Montreal 200 race today in which a penalty and numerous contact incidents kept them out of victory lane despite leading twice in the two-hour race.
After qualifying second earlier on Friday, Fogarty stalked early leader Scott Pruett before making a pass for the lead in Montreal's tricky Hairpin Turn on Lap 18. Grand-Am officials later ruled that Fogarty had avoidable contact with Pruett while making the pass and the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley was given a drive-through penalty that dropped the team to third.
"We got hit a lot today," Fogarty said. "The first time between myself and Pruett occurred while I was taking the lead and it worked out great. Apparently the series officials felt otherwise so they decided to give us a drive through. Fortunately, we had built up such a lead by that time that we came back on the circuit in third."
The first caution period of the race came just two laps after the penalty and, along with the other leading Daytona Prototypes, Fogarty ducked into the pits for what would be GAINSCO's only stop of the race. Gurney took the wheel and quick pit work by the GAINSCO team got them out of the pits first. Gurney then passed the No. 3 Lexus Riley of Shane Lewis for the lead on Lap 28 soon after green-flag racing resumed.
Gurney's 19 laps in front was the longest lead stretch of the race and the GAINSCO team appeared to be in a position to win when disaster struck once again at the Hairpin Turn with a little over 30 minutes remaining. A lapped GT car spun as Gurney was passing and he was forced into the path of a second GT machine that made heavy contact with the GAINSCO Pontiac Riley. In an instant, Gurney went from leading to a distant seventh place.
"This race was just kind of symbolic of our season so far," Gurney said. "We had a very good car but didn't end up with much to show for it. I struggled with the brakes all day but we were good enough to stay out front. I was managing the gap when I had the lead there for the longest time and I just got caught up in a GT incident where one guy missed the brake zone and the next guy hit me. It was a really hard hit and I actually thought we were out. It was that hard of a hit and the car steered quite a bit to the left after that."
Fogarty was back in the pits watching the drama unfold with the GAINSCO team after they had worked so hard to not only overcome the race penalty but also a practice accident on Thursday. Fogarty was uninjured in the incident but the No. 99 required right front and extensive rear-end repairs after backing into the wall. The GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing crew worked late into the night to get the race car back in top condition, but circumstances once again kept the GAINSCO team from posting a strong result.
"It was really just one of those GT things," Fogarty said. "Wrong place, wrong time and there was nothing Alex could do, and that was that."
The GAINSCO team's race troubles were far from over, however, as yet another contact incident came in Turn 1 when Ricardo Zonta spun Gurney with just a dozen minutes remaining. Prior to that, Gurney was ripping off a string of fastest race laps while charging back from the GT incident and cleanly passed Zonta to take fifth position. The Krohn Racing driver wasn't as cooperative.
"I tried to get back going again after the incident with the GT cars and we seemed okay but later on I got caught up in an incident with Zonta who consistently hits people," Gurney said. "It was just a really frustrating day for everybody on the team. We made it to the end on fuel but we had the other problems and that was it."
Zonta was given a drive-through penalty for the hit which moved GAINSCO up to eighth at the checkered flag.
The No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley remains second in the team championship with 258 points. The same number of points also has Gurney and Fogarty with the second highest total in the Rolex Series Driver Championship. Pruett, Memo Rojas and the No. 01 Ganassi team, who finished fifth at Montreal, now have 321 points to lead both championships.
"In 2006 I thought we had a run of bad luck but honestly this year is topping it," Fogarty said. "We have been in a position to win a lot of races and things just aren't going our way. But we have got pace and we are doing the right things but we just have things going wrong, and that can't last forever. I want to start building momentum and carry it through the end of the season straight into Daytona next year. That's kind of where I am setting my sights right now."
The Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series will run its second consecutive late Friday afternoon race one week from today when the series returns to Watkins Glen for the Crown Royal 200, August 8th, on the Glen's NASCAR short course. The race, which runs on 8-8-08, will appropriately air in same-day coverage on SPEED at 8 p.m. ET.