Second-Place Finish in the Crown Royal 200 Keeps GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing In the Rolex Series Title Chase
Fogarty Avoids Near-Disaster on Recon Lap to Join Gurney for Fourth Podium of 2008
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing managed to avoid the problems that have plagued them in the majority of Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series races this year and finished second in Friday's Crown Royal 200 at Watkins Glen International. This time around, the GAINSCO team dealt with its trouble before the race even started.
Driving on a rain-soaked and slippery race course, GAINSCO's starting driver Jon Fogarty was slowly cruising around The Glen's 2.45-mile NASCAR short course during pre-race recon-laps only to slide into the gravel trap at the "Bus Stop" chicane. The No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley was undamaged and quick-to-react track safety workers got Fogarty back on track in time for him to take the green flag from his fourth-place starting position.
"We took our first recon lap on rain tires and I thought it was dry enough to go to slicks," said Fogarty, who made a clean race start and was in second-place by Lap 4. "So we came back in and put the slicks on and they felt really bad. I was doing my best to try to put some heat into them and I just got a little too eager with the throttle and I spun it. It was a pretty bone-head move but I think the decision to go to slicks was quite clever, so I was happy about that. It definitely put us in a good position relative to the No. 01 car at the start of the race."
Fogarty and teammate Alex Gurney ran a competitive and challenging race in which they never lost sight of the leaders and finished second for the third time this year. Gurney crossed the finish line just 1.986 seconds behind the winning No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley of Brian Frisselle and Mark Wilkins, which led all but three of the race's 82 laps.
"It was a little bit difficult," Fogarty said. "You would get a report from the guys on pit road that it was raining there, but it would be sunny at the Bus Stop, and then they would say it is drying up on the front straight but it would be raining at the carrousel. I was like 'give me one or the other' as it was pretty difficult. At the same time it was fun and pretty exciting too."
Fogarty stayed with a few seconds of the No. 61 throughout his stint and pitted for the team's only stop of the race on Lap 30. Gurney took over and set a string of fastest race laps as he stalked the leader while dealing with some late-race pressure from the No. 58 Brumos Porsche Riley of Darren Law, which finished third.
"The conditions when I got in were nearly all the way dry so it was a little easier for us but still we were running like we were qualifying the whole time," Gurney said. "It was really tough. Both Brumos cars were very quick and we didn't have anything for the No. 61 car all weekend. Other than that, I seemed to be able to run the pace of the rest of they guys and I just did everything I could to hold the position. It was another very good Grand-Am Rolex Series race. It was close to the very end and tough, always, and I am very happy for everyone on the GAINSCO team. To come out of here in second is a good result and it is nice to see the No. 01 way back there."
The championship-leading No. 01 Ganassi Lexus Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas had its worst showing of the year with a 13th place finish. The GAINSCO team took a major chunk out of Ganassi's championship lead and now trail by 49 points after heading into the race 63 points in arrears. The No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley remains second in the team championship with 290 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 lead both championships with 339 points.
The Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series will run its second consecutive Daytona Prototype feature race in two weeks at Infineon Raceway, Saturday, August 23. The race can be seen in next-day coverage on SPEED at Noon ET on Sunday, August 24.
Fogarty's recon-lap encounter with The Glen's "Bus Stop" chicane was his second of the weekend. He also went off course there in Thursday's qualifying but still managed to have the fourth fastest time of that session. "We pushed our luck, for sure, but the Bus Stop really didn't get the better of us this weekend. We were pretty fortunate." …
Gurney set the GAINSCO team's fastest race lap on Lap 71 with a time of 1:06.577 …
In addition to the Crown Royal 200, GAINSCO's other second-place finishes this year came in the Rolex 24 and Brumos Porsche 250 races at Daytona …
GAINSCO's sole race win so far this season came in the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio in June …
Despite the strong run that saw GAINSCO race no lower than third for the majority of the Crown Royal 200, the team failed to lead a race for just the second time this season. GAINSCO also didn't lead en route to a fourth-place finish at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May.