Turn Tough Weekend Into Solid Second-Place Finish at Infineon Raceway
GAINSCO Auto Insurance Team Closes More Ground in Title Chase with Two Races Left
Reigning Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Champions GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty overcame some early-weekend handling issues and scored a hard-earned second-place finish Saturday in the Armed Forces Grand-Am 250 at Infineon Raceway. The race can be seen in next-day coverage on SPEED tomorrow, Sunday, August 24 at Noon ET.
The runner-up showing was the team's second consecutive second-place finish and fourth of the season in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley. It was the first time this season that GAINSCO scored back-to-back podiums after finishing second in the Crown Royal 200 at Watkins Glen one race ago. The team's lone victory of the year came in June's EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Gurney drove the final stint and was rapidly closing on Max Angelelli in the pole-winning No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Dallara when the checkered flag flew. After being over 11 seconds behind just a few laps earlier, Gurney crossed the finish line 3.646 seconds behind Angelelli, who won his first race of the season with teammate Michael Valiante. The No. 99 was also well clear of the third-place finishing AIM Autosport Ford Riley of Mark Wilkins, who co-drove with Brian Frisselle.
"It was definitely a little bit different than last year," said Gurney, who co-drove to a convincing victory at Infineon in 2007 with Fogarty and the No. 99 GAINSCO team. "I think we were the fastest car last year and this year the SunTrust guys set the pace most of the weekend and definitely in the race. They had us scratching our heads and definitely a little worried. We worked on the car and made some pretty big changes throughout the weekend and it was the best it was in the race. SunTrust's pace was just a little bit too much, but I was happy we were able to pull away from the No. 61 car. It was a good finish but I miss the wins for sure. I don't like finishing second."
Second was the position Fogarty jumped to as the green flag flew for the race start.
"I had a pretty good start," said Fogarty, who moved from third on the grid to second in the race's first turn. "I was right up there behind Michael (Valiante) and was able to stay on his bumper and that allowed me to get alongside the No. 58 and make a move and come out of there in P2. We pushed really hard but the No. 10 SunTrust car was really quick today and hats off to them. It was pretty difficult for me as we started on the set of tires that we qualified on and I kind of abused them a little bit in qualifying. But I was able to maintain my position and hand the car over in good shape."
Fogarty led four laps (23 – 26) when Valiante pitted before the GAINSCO team. Gurney took over when Fogarty came to the pits on Lap 27 and the GAINSCO team stayed in second when the field cycled through its stops within the same time span. Gurney set the team's two fastest race laps – including a top lap time of 1:27.742 (101.343 mph) on Lap 75 – but didn't have enough horsepower to completely catch Angelelli and SunTrust.
The second-place showing, however, was a great result after the issues the team encountered earlier in the weekend. After practicing seventh Thursday and ranking a distant 11th overall in Friday's only practice session, the GAINSCO crew and drivers turned things around with a full round of adjustments last night. The team was third fastest in this morning's warm-up session and proved they were ready to race at the drop of the green flag.
The GAINSCO team and drivers remain second in the Rolex Series championship but closed the gap to 42 points (364 – 322) behind leaders Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley, who finished sixth. With two races remaining in the Rolex Series, the GAINSCO squad has a mathematical but remote chance to catch the point leaders.
Next up for GAINSCO and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series is the Supercar Life 250 at the debuting New Jersey Motorsports Park, next Sunday, August 31. The race can be seen live on SPEED at 1 p.m. ET.
A full complement of family, friends and GAINSCO business associates and agent partners were in attendance at Infineon Raceway to cheer on Gurney, Fogarty and the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team. Nearly 60 GAINSCO guests and several friends and family members of the team's California-based drivers were part of the full entourage.
"It is good to have all of the GAINSCO Auto Insurance people out here plus Alex's family and my family too," Fogarty said. "After last year's race, this may be just a little bit of a let down but we are very happy with second and everyone else seemed to be too. I am glad everyone was here." …
Although Fogarty qualified fifth on Friday, the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley started third after both the No. 61 AIM Ford Riley and the No. 76 Krohn Racing Lola failed post-qualifying inspection and were moved to the back of the starting field …
With Fogarty's four laps at the front of the field today, the No. 99 GAINSCO team has now led laps in 10 of 12 Rolex Series races this year.