Points Pressure on Heading to Debut Supercar Life 250 at New Jersey's Thunderbolt Raceway
Gurney, Fogarty and GAINSCO Team on Track for Third-Straight Podium and Title Bid
Determined to keep the pressure on in a late run to repeat championships in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16, GAINSCO/Bob Stalling racing and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty will be looking for their third consecutive and sixth overall podium finish of the season Sunday in the inaugural Supercar Life 250 on the new Thunderbolt Raceway at the debuting New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP).
The penultimate round of the 14-race 2008 Rolex Series Championship, the Supercar Life 250 caps three-full days of holiday weekend racing action this Sunday, August 31, at 1 p.m. (Live on SPEED). The race on the 2.25-mile Thunderbolt circuit – one of two road courses at the impressive new NJMP complex – is scheduled for 112 laps, with a 2-¾ hour time limit, and is the final Rolex Series sprint race of the season.
The reigning Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Driver and Team Champions, GAINSCO has finished second in the last two races, including last weekend's Armed Forces Grand-Am 250 at Infineon Raceway and the Crown Royal 200 at The Glen earlier this month. Another top-three showing this weekend would be the team's first three-podium streak of the season and would provide another boost in their come-from-behind bid for repeat championships.
"We feel good coming off the last two races with podium finishes," said Fogarty, who joined Gurney and the GAINSCO team in winning seven of 14 races in last year's championship season. "It is that type of consistency that you need to win championships and I finally feel like we are back in our groove. We will need some exceptional luck to take the championship, but we are pushing ahead and fighting as though it is there for our taking."
In addition to the Infineon and Glen second-place finishes, GAINSCO has also finished second at Daytona twice this year. They joined guest all-star drivers Jimmie Johnson and Jimmy Vasser in taking runner-up honors in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, and also finished a close second in July's Brumos Porsche 250 At Daytona. The team's lone victory this season came at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course where Gurney turned in one of the best drives of the season in the rain.
"Sonoma was a very good result and we're keeping the championship dream alive," Gurney said. "It was very special having several GAINSCO agents celebrate with us up there on the podium. We've come through a little adversity lately and managed to put up some nice podium finishes the last few races. Everybody on the team has stayed very focused even though we haven't rolled off the trailer super quick. The championship is still up in the air with two races to go and that's important. We'll need some luck but really just one hiccup at the start of the race for the No. 01 and we are right back in it."
The No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley is currently second in Rolex Series Team Championship with 322 points. The same number of points has Gurney and Fogarty second in the Rolex Series Driver Championship. GAINSCO and its drivers trail only the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, who lead both championships with 364 points.
The fact that Rolex Series competitors have not turned a wheel on the new Thunderbolt layout should make this weekend's race, and the championship implications that go with it, all the more interesting.
"I'm very excited about going to New Jersey," Gurney said. "I've read a little bit about the Thunderbolt circuit and seen a few videos. It looks like an amazing facility and a very fast layout."
Fogarty is also heading to the first race in Grand-Am's history in the Garden State with some excitement and initial observations from afar.
"Visiting a new track is always interesting," Fogarty said. "I have scoured the internet for as much info as possible and there is quite a bit despite how new the track is. Looks like it will be quite fast, which I like, but passing opportunities look slim. Qualifying and track position will be key."
Fogarty will qualify for the final time this season at Thunderbolt and is still seeking his first pole after winning eight top starting spots last year. Gurney, who captured two poles in 2007 in just three attempts, will qualify the GAINSCO car for the season-ending Sunchaser 1000 next month at Miller Motorsports Park, one of three endurance races each season where he gets a chance to qualify. In total, GAINSCO's best qualifying effort this season has been second, which Fogarty has done four times, and the team brings a streak of six straight top-four qualifying efforts to New Jersey.
While Gurney and Fogarty were each able to spend a day or two at their respective West Coast homes after Infineon, the GAINSCO team has not had a moment's rest. The entire Rolex Series Daytona Prototype division had to make the cross-country trek from the California's Napa Valley to New Jersey for this weekend's race, not to mention finding time to work on the race cars. "The team is being pushed hard from a logistics standpoint with opposite coast races back to back, but I know they are the best in the business and the GAINSCO car will be ready to go," Fogarty said. "Our engineer Kyle Brannan has done his homework to make sure the car is fast. Alex and I just need to get in and learn the circuit ASAP so we can make the car the best it can be. That is another challenge but that is why I love this sport."…
The Rolex Series GT class will rejoin the Daytona Prototypes for this weekend's race and the season-ending Sunchaser. The last two rounds of the Rolex Series were Daytona Prototype feature races …
New Jersey Motorsports Park is located in what may be the largest tri-state market in the country. The facility is in the heart of New Jersey and within an easy drive of New York City and Philadelphia. Gurney likes the big-market fan base as well as the fact that the NJMP complex is centered on road-course racing. "Being a huge road racing fan, I am personally very excited every time a brand new purpose-built road course facility is built," Gurney said. "That is a very good thing for road racing in general. I think we'll see a lot of fans this weekend and I know we will put on a fantastic show."