GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing’s Gurney, Fogarty look to commemorate 40th race together with VIR victory
Saturday’s Bosch Engineering 250 brings another chance for first VIR win since duo’s debut at 2006 VIR 400GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing’s Champion drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty will look to celebrate their 40th race as teammates with a victory in Saturday’s Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway (Live on SPEED at 2:30 p.m. ET), the same track where the potent duo debuted as co-drivers three years ago. A victory in the 2-3/4-hour timed race would also be the first for the drivers and the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley crew at VIR, where the team will make its fifth overall career start on the scenic Virginia road course.
GAINSCO debuted in Grand-Am Rolex Series competition in 2005 but immediately moved up to the ranks of championship contenders when Fogarty first stepped in to co-drive with Gurney at the VIR 400 in April 2006. Prior to that, Gurney was primarily paired with team owner and then-co-driver Bob Stallings in what was the original driver partnership for the bright red No. 99 GAINSCO machine. It was Stallings himself, however, who decided to relinquish his seat in early 2006 and replace himself with a driver comparable in talent to Gurney.
“I knew if we were going to reach the GAINSCO team’s full championship potential I had to step out of the car,” said Stallings, who now fills a key strategic role behind the pit wall with the GAINSCO crew on race weekends. “I knew if we found another driver as fast and talented as Alex we could win the championship and our great crew and drivers did just that a year later.”
GAINSCO’s Californian driving duo — Gurney lives in Irvine and Fogarty is a native of Palo Alto — has become one of the most successful pairings in the 10-year history of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16. Gurney and Fogarty finished second in just their second race together at Laguna Seca in 2006 and then went on to dominate the Rolex Series in 2007. With seven wins, 10 poles and numerous qualifying and race lap records, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing’s 2007 Driver and Team Championship season remains the most successful year of competition on record in Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype competition. Gurney, Fogarty and GAINSCO backed it up with a runner-up showing last season and have a firm eye on recapturing the top titles in 2009. The quest begins in earnest this weekend where a first VIR victory would get GAINSCO’s championship bid off to a promising start after a solid seventh-place finish in January’s season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.
“Jon and I have formed a great partnership and friendship over the years,” said Gurney, the only driver to have competed in every race GAINSCO has entered since debuting in the Grand-Am Rolex Series in May 2005. “We are very much on the same page going into every weekend, very focused on winning and I think we are both able to draw on valuable experience. We are almost always in agreement on the setup of the car and that really allows us to move in one direction over the course of a race weekend. We have a very rare, healthy rivalry between us that really pushes us all the time to get the best from each other. Jon is a fabulous teammate and it is the ideal situation that you search for in a series like this.”
In their 39 Grand-Am Rolex Series races together with GAINSCO since debuting at VIR in 2006, Gurney and Fogarty have achieved eight victories, 19 top-three podium finishes and 11 poles (not including two by Gurney in 2005). They have also combined to set Rolex Series records for most wins in a season (7 – 2007), most poles in a season (10 – 2007), most consecutive poles in a season (9 – 2007), most front-row starts in a season (14 – 2007), most qualifying records in a season (7 – 2007) and most races led in each of the past two seasons (13 of 14 – 2007; 12 of 14 – 2008). Their most recent victory at Mid-Ohio last June was also a Rolex Series record-setting comeback when they climbed from 23rd to win after an early race spin.
“It is very cool to think what we have accomplished in a pretty short period of time but we still want more, and you always do,” said Fogarty, who first teamed with Gurney in 2002 Toyota Atlantic competition. “We have to give full credit to Bob, our engineer Kyle Brannan and of course the entire GAINSCO crew who are the best in the business. Everything Alex and I have accomplished we owe to them, and I know they are going to keep working hard and give us everything we need to win again this weekend and all year.”
Virginia International Raceway is one of the few tracks on the Rolex Series tour where GAINSCO has yet to score a victory. All on the team love the 3.27-mile circuit despite the fact that Lady Luck has yet to show up and do her part to help GAINSCO reach VIR’s victory lane.
Fogarty was leading last year and a victory looked imminent before a lapped car literally knocked the team out of the lead and down to a distant 14th-place finish. In 2007, Fogarty was running in the top three when a brief trip off-course at VIR’s trademark Oak Tree turn dropped the No. 99 down in the order. Gurney later took over and charged back to fifth at the finish, which is GAINSCO’s best career result at VIR. In their 2006 debut, Fogarty was racing with the frontrunners when another contact incident knocked the valve stems off two wheels, resulting in another 14th-place finish. The lone race in which Gurney and Stallings ran together at VIR was also a long day when an early contact incident forced a 24th-place finish in 2005.
“We feel like we’ve always had the speed at VIR, topped many sessions and led laps, but we haven’t put it all together over a race distance,” Gurney said. “Jon and I both love this track, there is so much elevation change, so many great corners. The high-speed esses in particular are just plain gnarly in this Daytona Prototype. You are really hustling the car through there.”
After a three-month break between 2009’s opening pair of races and a complete rebuild of the No. 99 GAINSCO machine, both drivers and crew are ready to score their first victory at VIR. “The break was a little long,” Gurney said “It felt a little like we had two off-seasons! We are all fired up though and ready to see where we stack up against a stellar field.”
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing took advantage of the long break between races and tested at Motorsports Ranch near the team’s race shop in Dallas last month. Gurney and Fogarty were both on hand for the two-day test, March 16–17, but it was none other than Stallings who drove the opening stint, and then some. “It was great to see Bob back in the car,” Gurney said. “I think he has been working out a lot in expectation of getting in the car because he looked slim and fit like a racer! He’s always been one to get up to speed very quickly and this time was no different. He hadn’t been in a race car for almost three years and he just hopped in and looked comfortable and quick within a few laps.” Stallings also drove a few laps during the afternoon on the first day before Gurney and Fogarty stepped in for the majority of the work. More than 450 miles were put in during the two-day session as the team experimented with some recent Grand-Am rules changes in addition to a full schedule of other tests…
GAINSCO will have two new crew members make their race debuts with the team at VIR. Dave Molder is the team’s new fueler while Jay Mogden will assume outside tire changes during pits stops. Both bring extensive road racing experience to the team, including Daytona Prototypes in the Grand-Am Rolex Series. Molder worked on the SAMAX Riley team in recent seasons while Mogden tuned similar Riley Daytona Prototypes a couple of seasons ago with Pacific Coast Motorsports…
They will have to keep their excitement in check for a month and two more races, but Shawn and Kimberly Stole, of Gilbert, Ariz., were the recent winning bidders of a unique racing-themed package donated by Bob and Linda Stallings in support of a fundraising event to benefit the Crisis Pregnancy Center in Phoenix. The donated package includes sponsorship space on the rear wing of the actual No. 99 GAINSCO Daytona Prototype race car for the upcoming Verizon Festival of Speed presented by SPEEDCOM Communications Grand-Am Rolex Series race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, May 15–17. The Stoles plan to use the opportunity to promote their business, Shawn Stole Construction, Inc., which specializes in creative custom woodworking. The Stoles will also receive a VIP at-track experience that includes suite and hot pit passes and an official pace car ride around the legendary Laguna Seca circuit on Sunday morning.