GAINSCO set for first Montreal win after bouncing back from incident at The Glen
Determined to rebound in a fully repaired “Red Dragon” that is ready and rolling on its way to Canada, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, will look for their first Montreal 200 victory and second race win of the season Saturday on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. The timed two-hour Montreal 200 sprint is scheduled to start at 11:15 a.m. local time and can be seen in same-day coverage on SPEED this Saturday, August 20, at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT.
The team quickly bounced back this weekend after an early contact incident with a GT car in Saturday night’s Canadian Tire 200 at The Glen put the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley into the wall and out of the race just 10 minutes into the two-hour sprint. Starting driver Fogarty was uninjured in the incident and joined the team in immediately shifting focus to repairing the No. 99 for this weekend’s race in Montreal.
The GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing transporter was loaded up and left Watkins Glen before the Canadian Tire 200 was even finished on Saturday and drove to nearby Horseheads, N.Y. where the team set up shop in the lot of a Lowe’s Home Improvement store. The crew returned early Sunday morning and had the No. 99 repaired, loaded up and ready for the trip to Montreal by 9:30 p.m. that evening. The major part of the rebuild was the installation of a completely new rear suspension and gearbox assembly.
“The work that our guys do is always inspiring and I am very grateful for what they do,” said Fogarty, who has stayed with the team in the break between races. “I never had any doubt that they would be able to get the ‘Red Dragon’ back to race condition in time for Montreal, but to do it in a day is incredible.”
With The Glen incident in the rearview mirror, GAINSCO is ready for success on a Montreal track where they have done everything but win. Gurney and Fogarty finished second last year and third in 2007 and 2009. Fogarty is the two-time defending Montreal pole winner and qualified on the top spot in 2007 for a series-leading three Daytona Prototype poles for GAINSCO on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
“We’ve always been really quick at Montreal and we’ve led a lot of laps there,” Gurney said. “We’re hungry for a first win there; I think we can do it. We have a lot of experience there. If the weather stays dry, I think we’ll be comfortable.”
The latest version of the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevy Riley may also be one of the best Gurney and Fogarty have ever had at Montreal. The team has plenty of horsepower with its Earnhardt Childress Racing (ECR)-built Chevys but brakes, as usual, and the new series-standard Continental tires, should be the focus for all competitors in the Montreal 200.
“Horsepower helps everywhere, and Montreal is no different,” Fogarty said. “We have a great motor with the ECR Chevy, but right now it seems as though there is great parity among the motor makes. Having said that, I really think it will come down to handling, and tire and brake wear. If your car is working well, the tires and brakes should last longer than an ill-handling car, so getting a balance that doesn't require muscling the car will be the key to a good race.”
GAINSCO’s lone poor finish at Montreal, an eighth-place result in 2008, was directly related to brake issues.
“The Montreal circuit is so tough on brakes, and in the 2008 race it was particularly difficult,” Gurney said. “When you go to the brake pedal and nothing happens, that is not a good feeling. That was the situation I was dealing with for the last few laps of the race that year. I just had to back off very early, use the gearbox to slow down and coast into the corners.”
The heavy-braking nature of the track in part contributes to what the drivers like about the course and to what makes for some typically entertaining racing on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
“The brake zone for the Turn 8/9 chicane is very slick and it is easy to overshoot the corner, very tricky,” Fogarty said. “The final chicane is awesome, heavy braking, loose entry, bouncing over huge curbs then sliding right up to the wall at the exit, as close to a street race as we get.”
In addition to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Gurney also credits the great Canadian race fans for contributing to an always high-energy event.
“There is a great atmosphere in Montreal,” Gurney said. “With this being a Formula 1 circuit, the natives are already racing junkies, so it seemed like they loved it when GRAND-AM showed up! We have been able to put on some great races there over the years.”
Both Gurney and Fogarty have raced several times in Canada while climbing the junior formula ranks early in their respective careers, including Atlantic competition.
“Canadians love auto racing, plain and simple,” Fogarty said. “I wish we did more races up North, but if you are going to only do one it should be Montreal.”
Despite the last-place result at The Glen, the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley team still ranks third in the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series team championship standings with 269 points. Although both the season championship and runner-up honors are now all but out of reach, GAINSCO will focus on keeping its third-place position in the year’s final two races. The Montreal 200 will be followed by the season-ending EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course next month.
The Montreal 200 schedule includes opening practice Thursday afternoon and final practice and qualifying on Friday. The GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series schedule for race-day Saturday includes only the Montreal 200 at 11:15 a.m.
The GAINSCO crew’s quick repair work Sunday let them take Monday off in New York State. “The best part about it is that we were able to spend the day off together in a friendly round of skeet shooting at the Chemung Rod and Gun Club,” Fogarty said. “Glenn Feather won, I finished second.”… Feather, a veteran over-the-wall GAINSCO crew member, may have been a lock for winning the shooting competition. He spent two decades working as a SWAT team narcotics officer in his hometown of Poughkeepsie, New York before retiring in 2006. Feather participated in about 50 raids a year in addition to obviously keeping his shooting skills well honed… Gurney is part of a special group of drivers that has raced on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. “They call the wall at the exit of the last corner ‘The Champions’ Wall’ because it somehow sucks in all the best drivers over the years,” Gurney said. “The very best drivers at some point in their careers end up nailing that wall. I have hit it in an Atlantic car and the Daytona Prototype so I guess I’m part of the club!”