GAINSCO “Red Dragon” brings maximum momentum to Ohio after Montreal win
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, will shoot for their third victory of 2011 and third career win at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley at this weekend’s season-ending GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio, September 16–17. The featured 2-3/4-hour timed EMCO Gears Classic sprint race can be seen live on SPEED this Saturday, September 17, at 3 p.m. ET/Noon PT.
GAINSCO, Gurney and Fogarty scored back-to-back victories at Mid-Ohio in 2007 and 2008, and have a pair of GRAND-AM Rolex Series victories to their credit this season, including the most recent series race last month in Montreal. Fogarty won the pole for that event in the No. 99 GAINSCO “Red Dragon” and then joined Gurney in co-driving to a convincing win in the two-hour sprint race on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. GAINSCO scored its first victory of the season in July at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and brings the momentum of both victories – and a third-place finish in between at New Jersey Motorsports Park later in July – to one of the team’s best tracks on the GRAND-AM Road Racing circuit at Mid-Ohio.
“We are closing strong yet again this season,” Gurney said. “Montreal was very exciting for us as we again made some big strides with our car and the team executed beautifully. We are definitely on a high heading to Mid-Ohio and it is certainly our intention to win. We have everything we need to make it happen.”
A win this weekend would give GAINSCO victories in a full one-quarter of this year’s 12-event race schedule, but that achievement alone is not the primary focus heading to Ohio.
“I have not really thought of it as winning a quarter of this year’s races,” said Fogarty, a two-time Mid-Ohio pole winner in 2007 and 2009. “My motivation for winning this last event in a convincing fashion is that I want momentum going into 2012. Our performance in the first half of the year was forgettable. I would like to put everyone on notice that the 99 team is back on its game and that we are serious about not only now, but the future as well.”
The future for GAINSCO includes the all-new DPG3 generation Riley Daytona Prototype chassis that teams will take delivery of later this year. It will be the first major change in chassis equipment for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing since entering the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series early in the 2005 season. This weekend’s finale at Mid-Ohio also marks GAINSCO’s final run in its soon-to-be-retired Riley XX, one of just two such race cars the team has used for more than six full seasons of racing.
“The Riley has been a fabulous chassis for us from the moment we entered the series,” Gurney said. “With 15 race wins and two championships for a small team like ours, we owe a lot of that to Riley. I can’t wait to get into the 2012 car!”
The final race of 2011 is the next order of business for GAINSCO, however, and some improved performance in the team’s current Riley Chevrolet package since a mid-season test at Watkins Glen should continue to produce results at Mid-Ohio.
“We have had good pace the second half of the season,” Fogarty said.” Having capitalized on that in Montreal with a race win is a great way to head into the final event of the year at Mid-Ohio. Our basic package since The Glen test is an improvement across the board, so we will be better at Mid-Ohio now than if we had raced there at the start of the season. Having said that, it is a tricky place to get right, so many corners and any imbalance really adds up. The track changes a lot over a weekend, and we are racing at a cooler time of the year, so all of that combined will challenge us for sure. Even so, the GAINSCO team will be able to overcome those things and put out a good race car.”
“I think we’ll need every piece of information that we’ve gathered over the season to put the best car on track on Mid-Ohio,” Gurney said. “Practice time will be limited and the surface there can be a little unpredictable, so we’ll need to make quick judgments to get the most out of the car.”
“Probably the changing course conditions, and the strategy, bring the biggest challenges at Mid-Ohio,” Fogarty said. “It is a tough place to overtake, so you need a car that will be able to run up front from the drop of the green, and then make sure it stays there through the pit sequences. Much the same as most tracks, but with the limited overtaking areas, even the fastest car is not a sure winner if you have to battle from the back. We also must not second-guess ourselves if the car changes session to session, as we could chase the track down a path we may not want to be on.”
The No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley team solidified its third-place ranking in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Team Championship standings with the Montreal victory. The No. 99 team heads to Mid-Ohio with 304 points and a 12-point margin over the fourth-ranked No. 5 Action Express Porsche Riley.
A two-day event, the EMCO Gears Classic schedule includes practice and qualifying on Friday. Race day Saturday starts with a morning warm-up final practice at 8:40 a.m., the last on-track activity for the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series until that afternoon’s race at 3 p.m.
Gurney and GAINSCO tested for three days at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) last week, marking Gurney’s first laps ever at the famous circuit. The last Gurney to drive at Indianapolis before last week was Gurney’s legendary father Dan Gurney, who last competed in the Indianapolis 500 in 1970. “The Indy test was just a great experience for me,” Gurney said. “Although it was just a test, the Speedway folks really made GRAND-AM feel welcome and the people were very kind to me especially as it has been a while since a Gurney has turned a wheel there. The Indy Speedway has a special aura about it. The sheer effort over the years that people have put into winning and competing at the Indy 500, the sacrifices they made, the passion, the innovation that came about from that, I think for people who have really followed the sport, you can feel that energy. I couldn’t wait to drive down the front straight and cross the bricks for the first time, what a thrill. The rain played havoc with our plans the first two days but we got in lots of solid miles on the final day. Continental made a big jump forward, I believe, and we will have a great tire for the race there next year. The rain allowed us a little more off-track time and I was given an amazing tour through the Speedway museum as well as touring the ‘top secret’ basement where I saw several of my dad’s old Indy Eagles, a very special visit.”… Mid-Ohio is a special track for Fogarty. “Mid-Ohio is a great track that holds many memories for me,” Fogarty said. “My first big national event took place there in 1995, running in the SCCA Run-Offs for the Formula Vee Naional Championship. My first pro win came at Mid-Ohio as well in 1998 in the Barber Dodge Pro Series. That, combined with the great wins we have had at Mid-Ohio in the ‘Red Dragon,’ makes it a great place to be.”