WATKINS GLEN, Jun. 30, 2012: GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, paced the field Friday in opening practice at Watkins Glen International where the two-time championship-winning GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series team will be looking for its first win of the 2012 season in Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
Round 8 of 13 races on the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series schedule, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen can be seen live on SPEED this Sunday, July 1, at 11 a.m. EDT/8 a.m. PDT.
Gurney turned the top time in the third and final practice session of the day late Friday afternoon, clocking in at 1:42.532 (119.377 mph) in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Corvette DaytonaPrototype. The quick lap just edged the No. 10 SunTrust Corvette Daytona Prototype that lapped at 142.574 (119.328 mph) as GAINSCO led a tight group of four competitors that broke the 119 mph barrier.
“We had a really balanced car and improved it throughout the day,” Gurney said. “Obviously we are pretty happy but it is awfully close. I think we have three guys within 1/10th of a second so there is no breathing room there. We are not sure what exactly everyone did with tires but we are pretty happy with the balance, so it is a good start to the weekend.”
GAINSCO, Gurney and Fogarty, the 2007 and 2009 GRAND-AM Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Champions, are still looking for their first 2012 race win in what has been a tough season of incredibly bad luck. Mechanical and contact issues have sidelined the No. 99 “Red Dragon” in three of the year’s first seven races but the GAINSCO team has been competitive at every event.
“Really, the last four or five races we have been right up there,” Gurney said. “It is no different today than the last few. We have been confident going into all of those but little things have kept cropping up. Watkins Glen has always been so good to us, however, so I think this is the place where we turn it around.”
GAINSCO, Gurney and Fogarty won the 2007 Sahlen’s at The Glen from the pole and came back later that season to take another victory from the pole in the August sprint race on the NASCAR short course. Since that sweep, GAINSCO has scored three additional podium finishes and one more pole at The Glen. GAINSCO also won back-to-back poles at Detroit and Mid-Ohio earlier this month, the last two times the GRAND-AM Rolex Series has qualified after time trials were rained out one race ago at Road America. Fogarty, GAINSCO’s usual qualifying driver, will be going for three straight poles in tomorrow morning’s qualifying session.
“We think we have a quick car and we are going to throw everything at it and try to get the pole position,” Fogarty said. “Starting up front is never a bad thing, that’s our goal, but at the same time we are balancing that with how we want to race.”
GAINSCO is also developing a strategy to deal with some improved speed from the Ford and BMW powered cars after recent GRAND-AM Rolex Series rules changes.
“We are a little concerned about the speed of the Fords on the back straight so we have been trying to balance that a little bit, thinking of race day,” Gurney. “It usually ends up really close, even closer than today, so I am guessing we haven’t seen what everybody has.”
GAINSCO was able to get familiar with the latest version of the series-standard Continental Tire on Friday, the same racing slick they will use in next month’s debut race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) and in the return visit to The Glen for the NASCAR short course race in August.
“We have had real good longevity here and I think that is going to allow us to have a little bit more freedom in how we run the race,” Fogarty said. “We can potentially go longer on a fuel load on one set of tires, it’s not something we usually have the luxury of doing, but these Continentals seem to allow us to do that here at Watkins Glen. That’s going to make the race pretty interesting.”