TEAM NEWS: Challenge of VIRginia lures GAINSCO duo back into action for fast-paced, split-class VIR 400k

Photo by John Thawley DANVILLE, Va. (April 27, 2007) -- Beginning today in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series VIR 400k at the VIRginia International Raceway, Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty will mark a milestone in their partnership behind the wheel of the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac-powered Riley. One year ago here, Fogarty reunited with his former Toyota Atlantic teammate and began forging a driving team that is today second-to-none in the Daytona Prototype class.

On Sunday afternoon, the duo will face Round Four of the 2007 Rolex Series championship chase -- 77 grueling laps of the historic 3.27-mile circuit, set in the forested hills of southern Virginia. It's a test that both drivers, along with team owner Bob Stallings, call one of the most challenging -- and yet most rewarding -- of the year.

"The VIR track is one of the best on the schedule," Gurney said. "It's very fast and very fun for the driver, with the wild Esses and big elevation changes. I wish there were more tracks like it on our calendar."

Fogarty could add nothing but more praise for the circuit, citing its combination of technical sections and rhythm corners as particularly notable. Last year was not only his first-ever drive in the GAINSCO machine, it was his first-ever visit to VIR, and with a year of experience under his belt, he's eagerly awaiting the challenge.

"Here, there's a great mix of corners and much more elevation change than you'd expect from watching it on TV," Fogarty said. "A few of the corners and brake zones really demand bravery, and others really put a premium on setup. Plus, there's the long straightaways which call for all-out speed. This course challenges every aspect of a race team -- the drivers, engineers and engine manufacturers."

This weekend, for the first time this season, the Daytona Prototypes will race separately from the Grand Touring machines, and that will add yet another layer of uncertainty and complexity to the race. Stallings said everything from the number of yellows to the overall pace could be affected.

"Without GTs, it'll be an extremely interesting race. With fewer cars, there should be fewer yellows, and that means a couple cars have a chance to break away from the pack and control the race," Stallings said. "The pace could be blistering -- much like Mexico City was this year." At that caution-free event, Gurney and Fogarty broke through for the GAINSCO team's first-ever Rolex Series victory.

Gurney had similar thoughts. "There might be fewer chances to pass without the GT cars to serve as picks," he said. "Qualifying will be even more important than normal. Lucky for us, Jon has had no trouble with that." In three races, the GAINSCO machine has started no worse than second -- after Alex took the pole at Daytona to kick off the season, Fogarty's taken a pair of outside poles.

The team's goal this weekend is clear -- get the No. 99 Pontiac back on the championship track. If that means playing things a bit conservative and settling for a podium, then that's what they'll do.

"What we have to remember is that we won't get the GAINSCO car into the points lead in a single race, so we can't risk everything for one spot," Fogarty said. "We could stand to be a bit conservative and get that top-3 that will bring us back to where we want to be."

Gurney was in full agreement. "As a team, we want to start putting together a string of consistent podium finishes. That's the way we get into the championship fight."

Gurney and Fogarty will take to the track this afternoon for an un-sanctioned track test session, while official timed practice will begin Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Eastern time, with the 15-minute qualifying session following at 2:40 p.m. The green flag will drop on the 400-kilometer, 77-lap or two-hour and 30-minute VIR 400k for the Daytona Prototypes at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The race will be broadcast live on SPEED Channel.

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