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GAINSCO team hopes bad luck ends at the Glen

There is a school of thought in sports that believes statistics can be misleading. Often the perception that one gets from just reading a stat sheet can be far different from reality.

For proof, look at the season results to date for co-drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty and their No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette Riley Daytona Prototype team that competes in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series. It appears the team is not running very well.

Through seven races in 2012, the team has finished ninth or worse four times with just one podium finish, that as a runner-up at Barber Motorports Park in Birmingham, Ala., on March 31.

However, the reality as the team prepares for this weekend's Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International is that the GAINSCO squad could very well have at least two or three wins this season. In the last four races, frustrating problems have knock the athletes down while they were leading or near the lead. During that same span they won the pole at Belle Isle (Detroit) and Mid-Ohio with Fogarty behind the wheel.

After the front suspension broke with Fogarty driving just 30 minutes into the two-hour race at the most recent Grand-Am event last Sunday at Road America, Gurney of Irvine, Calf., simply said, "I don't know, I guess people are probably tired of us talking about all the problems we have been having and we are, too. I am going home for a few days and come back and we will start all over again with GAINSCO at Watkins Glen."

Gurney was in the car at Road America for only one before the car was retired, thus he did not score championship points. Fogarty is currently 10th in Rolex series points and Gurney 11th.

At Mid-Ohio, June 9, Fogarty was leading when he developed power steering issues. A few laps later he came to the pits to have the problem addressed and to turn the wheel over to Gurney. The problem was diagnosed as a faulty ECU unit. When the problem was resolved Gurney rejoined the fray a full two laps down.

"I got one of those laps back and the car was running the fastest lap times of anyone late in that race, and, in fact, we were running 18.5 (second) laps and the leader was doing 19.5 but it was too late. If not for the problem we would have won that race for sure," Gurney declared.

At Belle Isle June 2, Fogarty came into the pits to hand the lead over to Gurney. The door latch broke and Fogarty was delayed a few extra seconds getting out of the car. Gurney returned to the track in fourth.

A few laps later Gurney came onto pit road under caution to make a pit stop. "As I was coming onto pit road the guys told me on the radio that the pits were closed so they advised me not to stop but drive through the pits," Gurney said. "My guys were told the pits were closed by Grand-Am. Literally seconds later, as I was exiting pit road, they told me that Grand-Am now was saying the pits were open. As a result everyone else got to pit sooner than me and I dropped to eighth. We got shafted."

Gurney wound up fourth at Belle Isle.

May 13 at New Jersey Motorsports Park, Gurney was putting heavy pressure on the leader, Max Angelelli, when the third-place runner, Scott Pruett, hit the back of Gurney's machine, effectively ending GAINSCO's day.

The team certainly knows how to succeed as evidenced by GAINSCO's two Grand-Am Daytona Prototype championships, earned in 2007 and 2009. Ever since Bob Stallings has fielded a car in Daytona Prototype, beginning in 2005, Gurney has been one of his drivers.

"We became good friends in 2002," said Gurney of Stallings. "Bob was racing in the SCCA Formula Atlantic class and I was his driving coach. We worked well together, we hit it off. In 2004, Bob won the SCCA Runoffs and decided he wanted to move on to something else.

Fogarty joined the team in 2006. Gurney is the son of racing legend Dan Gurney.

"He comes to my races when we race in California," said Alex. "My dad really likes to be involved in the technical side of things so he is always asking me about what set-up were are trying at the different tracks. I've learned a lot about the technical part of the sport from him. That's important."

The GAINSCO bunch has tasted success at The Glen, winning the Sahlen's event in 2007 and reaching the podium with a third-place last year.

"We've won the six hours and Watkins Glen has been really good to us," said Alex. "We've been on the podium many times there and that breeds confidence."

One of the teams that Gurney and his team will be trying to beat is Michael Shank Racing's (MSR) No. 60 Ford Riley entry owned by Michael Shank of Pataskala, Ohio. This past January, MSR scored a very prestigious honor finishing first and third in the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The win at the Rolex 24 for Shank came courtesy of his four co-drivers competing in the No. 60 for that event, including regular MSR drivers Oswaldo Negri Jr. and John Pew. Joining them at Daytona was IndyCar Series star Justin Wilson and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitor A.J. Allmendinger. Negri and Pew will handle the co-driving chores this weekend. Wilson and Allmendinger are involved in racing in their own respective series these days.

"That's finally wore off a little bit but it took a very long time," said Shank of the deep happy emotion he felt following his team's Daytona triumph. "I've been trying to win that race for nine years and to finish first and third was a phenomenal result. We had a party for a month after that race."

Shank also suffered through a very dramatic scene two years ago at The Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen. "Two years ago, in 2010, Michael Valiante was driving our car and was running fourth with just 40 minutes to go when the engine caught fire," recalled Shank. "He got it stopped at the entrance to pit road. I just watched the car burn right to the ground. It happened in front of so many people and on television. Michael was OK and our team rebounded well from that incident but that was the type of drama I prefer never to relive again."

MSR's No. 60 car finished fourth in last year's Sahlen's event but Shank says that his squad can make the step up onto the podium this weekend.

While MSR is fourth in Rolex series points, MSR leads the North American points rankings by virtue of its Daytona victory heading to The Glen.

email: lawrence_o_14075@yahoo.com