GAINSCO Racing tops both sessions on opening day in NJ GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing swept Friday’s pair of opening practice sessions for Sunday’s New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP) 250 presented by Crown Royal on NJMP’s Thunderbolt Raceway where Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty will be looking for their first victory of the season in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley. The 2-3/4-hour timed New Jersey race is Round Nine of 12 events on the 2010 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series schedule and the race can be seen live on SPEED, July 18, at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT.
“It was definitely a good day,” said Gurney, who turned Friday’s overall fastest lap time of 1:15.685 (107.023 mph) in the morning session. “We actually rolled off the trailer quite good but I think we all had a good feeling about this place. The general way we setup the car tends to work in the heat, it is obviously really hot here, and hopefully we will have more of the same the next two days. Either one of us could have turned the fastest lap in the morning, and this afternoon it was hotter and slipperier, and a little dirtier. It was also a little less cooperative with the GT cars, but the track itself was not hugely different.”
Drivers and teams had to contend Friday with hot and humid temperatures in the mid 90s, conditions that are expected to continue through the weekend. Although the No. 99 “Red Dragon” has traditionally performed well in extremely hot temperatures, the GAINSCO team will still work overnight on finding even more speed.
“We will look for more and always do,” Fogarty said. “There’s still imbalance there and we’ll try to solve that, but the car was quite good all around. So, a positive there but it’s hot, man, and there is a lot of rubber build up out there. That is going to make for an interesting race if you go off line anywhere in the back section of the track, and you have got a few corners where you are really hanging on.”
Gurney’s afternoon lap of 1:15.926 (106.683 mph) topped that practice session but Fogarty was on equal pace during his stints behind the wheel. Despite the out-of-the-box success, both drivers believe a winning race strategy will come down to more than just overall pace.
“Having a quick car is going to be important but playing it smart in the race, I think, is going to be a big key too this weekend with the number of GTs and the rubber build up,” Fogarty said. “If you stay on line it is good, and the track is in good shape and it is pretty fun. The dust issue from the inaugural event is long gone and that is pretty big. If people go off, you still get some clouds but it is not as bad. They have changed the curbs a little bit and firmed up the soil around those areas. The track is as good as it has ever been.”
The heat will be an issue for the second consecutive race after teams and drivers dealt with similar conditions one race ago in the Brumos Porsche 250 At Daytona on 4th of July weekend.
“It is just going to be a tough race physically,” Fogarty said. “It could change the level of competition if the weather changed dramatically, but it’s not going to. Balance wise, I prefer the conditions not to change, but for driver comfort I could deal with a lot cooler weather.”
Gurney and Fogarty finished sixth in last year’s rain-soaked race at NJMP and recovered from a late-race punt-and-run in 2008 to finish fifth after leading several laps. This season’s top finish was a third place in March’s Grand Prix of Miami.