Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty have but one aim as the Grand-Am Rolex Series rolls onto the 1.3-mile Iowa Speedway road course this week - to put the #99 GAINSCO Riley-Pontiac into Victory Lane for a series-record fourth consecutive race.
A poor start to the year at Daytona has left the pair on the back foot when it comes to chasing the series title, but they refuse to give up on the ambition, and are clearly the form pairing at present. The duo now sits third in both team and driver standings, but know that they will have to keep closing the 17-point gap to leader Scott Pruett and the 13-point gap to second place Max Angelelli with six races remaining on the schedule.
Win or lose, Gurney and Fogarty have got to finish the 192-lap, 400km, Iowa race - the first Grand-AM event to run there - and that finish has to be ahead of the team's two championship rivals.
“What we have to do is go out and collect as many points as we are able to,” Fogarty confirmed, “We need to keep the car in one piece, because time and time again we've seen Pruett playing it smart on the track – and, lo and behold, he's the championship leader. Going fast but racing smart – that's what it will take and that's what we plan on doing this weekend, and for the rest of the year.”
Gurney added that the #99 team's test at the Iowa circuit in May would be key to his and Fogarty's ability to come up to speed at the unfamiliar facility. He praised the brand-new track as 'state of the art' and said it poses unique challenges to drivers, pit crews and engineers alike.
“Set-up-wise, Iowa is unlike any other track we go to, so I think we were fortunate to test here,” he said, “Because of the very short lap times, there'll be a real emphasis on strategy and pit-stop times. You're almost guaranteed to go down a lap if you pit under green, and this will really make the pit races interesting.”
Those battles could be an advantage to the GAINSCO crew, as the team's stellar pit-stop performances in recent races has drawn praise.
“Our crew guys have worked very hard to be quick over the wall and they've really delivered, especially in the last few races,” Gurney said, “It's so much fun to be a part of this team right now – we're really on a roll and we're all trying to stay focused so we can continue this streak.”
Team owner Bob Stallings has made his drivers' orders clear. The all-out speed the #99 has shown over the past few races is an important piece of the puzzle, but that speed must be translated into consistent results on the track for it to mean anything in the points battle.
“Iowa is a very important race for the GAINSCO team, and I'm quite certain that success this weekend will not come from speed, but from racecraft, pit strategy and precision driving,” Stallings said, “Staying out of trouble will be key, because I believe there will be plenty of it.”