Grand American Road Racing Association Media Conference
Topics: Grand American Road Racing Association
January 6, 2007
NATE SIEBENS: We're joined from Bob Stallings Racing co-drivers Bob Stallings, Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty.
Bob, let's start with you. I understand there's kind of maybe a bigger commitment this year from GAINSCO. Talk about the driver lineup you have for the Rolex 24 with the three of you plus Jimmy, who is not here, just maybe what you think your prospects are not only to win that race but to challenge for wins throughout the season and the championship.
BOB STALLINGS: First of all, I don't want to sound overly optimistic, but our ambition is to win a championship this year. We'd like very much to win this race. My objective personally is to figure out a way to come in here in the top five.
It's a long race. It's a very, very long race. A lot can happen. But it's the same amount of points as a Sprint race. We don't want to crash. We want the points at the end of the day.
I'm very, very excited about the driver lineup. Jimmy Vasser, Jon and Alex really get along extremely well together. They're all fast enough. We've definitely upgraded the team. Got a new crew chief. Pretty much a full-time group of guys. We're pretty excited.
NATE SIEBENS: Let's go to Alex, who is a new father. First of all, congratulations for that.
ALEX GURNEY: Thank you.
NATE SIEBENS: Talk about maybe coming here right on the heels of that and just what you think your chances are for this year.
ALEX GURNEY: Yeah, I had a little baby girl named Natalie about a week ago. We're very excited about that. She's healthy, beautiful. It was nice to spend a few extra days at home. Kyle Brannan, the engineer, had me scheduled just for the last day.
Came here. Jon and Jimmy worked on the car the last few days. Now I hopped in. It works perfectly. Pretty happy.
NATE SIEBENS: Alex, your dad won the first sports car race here at Daytona. How important would it be for you to join that list here in a couple weeks?
ALEX GURNEY: Well, obviously it would be huge. This race has become such an event. We can't believe walking around the paddock, looking down the list of drivers on the time sheet, that they're all here. F1 guys, NASCAR guys, all the champions from different series.
If you win here, you've done something really special. We're going to give it our best shot.
NATE SIEBENS: Thanks, Alex.
Jon, this will be your first full year in the Rolex Series after coming in part of the way through last year. Obviously you're here to challenge for a championship. Talk about how you feel things are coming along towards that.
JON FOGARTY: Yeah, I think I'm extremely fortunate to be able to compete in a full season this year with a team like the GAINSCO team. Their speed has been obvious since the inception of the team. Just really happy to be able to be a part of that and to contribute.
You know, this is a big event. It's easy to get caught into thinking it's almost like a standalone event because you have a lot of people here for just one race. It's easy to lose focus of the championship. In reality, this is part of a bigger picture. We are focusing heavily upon that.
It's a difficult race, I mean, for a number of reasons. I think the team has the focus and the personnel and the ability to get it done. Anything can happen. I think we're preparing for that. You know, we're preparing to go quick. We want to run up front. Really, we have to prepare for all the events that can occur over a 24-hour race.
NATE SIEBENS: Let's go ahead and take questions.
Q. The car has been fast now. Last year you were fast on quite a number of occasions, led a fair number of times. Things seemed to always happen to you at the least opportune moments. Talk about that, then talk about any steps you've taken either with the team or just a different mental outlook on how you're going to attempt to solve or fix those this year.
ALEX GURNEY: First off, Bob here gave us a boot to the head a few times because, you know, we probably did focus on being fast too much. That really isn't necessarily what wins races. We already know we can be at the front. We just need to manage races more, really just stay out of trouble. We just didn't stay out of trouble when we had the lead. Just seemed like luck wasn't on our side either.
We hope that with the team that Bob has now put together, with us being a little more seasoned, understanding that it's a three-hour race, mostly the Sprint races are three-hour races, not 20 minutes, you know, that's going to help a lot.
We've had a whole winter to just calm down and try and come back with a renewed approach.
NATE SIEBENS: Anything to add, Bob?
BOB STALLINGS: One of the other actions that we took was we have pretty much a full-time crew now instead of having fly-in guys. We have people who understand what their role is at every single track. Everybody ends up doing the exact same thing.
We also have a new crew chief, who has a tremendous amount of experience running endurance races. He has brought a sense of discipline that really wasn't there last year. I think he has a contingency plan now for just about everything that can happen. I hope he does, because last year whatever could happen ended up happening to this team.
There were two or three cases where we definitely should have won a race. Actually, these guys did fine. Something broke, we didn't anticipate it, took too long to fix it. We had a little bit of trouble getting the fuel hose out of the car once. We definitely should have won Watkins Glen. I think you'll see a much more professional effort this year.
NATE SIEBENS: Jon?
JON FOGARTY: These guys covered a lot of what went on last year. For sure, you know, when Bob brought me on from Alex's recommendation, I felt like, you know, Bob, he had the opportunity to choose from a pool of talented drivers. I certainly wanted to prove my speed. I think at times that was my focus more than anything.
You know, had time to think it through, realized really again the bigger picture. Focused on being consistent, not making mistakes.
I also don't think that our new crew chief, Linc, would give us a boot to the head if we bring the car back to the pits banged up. That's a good motivation, as well.
Q. Both drivers, you mentioned "focus." Do you bring that with you, to an endurance race like this? Do you learn focus also?
JON FOGARTY: Well, I mean, it's kind of a broad term. In order to put in a fast lap, you have to be extremely focused. In order to win a race, it's a broader focus, kind of taking into account more things, almost having to focus on patience. Patience in and of itself is there, but when you're behind the wheel of a car, it's easy to lose sight of it.
You know, it's all part of endurance racing. In reality, I'd say Alex and I are pretty new to it, as is the team entirely. We're going to focus on going fast. I mean, the reality is we're still racing. You got to run up front. But we have a broader focus.
NATE SIEBENS: Alex, anything?
ALEX GURNEY: No. That pretty much covers it. I mean, you do learn focus. The races are longer. Seems like a lot of stuff happens at the beginning, everyone runs into each other, then Ganassi wins (laughter). That's kind of what we learned.
We're going to try -- we look at the races that have happened and say, Oh, we didn't need to do that at the beginning. There were still two hours to go. Something like that.
We'll definitely approach the race a little different. We're still going to be different, but we're going to try to be there at the end.
Q. This is a crew chief's race in a lot of ways because he's the one guy with the car the whole race. Bob, could you tell us more about your new crew chief, full name?
BOB STALLINGS: Linc Smith is the guy's name. Basically he's been racing for, gosh, 25 or 28 years. He's had a tremendous amount of experience here. I think he has run, I believe, eight or nine 24-hour races. He has run one BP effort. Came highly recommended to us by Michael Shank. Ran a car for them at the 24 Hours, as a matter of fact. He just has racing in his blood. He loves sports car racing. He loves endurance racing.
He has the respect of everybody in the team already, and he's new. If you watch us in the pits, it's just a little bit more disciplined now than it was before. Everybody in the crew kind of turns their head and looks to Linc all the time during pit stops and so forth. That's giving us that focus and leadership that we need.
One more thing on this focus thing. The focus thing is very important. The guys still have to race. These guys are hauling butt throughout this entire 24-hour period of time. The example I can give you is you have to remember, if you're halfway through the race, you're following a guy through the kink, you may have to wait until you get past the kink to pass him. It's just little things like that where you're saying, I can probably get by, but why don't I just wait because I have plenty of time to get by. That's the focus.
Q. Jon, it's my understanding that you had other opportunities maybe last year, again, maybe some opportunities to do other things coming into this year, but you've decided to stay here with this team. Why is that?
JON FOGARTY: I mean, I guess a lot of it has to do really with the people involved. You know, that's really what it boils down to. We're here working together. I knew Alex, of course, from the past, being teammates, his character, his abilities. I had been witness to a lot of Kyle Brannan's engineering. Then after meeting Bob, you just get a good feeling.
It's a good place. It's just a great environment to work in. The organization and the size of the operation, I feel like I can be a true member of it and a contributor. You know, you're presented with to lot of opportunities; you try to weigh the pros and cons. A lot of times you just end up going with your gut feeling of what's right. This felt for sure like the right place for me, this team.
Within the series that it's running in, the Grand American series, obviously it's tremendous growth, the competitiveness of the series is real attractive to any driver.
NATE SIEBENS: Gentlemen, thanks for joining us. Congratulations on another year here. Best of luck here in a couple weeks.
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