Adieu Red Dragon – till we meet again
The No. 99 GAINSCO “Red Dragon” Corvette DP led from pole at the start of the Rolex 24 at Daytona
Bob Stallings’ GAINSCO Racing intended to run a limited schedule in this year’s inaugural TUDOR United Sports Car Championship (TUSCC), intending to contest only the four-race North American Endurance Championship (NAEC) that began with the Rolex 24 at Daytona in late January.
The idea had merit and Stallings was pretty smart with his intentions. After all, his is a single entry that’s gone up against other teams with much larger backing. While he’s had two of the best drivers in the series – since it was Grand-Am – in Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney, Stallings wanted to get a better idea of how this mixture of American Le Mans Series (ALMS) P2 open cockpit prototypes and Grand-Am’s closed coupe formula would interact together before he put together a full-season attack.
It all started well enough with pole position at Daytona for the “Red Dragon” Corvette DP, the first of four Corvette DPs on the large, 17-car Prototype grid – of 67 cars total. Stallings and his crew were confident pre-race and he even acknowledged that, should they win this 52nd mid-winter classic twice-around-the-clock competition he might be open to a full-season assault. But within three hours everything changed when driver Memo Gidley came upon Matteo Malucelli’s stopped GTLM Ferrari F458 Italia and leapfrogged it.
Gidley was severely injured in the accident and remained in Halifax Hospital for nearly a week before being transported back to his Northern California home. Stallings was by his side for nearly all of that week, reminding one and all why we appreciate his worth as a member of the sports car community. Memo’s got a long road to health, that much is certain, and Stallings used this time to reflect on his own plans for the balance of the NAEC racing season.
It took nearly a month to make the decision, but Bob Stallings has elected to suspend operations of his Prototype team through the 2014 season and regroup for next year. He’s released both Fogarty and Gurney to find rides with other entries as he makes his plans to compete again in 2015.
“It is with great regret that we will have to suspend operations for the balance of the 2014 season,” Stallings explained. “Since Daytona, priority one for us has been on Memo’s recovery. Everyone on the team has been focused on his care and comfort, and it has meant the world to see such support from the fans and the racing community at large.”
While Stallings realizes that Gidley has a long road ahead, “The worst is behind him and it has allowed us to step back and take a look at the program at large. With both the personal and economic strain this has put on us, we feel it’s in the best interest of everyone to sit out this year, with a firm focus on a return in 2015.”
The team’s primary Corvette DP was destroyed – I’m not sure that there were any pieces that could be reused in competition – in Gidley’s accident. To build a new car for three remaining North American Endurance Championship races was not in Stallings’ best interest. In addition to the drivers, he has released the crew “for opportunities with other teams.”
While it’s a darn shame for TUSCC to lose Grand-Am’s two-time champions (2007-2009), Stallings is doing (what I think is) the right thing in stepping back and regrouping. The team owner had reservations about running at all this year, something he expressed in 2013, as he wanted to see just how a combined series would “shake out” before committing resources and personal energy. If and when he decides to return, it will be with a strength and resolve.
Words and Photos By Anne Proffit