ROARING THROUGH DAY 2
UP FRONT . . .
. . . Penske Racing's Porsche Riley morph from the No. 7 to No. 16 isn't going to also include a switch to a purplish color scheme as stated in this column Saturday. It'll be black and gold, as will be demonstrated in a couple of hours when a show car is unveiled.
Inasmuch as my late father was a serious Crown Royal, um, "supporter," your correspondent has been collecting Crown Royal purple bottle bags since a wee lad.
Though Scotch is preferred by yours truly, to this day those visiting this writer's abode and seeking a Canadian whiskey get Crown Royal - and it's now from the No. 16 cask (which must be enormous to have filled all the available bottles).
Having a more-than-adequate quantity of purple bags on hand, a change to your basic black and gold bag will be a welcomed change. Um, you marketing guys ARE doing that, aren't you?
BEFORE DRAINING THE BOTTLE . . .
. . . and moving on to other teams: in the absolute, overwhelming litany of motorsports bad-news it was nice to learn from Penske Racing general manager John Erickson that good employers and employees can be paired.
As most sportscar enthusiasts are aware, Penske Racing fielded two ALMS teams, which meant two gas passers (sans others having ingested beans, of course), two tire changers and so on.
The dilemma: whittling the two teams into one Rolex Series team, what will happen to the "expendable" crew members?
Solution: keep 'em working within the company.
"Some went to the IRL side, others went to the NASCAR side, but they didn't lose their jobs within Penske Racing," Erickson said.
To be sure, those former sportscar crewmembers will need to keep high productivity at the top of personal work priorities, but they already demonstrated such capacity in literal championship-winning form.
The enterprise for which those crewmembers labor - also knowing what it takes to be a champion - know high productivity is a key part of a winning formula and sought to retain such.
Even more positives can be found in the deal, but the reader surely can take it from here.
FASTEST GUYS . . .
. . . in each of Sunday's three Rolex Series practices were: In the first session, Level5's No. 55 Edata Solutions/Supercar Life Racing BMW-powered Riley with 1996 Rolex 24 winner Christophe Bouchut in the seat, posted a 1:41.884 (125.790 mph) lap in the No. 55. Co-drivers are Scott Tucker and Ed Zabinski.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing's 2008 IRL IndyCar Series champion and Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon (Dario Franchitti, Alex Lloyd co-driving) led the second session with a lap of 1:42.298 (125.281 mph) in the team's No. 02 Lexus-Riley.
Romain Dumas who, along with Timo Bernhard, in 2007 won an ALMS championship in a Penske Racing Porsche Spyder took third-session honors with a 1:42.154 (125.458 mph) in the soon-to-be No. 16 Crown Royal Cask No. 16 (black and gold) Porsche-Riley (co-drivers are Bernhard, again, and Ryan Briscoe) and the Frenchman still is "toasting" The Kink.
GT's respective fastest shoes in Saturday's sessions, one through three, were Dominik Farnbacher's 1:51.424 (115.020 mph) in the No. 86 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3; David Haskell and the SpeedSource No. 70 Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8 did a 1:52.039 (114.389 mph); and, slowpoke Andy Lally lapped the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway course in 1:51.739 (114.696 mph) in the No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3.
Still unbeaten are Saturday times set in the respective class ranks by Michael Valiante (1:41.760 (125.943 mph) driving Mike Shank Racing's No. 6 Ford Riley and Sylvain Tremblay's (1:51.205 (115.247) in the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8.
However, the respective Rolex 24 class records also as yet haven't been threatened: DP - Ozz Negri, MSR, 1:40.793, 127.152 mph; GT - Sylvain Tremblay, SpeedSource, 1:50.758, 115.712 mph.
BROTHERS IN CARS . . .
. . . Jimmie Johnson, who also races in another arena in the NASCAR motorsports family (in fact, he's a three-time champ there; consecutively, too) arrived Saturday, bearded.
Yep, "Mr. Clean" has become the antithesis, "Mr. Dirty." He's expected to perfect a potty mouth at any moment, too.
The beard even had a few specks of gray, which surprised Johnson when it first grew out (JJ, there are a few more surprises in store for the rest of your aging process, too, believe me). Now closely cropped, Johnson said he had allowed the beard to grow longer and even found some stray "red" hairs, which left him a tad confused.
(The rest of today's society notes will be found elsewhere; anywhere.)
Johnson, the racer, will compete in his fifth Rolex 24 At Daytona, come Jan. 24-25, with Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and Jimmy Vasser in Bob Stallings' No. 99 GAINSCO Insurance Pontiac-Riley.
Though he did not compete in the 2006 race, Johnson has twice finished second in the endurance classic: in 2005 with Butch Leitzinger and Elliott Forbes-Robinson ('sup, EFR? Give a shout to Lounette, please) in a Boss-Howard Pontiac Crawford; and, in 2008, with Fogarty, Gurney and Jimmy Vasser in the No. 99 GAINSCO car.
His other Rolex 24 finishes were 28th in 2004 (same team as '05, plus car-owner/driver David Brule, a helluva guy) and, in his worst run - but not quite as bad as the No. 99's finish (46th) in the same race - struggled to a 36th-place in 2007 with the No. 91 Riley Matthews Motorsports Pontiac-Riley team. Just to add a little salt to festering wounds, guys, Milka Duno and company (SAMAX) finished second in that race.
Asked for his favorite Rolex 24 moment, Johnson didn't hesitate: "The sun coming up on Sunday morning after racing all night long. It's an interesting feeling, physically and emotionally - one I'd really hadn't experienced before the Rolex 24 - when that sun hits you. And finishing the race, just completing it, can be interesting, too."
"But then there's also nothing like the wake-up call that jars you awake at 4 a.m., either."
"You finally get to sleep after being up all day, so exhausted, then what seems like moments after you fall asleep you suddenly wake up to someone pounding on the coach door, damn-near go into cardiac arrest thinking you must've missed your stint by having overslept - it's such an adrenaline rush," Johnson laughed.
1996 CART champ Jimmy Vasser (who that season bested a second-place Michael Andretti by 18 points) said that while he annually might run a couple of other races and, of course, gets wrapped up in his IndyCar Series team (co-owned with Kevin Kalkhoven), KV Racing, the Rolex 24 is his one, big yearly chance to get in some serious driving.
"It's one of those races that everybody wants to have on their (winning) resume and I want one," Vasser said.
"I don't get much of an opportunity to drive anymore so, for me, this is my (entire) race-year - from a behind-the-wheel standpoint."
"I'm fortunate that Bob (Stallings) has given me this opportunity, which is my fourth time in a row."
Vasser won his 1996 CART title running with Target Chip Ganassi Racing and well knows the team - at least most of its upper-echelon players - who'll be on or around the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates' TELMEX war wagons. It's also the team he most fears in the Rolex 24.
"They've got two bullets in their gun; two good ones. Two solid, fast cars with solid driver lineups and they are, hands down, the ones to beat again," Vasser said while giving a literal nod toward the Penske Racing pit.
"They (Penske Racing) were on our heels last year (finishing third behind GAINSCO's second)."
"Obviously, you've got Ganassi going for four in a row, but this GAINSCO team has been right here - battling side-by-side with them for the last few seasons - and pretty well know what to expect from them."
"But we're all on an equal playing field here and with the driver lineup we have and with the driver continuity we have, I think we've got as good a chance - if not the best chance - of any team on pit lane."
"Besides, they (CGRwFS) have had plenty of glory."
DC Williams, written exclusively for Motorsport.com