ALEX GURNEY, SHIFTING GEARS And da Matta gets a ride Before getting out the door today to undertake a cross-country journey that'll knock nearly 12-hours off his California-based internal clock, Alex Gurney squeezed in some last-minute time ...
ALEX GURNEY, SHIFTING GEARS
And da Matta gets a ride
Before getting out the door today to undertake a cross-country journey that'll knock nearly 12-hours off his California-based internal clock, Alex Gurney squeezed in some last-minute time being a "dad" to his daughter, 15-month-old Natalie.
"I've totally been 'Mr. Mom' since the Rolex 24," Gurney said, laughingly. "It just keeps getting better all the time."
"Natalie's at the point where she's starting to learn and say a lot of new words and that's really been exciting seeing her do that."
If spending at home with Natalie and his wife, Colleen, isn't already reward enough, Gurney cherishes hanging out his father, the legendary Dan Gurney, too.
"When I'm home on Sundays we get in a little bike ride," Alex Gurney said. "It's something we've done - whether dirt bikes or road bikes - for as long as I can remember."
Nowadays, Gurney and his father most often ride a couple of S & S Alligator motorcycle prototypes - a 124cc V-twin bike designed and built by Dan Gurney Alligator Motorcycles that soon will make its official debut.
Heading for Saturday's GAINSCO Miami Grand Prix at Homestead-Miami Speedway meant switching gears in yet another way for Alex Gurney, who for the first time in 60 days will actually compete when the field takes the checkered flag at 3 p.m. EDT (broadcast in High Definition, tape-delayed, at 6 p.m. Saturday on SPEEDtv).
"After a layoff like this you sometimes wonder if you get a little rusty," Gurney said, "but I get right back into the groove after a couple of laps."
It's not that Gurney hasn't been in a race car at all since the Rolex 24. Indeed, he and regular-season teammate Jon Fogarty put in some seat time in an HMS open-test last month.
More recently, though, Gurney and Fogarty hung out with Christiano da Matta, who tested a Pontiac-powered GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Daytona Prototype at the 2.5-mile, 15-turn Eagles Canyon Raceway near Slidell, Texas.
"It's a really neat course," Gurney said. "It has a lot of elevation change and some challenging turns. David and Linda Cook were wonderful hosts."
With owner Stallings en route to Miami and incommunicado, left to read between the lines found on a Wednesday press release expressing "hope" for da Matta joining the team in a second Gainsco DP and then later seeing owner Stallings say it was fait accompli on a SPEEDtv Web-site video feed, yours truly just up-and-called yet another party - not Alex Gurney (see, Alex, I told you I'd throw 'em off the trail) - for a best-two-out-of-three.
"It'll be officially announced Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway," said the source - whose initials aren't "AG" in case you missed the above (I'm still working it, Alex) and who took pity on this befuddled senior citizen.
"It was on video and we couldn't just chop that part out. You know Bob; he loves this sport and just gets so enthusiastic about it. He just let it slip."
Yes, it's true; bless his pea-pickin' (smart like a fox) heart.
So, here it is: the Gainsco team on Friday at HMS will announce that da Matta will be making his competitive racing return in the No. 98 Gainsco Pontiac-Riley, joined by co-driver Jimmy Vasser, for the May 17 Rolex Series' race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Raceway.
"We actually tested the (No.) 98 at Eagles Canyon last week," Gurney said, noting that the No. 99 Gainsco Pontiac-Riley was being readied for its HMS race - with the DP Gen-2 Riley MkXX body.
"We're working as hard as possible to accumulate all the data we can on it," Gurney said, adding that the team raced the season's first race, the Rolex 24, running the DP Gen-1 bodywork with which Gurney, Fogarty, Vasser and Jimmie Johnson finished second, overall.
The most perplexing thing thus far for Gurney and team, though, isn't making the new body work (a nice, but initially unintentional twist on words), instead it's the new Pirelli P-Zero Grand-Am tires.
"Last season I didn't worry about locking up the brakes," Gurney said. "This year, we're doing all we can not to lock 'em up."
"The change all boils down to the tire, its weight and construction. We're putting in a lot of time trying to figure it out. We've made some pretty good progress."
The Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 will start its second 2008-season race on the 11-turn, 2.3-mile HMS course - one that's considerably different from Daytona's 3.56-mile race course.
"Except for that first turn coming off the front stretch, at each turn in Homestead we grab first gear - at least in our Gainsco car - and it's basically a drag race from one turn to the next," Gurney said.
"Daytona (International Speedway, site of the Rolex 24) is a track where you'll basically pretty much hit and stay at top speed a couple of times each lap. At Homestead you hardly have a chance to take a rest, at least, certainly not as compared to Daytona."
With more than 650 GAINSCO Auto Insurance agents expected to be on hand for the GAINSCO Miami Grand Prix and the following GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300, Gurney is probably wishing that he and Fogarty - the two teaming in 2007 to win the DP championship in record-setting fashion - could've had a "friendlier" track.
Since joining the Rolex Series at Laguna Seca for the 2005 season's fourth round, thus missing that year's Miami Grand Prix, the team's best HMS finish since has been a 6th-place in 2006, followed by an 11th-place finish in 2007.
"Bob's (Stallings) always telling me about how I can't allow negative thoughts to creep into my head about Homestead," Gurney said. "So, I'm doing my best but . . . let's just leave it at that; I'm doing my best."
"If we do everything right we can beat the (No.) 01 car. That's the goal Bob set for us."
Oh, and that No. 01 car?
That would be the ride of 2004 DP champion Scott Pruett (who had a birthday earlier this week, by the way) and Memo Rojas, who along with Juan Pablo Montoya, teamed to finish first in January's Rolex 24 - just ahead of the Gainsco gang.
Though Juan Pablo will be elsewhere this weekend, just as sure as the sun also rises, the Chip Ganassi Racing With Flex Sabates Lexus-Riley team is hoping to take a points lead with them to Rojas' Mexico City "home track" for the series' third-round race.
And that, according to those in the know, is what makes for a horse race.
DC Williams, exclusively for Motorsport.com