NASCAR/Grand-Am Teleconference Transcript
December 2, 2009
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this special edition NASCAR Grand Am Teleconference. Joining us today are Bob Stallings, whose team won its second Grand Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Championship this year, along with driver's, Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, and two special guest drivers.
First we'd like to welcome Bob Stallings with some good news to share regarding the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, Daytona Prototype for the 2010 season for which the team has continued to lead the way by filing the very first entry for the season opening Rolex 24 at Daytona in January. Bob?
BOB STALLINGS: I didn't realize we were the first ones to file. Maybe that's a good omen for the win at 24. I'd like to announce two exciting items for our 2010 program. Number one we have to pick an engine manufacturer for the 2010 season. We've had terrific luck with our GM program. We won a championship in '07 and in '09. But, unfortunately, Pontiac is no longer available to us.
But Chevrolet is available to us, and we're really excited to get the bow tie put on the car. And we'll be running a Chevy at the 24 Hour race this year and for the balance of the 2010 season.
I'm also very excited to announce that the same four drivers that got us a second place position and a seventh place position in the two previous runs are going to join us again this year for the 24 Hour race.
Jimmie Johnson, Jimmy Vasser, Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney will be in the car driving, and I'm real excited about this year. I think we've got the team and the equipment to pull off a win at the 24 Hour race.
THE MODERATOR: That's great news. We'll take questions for Bob, along with Alex, Jon, and Jimmy Vasser in just a few minutes. But first we'd like to welcome Jimmie Johnson, and thank him for taking a few minutes away from celebrating his unprecedented fourth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.
Jimmie, what would it mean to become the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion to also win the Rolex overall at Daytona?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It would be unbelievable. I've had such a great time with Bob and his entire race team. I'm really looking forward to the 24 Hour race. Big compliments go out to the GAINSCO team and their championship.
It was exciting to watch last year and an awesome battle all the way to the end. Very proud of the guys, and I hope to be involved and do a better job this year.
The 24 kind of broke our toy last year after a pit stop. We've had a great time though, and I know that it's very important for all of us to win the Rolex 24. We're going to show up with that in mind.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Jimmie Johnson.
Q: Now please comment on the championship aspect of this team, the defending Grand Am Rolex Champion and yourself getting together for the Rolex. Secondarily to that, does finishing second in the Rolex suck as bad as finishing second with the Cup at Daytona? And with your history in that race, what would it mean to win it you?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: From my perspective, to go off and race a different vehicle. The second place we were able to get a couple years ago meant a lot to me. You know, in a Cup race a second because we've won there before is a little more aggravating than finishing second in a Rolex race for me, and I would assume for my teammates it's kind of the opposite way around.
But it's such a great event. So much fun. Such a challenge for me to learn the car, the braking zones, turning points and everything that goes with it. You know, a competitive run, racing with the top guys in sports car racing really from around the world they compete in the race. It says a lot for me, and means a lot for me to leave my comfort zone and to do something different.
Q: My congratulations to you on the Sprint Cup championship. My question to you is what kind of either mental or physical adjustments do you have to make in transitioning from the heavier stock car to the sports car where you're around drivers you don't know a whole lot about and an entirely different racing mode or racing environment?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, it's a totally different world. Spotters aren't regularly used in Grand Am Racing. The seats themselves, you know, are designed to fit all four drivers instead of just molded to one guy and all comfortable in all the things that I would want.
The head and neck systems are different, so there is a lot more strain on your neck and shoulders. Plus the car is more physical with the braking and the G's that it pulls in the turns. Obviously, the length of the race.
So there is a much greater physical demand on on the body, mentally as well. You're out on the track with a variety of different not only classes, but as far as drivers and their abilities. It's really easy to get sucked into situations with some of the GT cars and even some of the prototype cars.
It is a totally different discipline, and that's what makes it so interesting and challenging for me is that it's so outside of my comfort zone, that I really, really enjoy the challenge that comes with it.
Q: I was interested in the mental aspect of going from sort of a mono situation where it's you and Chad and, you know, the whole thing. Maybe I could the one point that I wish you'd comment on, how much prep and plans are made now with four drivers? Is that like a lengthy process? Is there like a pre like a lot of meetings about that or is it more of a casual thing where you'll take the first run and I'll take the second? If you could answer that, I'd appreciate it.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: There is a lot of stuff that goes on from the team's side. I feel pretty fortunate as a driver and coming in for just the event. But I just need to focus on the areas that I'm driving the car, and some of the meetings that I need to attend.
But I know from Bob Stallings standpoint, and Kyle and others at the Stallings team, there's a lot that goes on for this race for four drivers. It's tough enough to take care of one in cup, and generally two in the Rolex Series.
But when you have four guys there's a lot of planning and a lot of strategy involved for how the rotation works. Also, too, the night, physically how guys are doing. What's been going on. Who is in the other cars on out on the track. So there is a lot of strategy that's involved.
But we're just going to do our thing. They wake us up, bring us to the pit, tell us when to get in. The engineers make all those decisions though.
Q: Given the fact that you've done so well over in the Sprint Cup, the first time you ran in the 24 was Butch Leitzinger and Elliot Forbes Robinson I believe along with you for the ride. You finished second. That seems to be a rather repetitious thing for you second place. In so far as best finishes go for the Rolex 24 is concerned, why do you keep coming back for such abuse?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I like the abuse. I've been growing up racing a lot of endurance off road races. And back then I really liked the race in theory, but wasn't mature enough as a driver to last and survive, and finished I think second in the Baja 1000 in a buggy. But all the other attempts were short lived. I was fast for a period of time and didn't finish.
I feel since I've matured as a driver, yeah, I do appreciate the talent that comes with an endurance race and really enjoy the physical and mental demands that come with it. Just really think it's a great series, great cars, the people, everything associated with it is is really a good time. And I enjoy competing in it.
Q: Are you going to have an opportunity to test at all before the 24 with GAINSCO?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: We're looking at it. My schedule's pretty full. So I'm not sure it's going to workout like we'd hope. So right now I think it's a no until race weekend.
Q: You've done various steps in racing you were talking about the Baja 1000, and I know you've done the Race of Champions. The Rolex 24 is kind of looked at like an all-star event. Where does it rank in the races that you run? How important would it be if you won it as far as like between that or race champions or Sprint Cup race or something like that?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I think (the) Race of Champions is a fun event, but it's really a show. You bring in two representatives from each country and have fun, and put on a short format for the fans. The Rolex 24 is an event that's been around for ages. A lot of prestige that goes with it.
To me it's in the top five of races in the world. You can lump it in with the 24 hours at Le Mans, Daytona 500, the Monaco Grand Prix, you know, Brickyard. I don't know if I mentioned Daytona 500 in there. But it's in those top 5 tracks in races. I think it's in the top five of all racing worldwide.
Q: I'm wondering what kind of parallels you see between Bob's team and your own championship winning organization?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I do see a lot of similarities. First and foremost, good people. People that really enjoy to go racing, and love racing, and because of that, you know, it doesn't seem like work, all the hours and time that's put into it. With all the time that goes into it comes the result, so I have a great time working with everyone. Very professional, organized and accomplished race team. So I've really, really enjoyed it.
Hopefully as time goes on we can draw more attention to the team and bring in more revenue to help grow the team.
Q: You look back at the history of this race, and really NASCAR drivers haven't done as well in recent years where casey became the first full time driver to win the event, then you have Juan Pablo. Will you be looking to those guys for advice to run in the streets even though you've run it in the past. And what would it mean to be part of that exclusive group?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't think any of them are going to give me advice, especially if they're racing in it. They're so competitive anymore. No one's really offered me any advice except for my teammates which I greatly appreciate.
That's a good thing. There is nothing wrong with that. That means we're a competitive race team and real threat to win this thing. I wouldn't expect any handouts. Look forward to being out there with those guys.
To me, on a personal note, to win this race, it's hard to say where it would rank. But it is extremely high on my list. Because it's outside of my comfort zone. And cars I haven't spent a lot of time driving. Just don't have experience in higher down force cars.
To run well and finish second in the two times I have is really special to me. Certainly hope we can win this year.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for taking the time to join us. We'd now like to welcome back Bob Stallings, along with his two time championship winning drivers, Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, and special guest Jimmy Vasser. Alex, you and Jon have won 12 Rolex races and two championships. What would it mean to join your father on the Rolex 24 Daytona winner's list?
ALEX GURNEY: I think it would mean a great deal. Having won two titles I think Jon and I feel like we've established ourselves in the series. We hope to continue that for a long time. The 24 Hour is our marquis event. And I think it's to win it shows, you know, the medal of the team. And I know it's a big goal of Bob Stallings, and it has been from the inception of the team, you know, a big goal for all of us as drivers.
I love that we're going back with the same team, Jon and Jimmie and Jimmy. You know, we've all become really good friends. You know, to attack this race together and really go into it knowing that we've all got each other's back can be totally open about everything. It's a great way to go into this race and try to win it.
THE MODERATOR: Jon, you're entering 2010 with plenty of momentum ending the past season with five consecutive poles and six of the final seven races. Can you continue that momentum into 2010?
JON FOGARTY: Definitely. You know, with the continuation of an existing excellent program and, you know, our relationship now with Chevrolet, I think we have a great opportunity, you know, to start the season off strong. You know, we can't lose sight of the fact that even though the 24 Hours at Daytona is kind of the crown jewel of the season it's the race for the championship.
You know, Alex is probably going to qualify the car, so all that weight is resting on his shoulders to keep the pole streak alive.
But ultimately a win here is what he we want. So, you know, it's pretty ideal situation. Like Alex had mentioned, the consistency with our driver line up and our crew and our car, I think is going to be very strong.
THE MODERATOR: Jimmy Vasser, you've already won the Rolex 24 at Daytona, winning in the GT Lights class in 1992 in your first start in the event. How important is it to be running with the same three teammates in this race for the third consecutive year?
JIMMY VASSER: Oh, I think that's a key ingredient, you know, continuity and chemistry with the team, like the guys have said.
I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank Bob and Alex and Jon who have the confidence in me really not being in the seat much at all anymore. This is going to be a year since I've driven. I'm flattered that that confidence is there with those guys, and I thank you guys for that. But you see it with Bob's GAINSCO team.
You see it with Hendrick Motorsports, you see it with Ganassi, all the great dynasty style teams. The key ingredient is continuity and chemistry. So to answer your question, I think it's most important.
Continued in part 2