LOWE'S/GAINSCO/BOB STALLINGS RACING LEADING AND ON THE MARK AT MIDNIGHT IN THE ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA REIGNING ROLEX SERIES CHAMPS HAVE LED AND RUN IN LEAD PACK SINCE RACE START DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 26, 2008) -- Reigning Grand-Am Rolex...
LOWE'S/GAINSCO/BOB STALLINGS RACING LEADING AND ON THE MARK AT MIDNIGHT IN THE ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA
REIGNING ROLEX SERIES CHAMPS HAVE LED AND RUN IN LEAD PACK SINCE RACE START
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 26, 2008) -- Reigning Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Co-Champions Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty have each led the race and teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jimmy Vasser turned in impressive first stints as Lowe's/GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing is firmly in the hunt and leading the Rolex 24 At Daytona at the Midnight mark.
After the No. 99 Lowe's/GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley and several other contenders were brought in for parade-lap pit stops to replace rain tires, opening-driver Gurney moved to second less than 30 minutes after the green flag dropped and took the lead for the first time just past the one-hour mark. Despite a mix of dry and rainy weather and cool temperatures, the Lowe's/GAINSCO machine has handled well in a variety of conditions, with each of the four drivers able to turn competitive lap times while steering clear of trouble.
After his opening double-stint, Gurney was pleased with the Lowe's/GAINSCO team's performance and reported that everything was on schedule after handing off to Johnson.
"We went with the safe choice at the very beginning of the race," Gurney said. "We had the rain tires on there and as soon as we went out it was pretty much dry, or it would be in two laps or so. We're pretty happy with the way the car is handling. I feel good in general, had some decent little scraps a few times. We definitely realized it's an extremely long race, so it really doesn't matter. Even if you sit in the ditch for awhile, you can still win this race."
Gurney handed off to Johnson who drove his first laps with the Lowe's/GAINSCO team in an actual race.
"I had a great experience out there," said Johnson, who ran as high as fourth. "We have a great car, we're just really trying to stick to our rhythm. I tried not to put the car into any bad situations. Even doing that, I found myself in a sandwich with two (GT) Porsches. At first it didn't bother me because I'm used to the rubbing with the Sprint Cup car. Then I remembered, you can't touch people with these. There are some Martinsville doughnuts on the side of this thing right now and it is from yours truly."
Vasser was third up in the driving order and had one of the most challenging drives of the race as the No. 99 Lowe's/GAINSCO Pontiac Riley was fitted with new Pirelli P-Zero rain tires for the first time. Running in both the wet and dry, Vasser was competitively solid his entire stint and ran as high as second before handing over to Fogarty.
"There's a lot of racing to go and we are just trying to keep the scratches off the car," Vasser said. "My stint was particularly difficult, going from dry to wet and wet to dry. It is tough to see through the windshield, it gets dirty and greasy, and it is hard to see a dry line for me. Knock on wood, we're looking good. The car is reasonably fast and we are not pushing it. We have been chipping away. We have been in the top three for the last few hours and that is exactly where we need to be. We want to be on the lead lap come sunrise, and so far so good."
Taking over from Vasser as the fourth driver in the order, Fogarty set the pace three times in his stint, including leading the race for nearly an hour before handing over to Gurney at 11:45 p.m. Gurney quickly resumed in the lead and was up front when the 46th annual Rolex 24 moved from Saturday into Sunday as the clock struck Midnight.
Johnson and Vasser will then finish the overnight driving stints and the team will plan its strategy for the finish soon after sunrise.