Gurney demolishes Daytona record, seizes Rolex 24 pole for GAINSCO team DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 25, 2007) -- The fabled Gurney name was driven into the Daytona International Speedway recordbooks again this afternoon, as Alex Gurney won the...
Gurney demolishes Daytona record, seizes Rolex 24 pole for GAINSCO team
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 25, 2007) -- The fabled Gurney name was driven into the Daytona International Speedway recordbooks again this afternoon, as Alex Gurney won the pole for Saturday's Rolex Sports Car Series Rolex 24 At Daytona behind the wheel of the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac-powered Riley.
On the way to his fourth career Rolex Sports Car Series pole, Gurney shattered the existing Daytona Prototype track record by more than half a second, lapping the 3.56-mile speedway road course in 1 minute, 43.475 seconds at an average speed of 123.856 mph during the 15-minute qualifying session. With the pole in hand, Gurney and his GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing co-drivers Jon Fogarty and Jimmy Vasser will now turn their focus to surviving 24 straight hours of racing, from 1:30 p.m. Saturday to 1:30 p.m. Sunday -- one of the most demanding challenges in all of motorsports.
"This is a big thrill for me personally and for the GAINSCO team," Gurney said. "I feel like I've come a long way as a driver to be standing here today. But qualifying is really just for bragging rights. The first thirteen or fourteen hours of this race are unimportant. It's such a long, long time that you have to just absolutely survive it. We've got to run clean to be at the front at the end of the race -- when it really counts."
A smart call by team engineer Kyle Brannan kept the 99 car from encountering traffic after the session was interrupted by a black flag, and that undoubtedly helped Gurney score his record-setting lap. That could be a metaphor for the GAINSCO team's push to improve its own performance. Last year, the team was consistently quick at just about every track the Rolex Sports Car Series visited, but a number of problems kept the No. 99 Pontiac out of Victory Lane. Gurney said the team now has a better grasp of what it takes to win in one of the toughest and most competitive racing series in the world.
"Our team understands the process of endurance racing much better than we did last year," Gurney said. "We've made a ton of progress, from the crew to the driver lineup to the car itself. All the pieces of the puzzle are fitting together, and we're anxious to get in the winner's circle."
Fogarty said his job behind the wheel would be simple -- run clean, consistent laps that set a good pace but don't overly stress either the driver or the GAINSCO Pontiac.
"I'm so happy for Alex -- but now we've got to make sure we follow this up with a solid race performance," Fogarty said. "It's an extremely long race and as drivers, we have to keep our overall goal in perspective. Only if we keep the car out of trouble and out of the garage all day and night will we have a chance to go for the win when the sun comes up on Sunday morning."
Vasser won the GTP Lights class of the Rolex 24 in 1993, and knows from that experience how important a long-term outlook in a long, long race can be.
"Clearly, the GAINSCO car is fast enough. Now we've got to stick to our gameplan and execute it, because it's just too easy to beat yourself in a 24-hour race," Vasser said. "You've got to just drive around until the morning comes and then take stock of where you are and who you're racing."
Team owner Bob Stallings was exuberant in the pits as the checkered flag fell, but immediately tempered his enthusiasm with the real-world knowledge that starting up front is no guarantee of finishing up front. His team's task this season is to convert raw speed into race-winning performances -- and they'll have the opportunity to do just that starting on Saturday.
"I'm stoked that Alex put the GAINSCO car on the pole, but we've got to get through 24 hours of racing on Saturday and Sunday," Stallings said. "We made changes over the offseason based on our experiences last year -- where we'd be fast but we wouldn't be around at the end. Alex, Jon and Jimmy all know that it will truly take endurance to be successful in this race. We're thinking about a championship -- but if we get a shot at the win, we'll definitely take it."