Daytona 24: GM Racing preview

Pontiac Grand-Am Teams Ready For Rolex 24 At Daytona; Strong DP and GT Entries Give Pontiac numbers for 24 Detroit, Mich., January 22, 2008 -- Pontiac powered Daytona Prototype (DP) and GT sports cars are ready for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports...

Pontiac Grand-Am Teams Ready For Rolex 24 At Daytona; Strong DP and GT Entries Give Pontiac numbers for 24

Detroit, Mich., January 22, 2008 -- Pontiac powered Daytona Prototype (DP) and GT sports cars are ready for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 46th running of the Rolex 24 Hour At Daytona to be run this weekend, January 26-27. With 19 cars running Pontiac power, 14 DP and five GT of the 66-car field, Pontiac has an excellent chance to double at Daytona by winning both the overall DP and GT races.

The 2007 Rolex Series DP champions Bob Stallings/Riley-Matthews had a dominating season last year winning seven races and racking up 10 pole positions. The Texas based team would like to add a 24 hour win to get the series schedule off on a winning note. No. 99 Pontiac regular drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty will be supported by open-wheel standout Jimmie Vassar and the 2007 NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson. The champions from '07 finished 22nd in last year's Rolex when, early in the race, a wounded GT car chopped the nose of the No. 99. The team hopes to get off to a better start in their title defense this year.

"The field looks as big and as competitive as ever," Gurney said. "We learned last year how quickly you can get into trouble with a slower car. All we can do is try to anticipate as best we can what the cars in front of us are going to do and hope that luck is on our side for the whole 24 hours. Well, here at the 24, I think having the mindset of just wanting to finish the race might actually put you in position to win the race. I think with the variable of the new tires, we will probably see more mistakes than in the last two years. I think just being around at the finish might be enough to be in the hunt for the win. We obviously need points when we leave Daytona, that being said, when you win this one, it's a little like winning a championship in itself. You've got to have all your bases covered. Good power, reliability, balance, strategy, smart drivers, alert crew, some luck, and being prepared for all conditions."

The SunTrust Pontiac team headed by owner/driver Wayne Taylor is looking for their third Rolex 24 win. Taylor has surrounded himself with fast company. Driving with Taylor will be Max Angelelli, Michael Valiante and the son of the owner 17-year old Ricky Taylor. New to the team, Valiante is ready for the pressure that comes with driving for the SunTrust team.

"I am very happy tobe with SunTrust," Valiante said. "My whole racing career has been built on performing under pressure and getting results. I am looking forward to the race.We will be looking at staying on the lead lapand saving the car for the last hour of the race. With all of the GT cars, the key will be picking the right timeand place topass. It is difficult tojudge sometimes becauseyou approach the GT cars so quickly. This isa key part of the race."

The Penske-Taylor Racing effort brings a one race only lineup to the 24. IRL driver Ryan Briscoe and Dancing With the Stars winner Helio Castroneves with Penske NASCAR driver Kurt Busch will race this weekend. The trio ran fast practice times at the beginning the month, ending up second on the time sheet after three days of testing, as well as being the fastest Pontiac DP car.

"I am intrigued by the Riley Pontiac and how it drives," said Busch. "My teammates say how heavy the car is and how it doesn't drive well. I would like to invite them to drive my Cup car. Helio and Ryan are fast, I am not sure I can match their speed, but I will do my part to be consistent. With Roger [Penske] pulling the trigger and being involved with Wayne [Taylor] the two are a great combination. I drove in the Rolex three years ago and my teammates were all towed in and I wasn't. Another adjustment is just meshing three different driving styles. Penske racing has a lot of experience in these long distance races. During the race I get into a groove and make sure I protect the car instead of going for raw speed."

In 2007 the SAMAX Pontiac team was the Rolex 24 hour's Cinderella story. The team finished second in '07 and returns this year with a two car effort that is sure to be a factor this weekend. In the No. 2 SAMAX Pontiac, sports car ace Allan McNish will share the seat with Lucas Luhr, Mike Rockenfeller and Henri Zogaib. In the No. 11 SAMAX entry, Milka Duno is joined by Ryan Dalziel, Tomas Enge and Harold Primat.

"I expect us to be really competitive this weekend," Rockenfeller said. "But in a 24 hour race a lot can happen to everyone. There are a lot of GT cars on the track, nearly 40 and a lot of those guys can be unpredictable. We will do our best to win the race. I am very familiar with my teammates Allan and Lucas. We have friendly competition, but we also know that the big picture is to win the race. The team will have to give us a quick and reliable car that handles well in traffic to get around the slower cars. I like our chances."

Krohn Racing tested their new Proto Auto Lolas at the Rolex test in January, but has chosen to run their tried and true Rileys for the race. The driver lineup in the No. 75 Krohn Pontiac will be Tracy Krohn, Eric Van de Poele and Oliver Gavin. The No. 76 Krohn entry will see Nic Jonsson, Ricardo Zonta and Oliver Gavin at the wheel.

"With regard to Proto Auto, we feel running the Riley is a conservative action as we did not get enough testing done with the new cars to assure ourselves that the Lola DPs were fully ready for a 24 hour race, particularly one as trying as Daytona," Krohn said. "I believe we are due! We have a lot of experience and winning drivers and the team continues to get stronger as we shift gears toward being a constructor as well. I think Victory Lane would look great painted in Krohn Green! The keys to this team winning will be patience, managing pit stops, making fewer mistakes, and we have professional drivers well accustomed to the rigors of endurance racing. The Krohn Racing team has been here many times already and I sense a real different camaraderie as we have prepared for this race and this season. I think the team realizes we are in this sport for the long haul and that we definitely have our goals set at the highest levels for this race and this season."

The Pontiac GXP.R GT contingent received a late Christmas gift when Grand-Am officials took 40 lbs. off of the cars for the race. Banner Racing will field two black and yellow GXP.Rs, Autohaus brings their red and black Pontiac with Stevenson Motorsport tracking their red, white and blue GXP.R. Connolly Motorsports will start a lone GTO.R.

Banner Racing is looking to finish one step better on the Rolex 24 podium from last year where the No. 07 Banner Pontiac finished second.

"We need to keep the strategy we ran last year - keep the car on the track, out of the pits and hope it rains," Kelly Collins said. "We have to have a great handling car in the infield because the others can run away from us on the banking. We cannot get frustrated. The team has to stick to the strategy and be there Sunday morning. The Banner team cannot be concerned with anyone else."

Stevenson Motorsport will field their new Pontiac GXP.R for this weekend's Rolex 24. John Stevenson will put Robin Liddell, Andrew Davis, Randy Pobst and Gunnar Jeannette behind the wheel of the No. 57 Pontiac.

"I am very optimistic," Davis said. "We are going to be in really good shape. Our new car ran well in the test, we had a few minor things, but did a lot of laps. We learned a lot and we are meshing as a team. It will be up to the drivers to keep the car running and the crew will do their job. The 40 lb. drop will help. It was obvious at the test we needed a little help. The high speeds of Daytona won't be our strong point. I think we found a good race pace during the testing. The end result is what we are looking for; the whole Stevenson package will be good for the race. The car really shines in the infield and under braking. It is very stable. The car is responsive to change and we have some good data for the race weekend. I didn't have any issues with any GT car being quicker than us in the infield. It will be a constant battle, discipline will be important, no mistakes and we will be there at the end."

Autohaus Motorsports with their new No. 72 Pontiac GXP.R will christen their new racer in the 24 hour this weekend. Lawson Aschenbach, Tim Lewis Jr., Max Papis and Criag Stanton will drive this weekend.

"I think we will be strong," Lewis Jr. said. "Our engineer [Nathan McBride] was on the winning car last year in GT, so we understand strategy. We have a strong car with our new Pontiac. We may not be the fastest, but we will be the most consistent. We are going to run our race and let it come to us. We need to be in a good position when the sun comes up on Sunday. We lost 40 lbs. since the test, it will be worth a tenth or two, and make it a little easier on the tires and brakes throughout the race. I don't think the Mazda and Porsche will run away with it. The Autohaus guys have a good handle on the car. The last session of the test we were toward the top of the time sheet, so that is all encouraging."

-credit: gm racing

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