Daytona 24: Pontiac race report

GAINSCO Pontiac Finishes Second In Daytona Rolex 24 GAINSCO second in DP, Banner seventh in GT Daytona Beach, Fla., January 27, 2008 -- The GAINSCO Pontiac Daytona Prototype finished second today in the 46th running of the Grand-Am...

GAINSCO Pontiac Finishes Second In Daytona Rolex 24
GAINSCO second in DP, Banner seventh in GT

Daytona Beach, Fla., January 27, 2008 -- The GAINSCO Pontiac Daytona Prototype finished second today in the 46th running of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Rolex 24 Hour At Daytona. In GT the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R came across the line in seventh.

The defending 2007 Rolex Series champions No. 99 GAINSCO team soldiered back from an early morning gear box change to finish second. This came after they swapped the lead several times throughout Saturday and Sunday morning. The big points paying weekend, sets the Texas based team up for another run at the Grand-Am championship. Drivers Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty, Jimmy Johnson and Jimmy Vasser drove a great race to be the top placing Pontiac in the DP field.

"We were a little disappointed from our qualifying and the last two tests here," Fogarty said. "We were almost to the point where we were talking ourselves into thinking that a top five finish would be good here. But deep down we wanted to win. We are after the championship. The race was exciting. I think I earned a reputation of the person who thrives on driving in adverse conditions. It gives the team a lot of motivation for the rest of the year. This is my best finish in the 24. We have one more step to go, and another opportunity in about 365 days."

SunTrust Racing had to go into full sprint mode early in the race. The team headed by two time Rolex winner Wayne Taylor fell back early with an unexplained electrical gremlin. The efforts of speedy drivers Max Angelelli and Michael Valiante, supported by Wayne and Wayne's son Ricky brought the team back to fifth at the checker.

"Everything went as planned throughout the race except for the two mechanical issues," Valiante said. "We had a fast car and I definitely think we had a shot at winning. It was a great effort and the team put the car back together when we had issues, but unfortunately we had a few too many problems to overcome. There are so many variables, many of which you can't control. The key is just staying out of the pits. I was the new guy. Everything has come together with these guys in such a short amount of time. I think especially when the new car comes out and we start developing it, we will have a shot at winning the championship for SunTrust this year."

Penske-Taylor Racing in their first Rolex 24 together brought their Riley Pontiac home in third place. The one race only effort ran strong most of the race, but battled over-heating throughout the night, causing unscheduled pit stops and lost track time. With an all star lineup including Dancing With The Stars winner Helio Castroneves, IRL driver Ryan Briscoe and NASCAR's Kurt Busch.

"Kurt did a great job in the rain last night," Briscoe said. "It was an amazing effort. It threw everything at us with the weather and the traffic. It is a special race and a special way to start the season off. The guys from the No. 6 Indy car team crewed the car and I will be with them this season so that is good for me to get to know them early. I want to come back next year and have another crack at it."

The No. 91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley finished eighth. The team led a handful of laps in the early morning hours before a suspension issue cost them time in the pits. Jim Matthews, Marc Goosens, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Johnny O'Connell drove the top placing redesigned Riley chassis.

"The Riley-Matthews team had a strong showing this weekend," Hunter-Reay said. "The car was running great and we were in the lead at four in morning. Johnny had something happen with the rear suspension and caught him out. We had to make repairs in pit lane, which the crew did in a hurry, but we were still 20 laps down. That is just too much to recover from with the level of competition here."

The No. 76 Krohn Racing Riley Pontiac with drivers Nic Jonsson, Ricardo Zonta and Darren Turner finished a strong fourth place in their Riley Pontiac. The team No. 75 piloted by owner Tracy Krohn, Eric van de Poele and Oliver Gavin made it an all top 10 for Krohn Racing with a seventh place.

"We had two late night punctures in the 75 car, without those that would have brought us right up with our 76 car," Krohn said. "Repairing those cost us a good 12 laps. We were satisfied with our performance this weekend. We decided after the test to bring the Riley's, which we know are tried and true. We just didn't have the miles on the Proto Auto Lolas, especially on the all important wear parts. It was the right choice. We did not want to jeopardize the season. We have a good points start to 2008."

The four car Pontiac GXP.R contingent had a race plagued with contact. The No. 06, 07 and 72 each had an excursion into the pit road wall. The No. 57 Stevenson Motorsport GXP.R was struck by an out of control DP car. All of the GXP.R racers spent many laps in the paddock for repairs.

Paul Edwards, Kelly Collins and Jan Magnussen battled back from a 20 lap deficit to be the highest placing Pontiac in GT, finishing seventh.

"If you look at the overall pace of this race at Daytona, there is a crazy deficit for the GXP.R," Edwards said. "We work hard in the infield to make-up ground and then get motored by the car in front and passed by the one behind. The only way to keep competitive is to really push. Eighth place is a good points paying position for the rest of the year, considering the time we spent in the paddock putting the new front end on the car. I am looking forward to the rest of the season."

Stevenson Motorsports finished ninth in GT with their new GXP.R. A late night incident involving contact with a DP car causing rear-end damage. The team had to take the Pontiac back to the paddock to change an upper control arm, costing valuable track time.

"My goal for the race was a podium finish," Liddell said. "We did not get that, but realistically we ran a solid race with no real problems. We had the incident with contact in the middle of the night when we were hit by a DP car. That was unfortunate. We spent time in the paddock performing repairs. With the weather conditions changing constantly the team was able to stay on top of it and that is something to build on for the season. We weren't really quick enough to make up the ground we lost, so you have to take what your given. I felt I couldn't hustle the car. We just need to get a little more familiar with the GXP.R. In real terms we did well today."

The No. 06 Banner Pontiac had an early right rear half-shaft problem and then Marc Bunting hit the wall exiting the pits. The same fate was witnessed by Craig Stanton in the No. 72 Autohaus GXP.R. Both cars returned to the track just after the halfway mark many laps down.

"We had a tough weekend on both the No. 06 and the 07," Reese said. "We had a good bit of damage, some self inflicted and some more getting collected in someone else's mess. You just can't move the car to the paddock if you expect to win this race. We had awesome cars early. Paul was able to lead the class at the halfway point and then a few minutes later had has his big incident. The guys worked hard on the cars and in the pits. We just need for it all to come together. With that said, we still are coming away with some good points on the 07 car."

Autohaus Motorsports ended their first Rolex 24 in 16th place. Their first outing with the Pontiac GXP.R was also fraught with ups-and-downs. Exiting pit lane, Craig Stanton brushed the wall causing right frontend damage in the early evening. That caused a lengthy trip to the paddock for repairs. Tim Lewis Jr. jumped in and took over after the repairs.

"I did a stint-and-a-half yesterday and three last night," Lewis Jr. said. "Once we had the car fixed, which took about 45-minutes, it was fast. At the beginning of the race we were fast and just cruising with the plan of making it to the 18th hour and then go! With the GXP.R it is hard to keep up with the other GT cars on the bank. I was really happy and impressed with the way the team worked together. The pit stops were good and that is something to look forward to the rest of the season."

-credit: gm racing

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Series GRANDAM