Daytona II: GM Racing preview

Pontiac Grand-Am Teams Head To Daytona For 15-Hours Jimmie Johnson in No. 91, Cheever Switches To Pontiac Power Pontiac Daytona Prototype (DP) and GT teams will make their one-day appearance at Daytona International Speedway for round eight of...

Pontiac Grand-Am Teams Head To Daytona For 15-Hours
Jimmie Johnson in No. 91, Cheever Switches To Pontiac Power

Pontiac Daytona Prototype (DP) and GT teams will make their one-day appearance at Daytona International Speedway for round eight of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve to be run on Thursday, July 5.

The 3.56-mile, 12-turn, modified oval road course at the World Center of Speed will play host to the DP and GT cars running together under the lights. The teams will have to unload, practice, qualify and race all within a 15-hour period.

Reigning NASCAR Champion, Jimmie Johnson, will drive the No. 91 LOWE'S Riley-Mathews Motorsport Pontiac DP car with regular Marc Goosens. Johnson rejoins the team that he finished 14th with at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in February.

"I agreed to run two races this year with the Riley-Matthews team," Johnson said. "At the 24 Hours of Daytona we ran up front and ran really strong. But we had a problem that unfortunately put us behind and then finally put us out of the race. Hopefully this race is different. This time I'll just be running with Marc Goossens. It'll just be two drivers. I have the honors of qualifying the car and starting the race. Marc will get in and drive to the finish. Hopefully we can get a win for them - or at least run up front. One of my goals is to improve my road racing skills. Competing in an endurance race like this with a road racing expert like Marc will help me to continue to learn and improve. I've had so much fun getting out there and really racing with these road course veterans. I did a lot of testing to get ready for the 24 Hours of Daytona. Unfortunately, I was supposed to test down in Florida last week, but it rained and the test was c ancelled. I've been trying to get seat time, but with the NASCAR Cup schedule, weather issues, Riley's car prep time, I haven't been able to test for this race. But that's okay; I'm excited and ready to go!"

The No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve Fabcar run by Eddie Cheever Racing will switch to Pontiac power at Daytona. The team has previously run Porsche motors. Drivers Christian Fittipaldi and Harrison Brix will have the Pontiac LS2 Daytona Prototype engine for the remainder of the season.

"We had a breakthrough with the Fabcar at Mid-Ohio," Fittipaldi said. "The team was able to hit on a good road course setup and I was able to qualify on the front row. The early part of the race we were really competitive. The Pontiac should help us take that next step with the car. Torque off of the corners and the top end is all good for our car. The team's that have been running Pontiac motors have all performed well, so I am looking forward to some fresh horses behind me at Daytona."

Max Angelelli and Jonathan Cochet in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley, for Cochet it his first visit to the historic sports car track. Angelelli is currently second in points and that applies a little pressure on his teammate.

"It will definitely be exciting for me to run at Daytona," Cochet said. "As far as pressure, I feel the same kind of pressure every weekend when I race, no matter who I am racing with. I don't think it's going to be any more pressure than usual. I always want to do my best. I will do my best to help the team again. I will be concentrating again to do a good job. The team deserve a good result because they are fighting for the championship. We are focusing on the 01 car in the fight for the championship. But the 99 seems to be very strong at the moment. So we have to focus on all the good teams. The best thing the team can do is to start winning some races and the championship will take care of itself. The time to start doing that is right now."

Colin Braun and Max Papis in the No. 75 Krohn Pontiac Riley finished third at Mid-Ohio and are looking forward to the Daytona sprint race. The Krohn team had a difficult outing at the 24 hour going down several laps early.

"We had a tough 24 with electrical problems early in the race," Braun said. "We were able to come back and make up several laps to eventually finish 11th. We just had a really good test at Barber Motorsport Park, so we are keeping the development curve strong. The Pontiac motor is really good, so we should be pretty darn competitive on Thursday. The Krohn guys have been working hard and we had a good showing at Mid-Ohio. We have always gone quick at Daytona. For the sprint race we will run a low downforce setup more than you do in the 24. In the 24 hour you want a real stable car for the long runs and the traffic."

Alex Gurney and teammate Jon Fogarty continue to steam-roll the competition. They bring their No. 99 GAINSCO Pontiac Riley into Daytona having sat on the pole the last two races and winning both of them. The California duo will be the ones to reckon with at Daytona, as they were on pole there as well for the 24 hour.

"We were the quickest car in qualifying last time out at the Daytona 24 so we feel we should have a very good car there," Gurney said. "The race didn't go as planned and we got caught up with some GT cars unfortunately. Being the 24 hour, we were in long distance mode, but it still bit us. This time around it will be an all out sprint and hopefully that will suit our style a little better! Daytona, with its very long straights and banking, is not your traditional road course so it definitely will require a different setup compared to some of the road courses we've run very well at recently. Pontiac always gives us great power so we should be in good shape come race time. It would be amazing to pull off three wins in a row! It's a great reflection on our team and partners that we're in a position to do that. We're still hungry to win the championship, and at this point we're just going to do everything we can to try to keep this streak going ."

Leighton Reese and Tim Lewis Jr. in the No. 06 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R remain very competitive at the front of the GT field. The duo have one win under their belt at Lime Rock and led a lot of laps at Mid-Ohio two weeks ago.

"It is closer at the front of the pack," Reese said. "The Laguna competition balance has helped us, but our development with the car and chassis has brought us farther than the adjustment. We struggled in our first five races. The longer wheel base of the car forced us to change some geometry. We are a lot racier now, but we need to do a better job converting the on track performance into wins. Hopefully there will be more parity at Daytona this week, more so than in January. The German cars usually run well there. In the 24 hour we had the turtle and hare arrangement, but we completed 52 near flawless pits tops which kept us in the game. This is a sprint, so it will be a good race."

The consistency of Banner Racing drivers Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins in the No. 07 GXP.R has been rewarded as they've moved into a first place tie for the Rolex Series GT driver's points battle.

"We have to hold on and make the best of Daytona," Edwards said. "We need to qualify well and run a mistake free race. Our car will still be down on speed around the bank, we can make up some time in the infield, but not really enough. Maybe we can mix up the strategy and run for a top five at the end. No mistakes and lean on the Banner guys as usual with no mechanical problems. We are looking to maintain. It is a Porsche, Mazda track. We did the tire test at Homestead on Sunday and Monday, maybe we can apply some of that knowledge to Thursday."

The sprint race from Daytona will be televised live on the SPEED Channel, July 5 starting at 8:00 p.m. EDT.

-credit: gm racing

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Jonathan Cochet , Alex Gurney , Paul Edwards , Eddie Cheever , Max Papis , Christian Fittipaldi , Jon Fogarty , Marc Goossens , Colin Braun , Jimmie Johnson , Kelly Collins , Leighton Reese , Max Angelelli , Tim Lewis , Harrison Brix