VASSER TAKES FIRST LAPS OF 2008 WITH GAINSCO/BOB STALLINGS RACING SATURDAY AT DAYTONA; FOGARTY TOPS NIGHT PRACTICE
FORMER ROLEX 24 WINNER TEAMS AGAIN WITH GAINSCO; FOGARTY RULES THE NIGHT
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 5, 2008) -- Former Champ Car World Series Champion and Rolex 24 At Daytona class winner Jimmy Vasser took his first laps in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley since last September Saturday as GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing continued to work on its 2008 setup at Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Test Days.
After teammate Alex Gurney set the early pace in the afternoon practice, Vasser took the wheel in the middle of the session and quickly got up to speed on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course. It was his first time in a race car since he drove for the team in practice for the 2007 season-ending SunChaser 1000 at Miller Motorsports Park where GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing clinched the Rolex Series team and driver championships.
"These were the first laps I have driven this year and my first time in the car since I drove with the team at Miller in practice," Vasser said. "So it's good for me to drive. From a driving aspect, it's always good to get behind the wheel and knock a little of the rust off. I am pleased that I didn't feel like I had lost much at all and to be able to jump in to try to help the team solve some of the problems we have been encountering trying to adapt to the Pirelli tire. While the tire seems to be fairly grippy and pretty quick it does have some characteristics the team is still trying to come to grips with, but all in all we are reasonably pleased with getting the work done."
Gurney, Vasser and Jon Fogarty all drove the No. 99 GAINSCO race car on Saturday as the team continued to fine tune some brake issues and work on overall setups that will mesh with the Pirelli P-Zero that is making its debut in 2008 as the official tire of the Rolex Series.
In addition to his 1996 Champ Car title, Vasser co-drove with Parker Johnstone and Dan Marvin to win the GTP Lights class in the 1992 Rolex 24 in an Acura Spice. He has also raced here in a Ferrari 333SP and the last two years with the GAINSCO team. His consistent runs in both day and night conditions and his laid-back but fast driving style have made him a sought after teammate for the Rolex 24.
"I like to think that I haven't really made mistakes here and that I have been solid," Vasser said. "Everybody needs to do their job in this race, hang in there and run competitively but consistently and I think that is probably why Bob Stallings brings me back for this race. I am fortunate to be a part of this team and the lineup. You look at the lineup with Jimmie Johnson involved now, it is a group of champions and any time you get a chance to be a part of that you should consider yourself lucky. At the end of the day you are dealing with professionals here and guys that put their head down and do their job and that's all that matters. I haven't seen this team waffle under pressure. If any pressure was going to come up it would have happened at Miller and they showed that they keep their cool."
Vasser was also the first driver behind the wheel for Saturday's night practice and posted the early top time of the session before handing over to Fogarty. With just over 20 minutes remaining in the two-hour night practice, Fogarty turned a lap of 142.010 seconds (125.635 mph) that was the fastest lap of the session and GAINSCO's top time of the day.