GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Perseveres Through Early Race Problems As the Rolex 24 At Daytona Hits the Midnight Hour
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 25, 2009) -- GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and its all-American drivers are making a comeback as the Rolex 24 At Daytona hit the Midnight mark after a quick gearbox change halfway through hour four of the race put the No. 99 team down but far from out in the day-long contest.
After Alex Gurney drove nearly all of the opening two hours, reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson took over and continued to keep GAINSCO in Top-10 contention. Soon after the hour three mark, however, the GAINSCO team called Johnson into the pits for what was supposed to be just a rear bodywork change. After the repair work, Johnson was leaving the pits but immediately discovered a problem with No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley's gearbox. He stalled a couple of times, including at the pit exit, and the crew lost valuable time pulling the No. 99 all the way back to its pit box.
A decision was made right then and there to switch out the gearbox internals and the GAINSCO crew managed to make the change in just over 10 minutes while the No. 99 remained parked in its pit stall. It marked the second Rolex 24 in a row that the team made a lightning-fast gearbox change and they overcame last year's similar setback early on Sunday morning to finish in second place.
This year's problem occurred much earlier in the race and the No. 99 went as many as nine laps down to the leaders due to the fast pace of this year's Rolex 24. Despite the setback, the GAINSCO team used yellow flag strategies and some well timed pit stops to begin the march back through the field.
Less than an hour after returning to the race, the No. 99 cut the deficit to seven laps down and by the time Jimmy Vasser completed his first stint, GAINSCO was within five laps of the leaders and back in the Top 10. The team is going in the right direction, but Vasser reported after his time in the car that he and the other drivers still need to take car of the No. 99.
"There's a long way to go but I think when we had the gearbox problem it might have damaged its ratchet system," Vasser said. "It's moving a little bit sloppy, but we just have to keep out there and keep charging away. It is the same old thing, you have to try to take care of the car, but we also have to keep making time. We can't go down any more laps."
Jon Fogarty took the wheel of the No. 99 for the first time in the race at 11:20 p.m. and was behind the wheel when the race officially moved into Sunday at Midnight. The driver rotation will begin again in the 1 a.m. hour with Gurney returning to the car and likely taking GAINSCO close to the race's midway point at roughly 3:30 a.m.