GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and Alex Gurney overcome early axle issues to qualify 10th for Rolex 24 At Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 27, 2011) -- Two-time GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Champions GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, and co-lead driver Alex Gurney, will start 10th in this weekend's Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 29 - 30, after the team made a strategic decision to focus on race preparation rather than an all-out qualifying run Thursday at Daytona International Speedway (DIS).
"We had a problem with an axle this morning and that made us have to change the setup in a way to preserve them," Gurney said. "That's the way we ran it in qualifying, so it definitely didn't help. So, a little bit off the pace but I think we'll race better than we qualified. We've tended to race better here than we qualify, and we really didn't, honestly, focus on qualifying. That's kind of disappointing on one end but it really doesn't matter."
Gurney lapped the 3.560-mile DIS road course in 1:40.828 (127.108 mph), only about 7/10ths of a second behind Jorg Bergmeister's record pole lap of 1:40.099 (128.033 mph) in a Porsche Riley. The full driver lineup for the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley includes Gurney, co-lead driver Jon Fogarty and five-time reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson, who arrived in Daytona Thursday afternoon in time to watch qualifying with the GAINSCO team.
"I'm excited," said Johnson, who drove in Thursday's night practice. "I feel that the way I can contribute to the team, and my confidence in what I can provide, I feel more buttoned up than I ever have for this event. I am very comfortable with the team, being back for the fourth year now, and just feel good about it. Very much at home, very comfortable and looking forward to more practice laps and the race."
Fogarty also put in some practice laps Thursday despite some lost track time.
"That setback with the axle is something we need to find a solution for, so that has sort of put is in the position we are in," Fogarty said. "We will try to minimize mechanical issues before we do anything else, so that is what we have been doing."
The fifth-row starting berth also doesn't mean much in the overall big picture of a 24-hour race. GAINSCO qualified 11th in the 2008 Rolex 24 and went to finish second in the first race together for the trio of Gurney, Fogarty and Johnson, who were also joined by Jimmy Vasser for the team-best result.
GAINSCO closed Thursday without any drama in the two-hour night practice and ended up with the seventh fastest time of the session at 1:41.337 (126.469 mph).
Friday features final Rolex 24 practice before Saturday's 3:30 p.m. race start.