TEST DAY LEFTOVERS I MANAGING THE BEST "What we try to do is manage everything that is manageable" is how Bob Stallings characterized the transformation of his No. 99 GAINSCO Pontiac-Riley from a team compiling a number of near misses in 2006...
TEST DAY LEFTOVERS I
MANAGING THE BEST
"What we try to do is manage everything that is manageable" is how Bob Stallings characterized the transformation of his No. 99 GAINSCO Pontiac-Riley from a team compiling a number of near misses in 2006 (six top-5s; five 13th-or-worse finishes) to a the championship-winning team of 2007 (ten top-5s; two 11th-or-worse finishes).
"In 2006 we did a lot of things right and for the most part we were the fastest car in the series but we didn't win one race," Stallings recalled.
One late-2006 cure for what Stallings thought ailed the team came in the form of "drill sergeant" Link Smith, "who is sometimes a little too mean."
To be truthful, a first look at "Link" is shortly thereafter followed with "pit bull" analogies or, perhaps, a realization that Smith could just be the prototypical "Stallingsnator."
Nevertheless, according to one team member preferring understandable anonymity, during his off-hours Smith generally disdains his race-day rawhide chews for a favored squeaking rubber ducky.
While the surname "Smith" isn't exactly rare, readers familiar with Rob Dyson's former crew chief Pat Smith would be correct in having connected the deoxyribonucleic acid-dots between the two.
NO BULL, FOR REAL
The familiar Red Bull markings on David Donohue and Darren Law's No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche-Riley are no more.
A fixture on the Brumos Racing car since the DP's 2003 debut season, there probably is no other car on the Rolex Series trail that has been so closely associated with its sponsor, so much so that most speakers needed only to say two syllables to identify the team: "Red Bull."
In 2007 Donohue and Law combined for two podiums (VIRginia and Infineon) among the team's 12 top-10 and seven top-five finishes - the tandem's best showing since the two teamed in 2004.
Donohue would first team in 2003 with Mike Borkowski, Chris Bye and Randy Pobst for the Rolex 24 At Daytona in what had been intended as the Red Bull's first and last race but the sponsor's dark blue (with a white roof at the time) car would nevertheless soon become a standard-bearing fixture on the Rolex Series circuit.
Scoring three wins among its 10 DP-class podiums that year, the No. 58 contributed heavily to FABCAR and Porsche respectively scoring the DP class' first chassis and engine manufacturer championships, while Donohue and Borkowski tied for second place in the DP driving championship behind Terry Borcheller.
Competing in a G&W (now Synergy) BMW-Picchio DP in 2003, Law finished fourth in driver points after doing things with the Picchio that often went well beyond the capabilities of most race car drivers, much less mere mortals.
"Poor Darren," Donohue kind of half-chuckled at the recent DIS Test Days, "When he came on board in 2004 he thought he was walking into the ride of his life. I expected he and I would be right in the middle of the championship fight. It didn't turn out that way."
Between squaring off in 2004 with no fewer than four-times as many teams as in 2003, dealing with some nagging reliability issues and despite six top-10 finishes, the duo were all but stunned with a 14th-place in the 2004 DP driving championship.
Even though Donohue and Law improved to 12th in the 2005 points, nagging questions over the Fabcar-Porsche's competitiveness worked by season's end to bring in famed Porsche engineer Norbert Singer and engine-builder Alwin Springer in a search for answers (that whole deal is worth another entire story, alone).
Failing to make noticeable finishing-order strides early in the following 2006 season, the trigger was pulled on a Riley chassis purchase, of which the Red Bull team took delivery with four remaining races.
Prior to the Riley's delivery at the Bradley Arant Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park, the team had averaged a 12.46-place finish but would improve to an average 8.5 finish afterward.
Having scored three top-10 finishes as the season closed and despite the two drivers reprising their 2004 driver points finish the No. 58 team headed for the 2007 season with a healthy dose of optimism.
Compiling 12 top-10 finishes in 2007, Law and Donohue were propelled to a sixth-place in the DP driving championship - an eight-spot leap over 2006 and the team's best showing since 2003.
It was at the conclusion of that vastly improved 2007 performance when Rolex Series insiders started singling out the team as being among the early favorites in the 2008 championship hunt.
But that was before Red Bull just up and booked it.
"You need to remember that they stuck with us through some very tough times," Donohue said. "I'm grateful for that."
Here's a mind-muck for you:
In 2003 Terry Borcheller captured the Daytona Prototype driving championship while his No. 54 Bell Motorsports' Kodak Chevrolet-Doran simultaneously scored the team championship - such happening despite the driver and team scoring a 39th-place overall finish in the season's first race, the 2003 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Fast-forward to 2007 when Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney score the DP driving championship while GAINSCO/Bob Stallings' No. 99 Pontiac-Riley picked up the team championship despite finishing 40th-overall in the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Okay, whoopee-do so far?
Coming off that 2003 championship season, the Bell Motorsports' No. 54 Kodak (now) Pontiac-Doran would win the first race of the 2004 season, the Rolex 24 At Daytona - in which it had so dismally performed one year earlier - with drivers Terry Borcheller (as reigning DP champ), Christian Fittipaldi, Andy Pilgrim and owner/driver Forest Barber.
That 2004 Rolex 24 would also prove to be Bell Motorsports' and Terry Borcheller's last Daytona Prototype win (at least, up to the present day).
Remember DP's original 'bad boy' Michael McDowell? You should. He's blazing a trail.
Yet another Dallara DP, too, or should that be "three?"
Exclusively for Motorsport.com