Alex Gurney rebounds from practice crash to score solid qualifying effort; GAINSCO Auto Insurance team to start third in the Rolex 24 At Daytona DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - For Alex Gurney, it was a roller-coaster ride of a day at Daytona...
Alex Gurney rebounds from practice crash to score solid qualifying effort; GAINSCO Auto Insurance team to start third in the Rolex 24 At Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - For Alex Gurney, it was a roller-coaster ride of a day at Daytona International Speedway- but it was the thrill at the end that counted, as Alex and the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley clicked off the fourth-quickest lap today in qualifying for Saturday's Rolex 24 At Daytona. Gurney will start third after the second-place qualifier, the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley, was disqualified for technical infractions. Gurney will start the No. 99 machine in the Rolex 24, and will share the driver's seat with team owner Bob Stallings, 1996 Champ Car champion Jimmy Vasser and open-wheel standout Rocky Moran, Jr.
Alex's qualifying run came barely an hour after he slid off the track in high-speed Turn 1 and slapped the tire wall, causing significant damage to the front end of the team's Riley Technologies Daytona Prototype. The car was patched back together in time for qualifying after a breakneck effort by the GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing team, led by crew chief Terry Wilbert and lead mechanic Ryan Reid.
Gurney had nothing but praise for the team that gave him a car capable of competing at the front of the grid after just an hour of repairs.
"My practice crash was very disappointing - in fact, I felt a little silly doing that on the first day of practice for an endurance race," Gurney said. "I was struggling with a gearbox issue and it caught me out. The entire team did an outstanding job to put the GAINSCO car back in one piece, which gave me the ability to come back and take a shot at a good starting position. I didn't feel the car was perfect, but to get a second- row starting spot with it is gratifying."
Moran agreed, saying, "The team showed great character to fix the car and make handling improvements in such a short amount of time, and Alex stepped up his game and laid out a great lap. He's really been on pace and leading the team from the start."
Alex said he believes starting near the front in the 24 Hours is more important than it would seem at first glance. "A lot of mayhem can happen very early on, and the closer we are to the front, the better chance we have of avoiding any trouble, keeping our noses clean and going the distance," Gurney said.
For Stallings' part, Bob made dramatic improvements in his laptimes in the closing moments of the night practice session, and he's confident that the poise and dedication his team showed today will carry over into the race this weekend. "I am extremely pleased to be starting on Row 2. We got Alex out there because our team was ready for anything and everything, and he responded with some awesome laptimes," Stallings said. "I think we're where we need to be."
All four drivers got behind the wheel of the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Riley on Thursday, getting all-important track time before the green flag drops at noon Eastern Time on Saturday. Fans can watch the Rolex 24 live on SPEED Channel, or keep track of the action with live timing and scoring and Internet radio coverage from www.Grand-Am.com and live Web updates from the team at www.GAINSCOracing.com.