Road To Repeat Titles Begins At Daytona's Rolex 24 For Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing And Its All-Star Drivers Lowe's/Gainsco Super Team Features Champions Gurney, Fogarty, Johnson And Vasser DALLAS (January 23, 2008) -- Joining forces with ...
Road To Repeat Titles Begins At Daytona's Rolex 24 For Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing And Its All-Star Drivers
Lowe's/Gainsco Super Team Features Champions Gurney, Fogarty, Johnson And Vasser
DALLAS (January 23, 2008) -- Joining forces with Lowe's and fellow champs Jimmie Johnson and Jimmy Vasser, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and 2007 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Cars Series Champions Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty will begin the quest to become the first repeat titlists in Daytona Prototype history this weekend in the 46 th annual Rolex 24 At Daytona at Daytona International Speedway. Live coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET on FOX with the majority of the rest of the race live on SPEED.
The reigning Rolex Series champs and 2007 Rolex 24 pole winners will try to capture one of the few honors that eluded them last season in a special No. 99 Lowe's/GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley that is adorned in a red, silver and blue paint scheme specifically for the Rolex 24. The eye-catching design links the familiar, all-red GAINSCO look with Johnson's trademark Lowe's colors that have carried him to the last two NASCAR Cup Championships.
The only colors that truly matter to the Lowe's/GAINSCO squad this weekend, however, are the black and white of the checkered flag come Sunday afternoon around 1:30 p.m. ET. After Gurney won the pole in last year's race with a new track record, he was running up front when disaster struck only minutes after the drop of the green flag. A GT class race car had its hood break loose and block the vision of its driver, sending the wayward Porsche right into Gurney's path. Damage from that incident and later mechanical problems forced eventual retirement and season-low finish of 22 nd.
While the team rallied back to win both the Rolex Series Team and Driver Championships on the strength of a record seven wins in 14 races, the 2007 disappointment is a reminder that anything can happen in the Rolex 24 and usually does. The road to Rolex Series Championships begins each year with the Rolex 24, but it is one of the rockiest paths competitors will encounter all season. A bad result can have you -- like the 2007 GAINSCO team -- chasing the championship all year while a victory could be the springboard to a title.
"Our expectations are high and we are here to win," said Team Owner Bob Stallings. "This race here is a little bit more of a crapshoot. You can have everything going for you and a lot of bad stuff can still happen. All we can do is manage the things that we have got, so what we try do is try to manage everything that is manageable and have it be the best it can possibly be."
Among the things the team may consider among the best is its all-star driver lineup. GAINSCO is the only team entered in the Daytona Prototype class that has four top-tier U.S. series champions -- including three reigning titlists -- on its roster. All four drivers enjoy running in the Rolex 24 At Daytona but acknowledge that America's premier sports car race is a challenge like no other. Sharing the track with 70 other race cars, hundreds of other drivers and racing through the night on Daytona's high banks in shifts are just some of the unique features of the Rolex 24.
"The biggest unknown by far is the experience level of the different drivers you encounter throughout the race," Gurney said. "There will be more GT cars than ever in this race and a lot of them have had very little seat time. Most of them do everything they can to behave in traffic, but there are still quite a few who are unpredictable."
Having to actually force yourself to sleep between driving stints is another challenge drivers and teams deal with. Bringing your momentum down after a few hours behind the wheel is one thing, but getting ready to get back in the car after really what amounts to no more than a cat nap is another variable. Most teams make it easy on their drivers by providing motor coaches in the Daytona infield as a way of getting away from it all while still being literally in the middle of it all.
"I like to go straight to the motor home after a stint and try not to get involved with the progression of the race," Fogarty said. "Just doing what you can while you are in he car takes enough out of you as it is. The drone of the race cars puts me to sleep. I have never left the track in the middle of the race. That would feel really strange. I like to remove myself from the race when I am not driving, but not that much."
After some down time, each driver prepares for their next spell behind the wheel a little bit differently.
"Well, we always plan to be 'on deck' about an hour before the next stint," Gurney said. "So I like to sit there on the pit cart and watch the times, talk to our engineer Kyle Brannan and Bob (Stallings), and get a feel for how the race is unfolding before I get ready for my next stint."
Fogarty prepares with a little eye-and-foot coordination drill.
"I prepare by just doing a little stretching, then something to get the blood moving," Fogarty said. "For me, that is playing with a foot bag, or what is better known as a hacky sack."
Just coming to the hallowed ground that is Daytona International Speedway for a premier and prestigious race like the Rolex 24 is special enough for most drivers, but Daytona offers other positives that always make the annual January trip one to look forward to.
"On a good year, the best thing about Daytona other than the race is the weather," Fogarty said. "It is about nine degrees out right now in my hometown of Bend, Oregon, so the warmer weather is a nice change."
Another Daytona favorite is where they will actually make their first of dozens of pit stops when they arrive at the "World Center of Racing." Both Gurney and Fogarty are big fans of the restaurant chain Chipotle and plan a lunch there in the Daytona location early in the weekend before getting down to the business at hand.
The GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Daytona Prototype Show Car will be making several stops in central Florida leading up to the Rolex 24. Thursday it can be seen all day at the ESPN Club at Disney's Boardwalk in the heart of the attractions area in Orlando. Friday night at 7 p.m ., the GAINSCO Show Car will be part of a Grand-Am Rolex Series Promotional Night at the Ruby Tuesday restaurant across the street from DIS on International Speedway Blvd-- The GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Team will be one of four teams participating in Mayor of SpeedWeeks ceremonies tomorrow at 10 a.m. in pit lane, just before opening practice. The event signals the beginning of SpeedWeeks at Daytona-- While Alex Gurney is worried about traffic heading into the Rolex 24, that is not his main concern: "My biggest worry is about Fogarty and Vasser going to the bathroom in the race car, they always do that!"