Daytona test, day one notebook

Negri Fastest On New Pirellis, Jimmie Johnson Tests For GAINSCO DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 14, 2007) -- A new era in Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve competition officially began Wednesday in the first of...

Negri Fastest On New Pirellis, Jimmie Johnson Tests For GAINSCO

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 14, 2007) -- A new era in Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve competition officially began Wednesday in the first of the two-day November Test Days at Daytona International Speedway as all Rolex Series machines bolted on Pirelli Tires for the first time. Pirelli will be the series standard beginning in 2008 as the Official Tire of the Grand-Am Rolex Series.

Unofficially, Oswaldo Negri turned the fastest lap of the 19 Daytona Prototypes that took the track on the new Pirelli P-Zero rubber. Negri's time of 1:41.502 (126.264 mph) in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley was over a full second faster than the existing Rolex 24 At Daytona qualifying record of 1:43.609. Eric Lux rattled off the fastest lap of the 26 GT competitors with a time of 1:51.473 (114.970 mph) in the No. 88 Farnbacher Loles Porsche GT3.

Jimmie Johnson Makes Surprise Appearance with GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing

On his way to Homestead-Miami Speedway to potentially claim his second consecutive NASCAR Nextel Cup championship, Jimmie Johnson stopped by Daytona International Speedway to spend the afternoon testing the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley.

Johnson climbed behind the wheel of the Daytona Prototype early Wednesday afternoon and ran two full stints in the 2007 Rolex Series Championship-winning machine, turning laps just off the pace of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty. Gurney and Fogarty, of course, are coming off of a championship season in which they captured seven victories on the 14-race calendar.

"This is the best thing I can do to get my mind off the championship," Johnson said. "I came down to have some fun in one of these DP cars. I really, really enjoy the Rolex Series. I've been at three (Rolex 24 At Daytona) events, and hopefully I will come back and run in it in 2008. I just want to get some seat time, get used to the car, and Bob Stallings and the GAINSCO group were nice enough to let me come down, work with them, get some seat time and get a feel for things. So I'm having a great time."

The NASCAR champion has prior experience in a Daytona Prototype, running the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports machine at the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway this past season. Johnson also claimed a runner-up finish in the 2005 Rolex 24 At Daytona.

"My last experience in a DP was coming from a Crawford to a Riley," Johnson explained. "They're much different cars. This year, going from one Riley to another, it's not a huge gap in how they drive. Some of the small changes they've made around the track, I found it was more me trying to remember the reference points, and finding new ones with the small, subtle changes that have gone on with the surface of the track."

Team owner Stallings was impressed with how quickly Johnson got up to speed.

"Jimmie did real well -- in fact, he was right on the money," Stallings said. "He had several laps, where if he had not caught traffic, he would have been right there. I certainly hope to have him back in our car. He loves Grand-Am and he loves running at Daytona, and we sure would love to see him in the car. There may be an announcement coming in the next few weeks; we will have to wait and see what happens."

Auberlen Signs with Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team for 2008

The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team announced Wednesday it signed two-time Grand-Am Rolex Series champion Bill Auberlen to co-pilot its No. 23 Porsche Crawford Daytona Prototype during the 2008 Grand-Am season.

Auberlen's signing reunites him with Ruby Tuesday Team Owner Alex Job, a relationship dating back to 1995. That year, Auberlen (and co-drivers Joe Cogbill and Charlie Slater) gave Alex Job Racing its first professional sports car win at the 12 Hours of Sebring.

"My first Sebring win came with Alex, so being back with Alex and Holly [Job] and all of the guys is like being reunited with my family," Auberlen said. "I have always had a huge amount of respect for Alex. You talk to anybody in the pits; everybody has respect for Alex. I'm very happy to be back with him because I think I can win races on his team."

"It is very exciting to have Bill back with my team since driving for me in the 1995 season," Job said. "The first time Bill drove for me we won the 1995 Sebring 12-hour race. It was our first major professional win. The last time he drove for me that year, we won at New Orleans. Since those wins, I have always had to race against him. Now that we have Bill back with us, we are looking forward to more success."

Though Auberlen -- who drove for Team Sigalsport in Daytona Prototype competition in 2007 -- is currently the only driver on the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team roster (with a co-driver to be named at a later date), he already has his sights set on winning the Grand-Am Daytona Prototype championship in 2008.

Dumoulin Moves to Blackforest Motorsports Stable For 2008 Season

Reigning Rolex 24 At Daytona GT co-winner Jean-Francois Dumoulin will attempt to defend his title in a different car for the 2008 season.

Following talks with longtime friend Tom Nastasi, Dumoulin will co-pilot the No. 15 Blackforest Motorsports Ford Mustang Cobra GT next season. The Quebec native took his first laps Wednesday in the car, which he'll share with Nastasi and David Empringham -- who teamed for last year's Fresh From Florida 200 win at Daytona -- in the Rolex 24.

"Obviously I'm very happy Tom is giving me the opportunity to be part of this team, to win the Rolex 24 and try to get to work for a championship," Dumoulin said. "I think being in this Crawford-built Mustang, we will have a pretty good chance.

"I know Tom through a previous experience when we won the SGS class here in 2004, and raced against Tom a number of times. David, I've never raced with him, but I've followed David's career -- watching him run in Formula Atlantics and Indy Lights when I was younger. I've watched him race and I'm pretty proud to be racing with him."

Dumoulin won the 2007 Rolex 24 with Carlos de Quesada, Marc Basseng and Scooter Gabel in the No. 22 Alegra Motorsports/Fiorano Racing Gatorade/ Porsche GT3. Dumoulin and de Quesada also finished fourth at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, one spot behind Nastasi's season-best finish in the Mustang.

Dumoulin said he believes the caliber of the team will give it a great opportunity to win the Rolex 24.

"We know what it takes to win, so we need to work really hard to keep the car together and make sure everything lasts," Dumoulin said. "The team knows that too. I'm sure these guys will put together the best car they can."

Ricky Taylor Makes His Debut Behind the Wheel of the SunTrust Pontiac

Seventeen-year-old Ricky Taylor, the rising second-generation racer and son of team principal and 2005 Rolex Sports Car Series co-Champion Wayne Taylor, turned his first-ever laps at Daytona International Speedway on Wednesday morning in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley.

"It's the first time I've been in a Daytona Prototype at Daytona, and the first time at all in a prototype with other cars on the track," said Taylor following his initial stint. "I'm just getting used to it. It's much different with the banking and all of the cars around me, and I'm just trying to learn."

Taylor shared the car this morning with his father and Max Angelelli, who finished third in the driver championship this past season and shared the title with Wayne Taylor in 2005. The elder Taylor retired from fulltime driving in 2007, but has maintained he plans to run in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

The twice-around-the-clock classic isn't something that the younger Taylor is ready to rule out.

"We're going to see how this test goes, and then we'll make our future plans from there," Ricky Taylor said.

Stevenson Motorsports To Run Pontiac GXP.R In 2008 Grand-Am GT Championship

John Stevenson, owner of Stevenson Motorsports, announced Wednesday the team will campaign a new Pontiac GXP.R GT car in 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Series competition.

The North Carolina team ran Corvette GT cars last year. The GT regulars posted three top-10 finishes in 2007. The team will take delivery of the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R in time for the January test at Daytona.

"We believe the combination of Pontiac Motorsports, Pratt & Miller, and KATECH offer a package that is reliable, fast, and a true contender in the GT class," Stevenson said. "The Pontiac seems to be the less stressed of all the cars, and we believe it can be a real contender for the championship. Our goal in 2008 is to be considered a true threat for the Championship in 2008. I expect us to fight for podiums all year long by not making mistakes on or off the track, and use our strengths to outlast and outsmart the competition."

Stevenson Motorsports has secured the driving talents of sports car racing veterans Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis.

"Stevenson Motorsports will be a welcome addition to the Pontiac Grand-Am family," Steve Wesoloski, GM Racing Road Racing manager said. "They know their way around having run Corvettes in the past. With their driver lineup and management I am sure they will be a big help in our goal to secure the GT manufacturer title in 2008."

Brumos Drivers Swap Places; Barbosa Replaces Haywood Fulltime

For the past two seasons, Joao Barbosa has been the "third man" for Brumos Racing, joining Hurley Haywood and JC France in No. 59 Porsche Riley in the endurance races on the Rolex Series schedule.

This year, Barbosa will be a fulltime member of the team, paired with France in the famed No. 59, while Haywood will move to a management role with the team in addition to driving in the endurance races.

"I'm very happy to have reached an agreement to drive fulltime with Brumos," Barbosa said. "I want to make the most of this opportunity and help the team get the results it deserves."

Barbosa's last full season in the Rolex Series was 2003, when he won three races and finished second in the championship.

"It was a good year in GTS," Barbosa said. "Now I am very happy to drive in the Daytona Prototypes. The series is very strong, with a lot of good teams and good drivers. I'm looking forward to the start of the season."

Barbosa will continue to commute from his home in Valongo, Portugal.

"I'll try to go home as much as I can. I have two young kids, and I miss them, and they miss me."

France tested the No. 59 on Wednesday, with Darren Law in the No. 58 Red Bull team car. David Donohue is on hand for the test, but is not driving as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery.

Dan Gurney Named Grand Marshal For 46th Anniversary Of The Rolex 24

Dan Gurney, one of America's greatest racing legends and winner of the inaugural Daytona Continental, now known as the Rolex 24 At Daytona, has been named Grand Marshal for the 46th anniversary of the Rolex 24 on Jan. 26-27 at Daytona International Speedway.

As the Grand Marshal, Gurney will give the starting command, "Drivers start your engines," to kick off the race and will present the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Daytona Cosmographs to the Rolex 24 winners in Gatorade Victory Lane.

"We're proud to have a legend such as Dan Gurney serve as Grand Marshal for America's premier sports car event," Daytona International Speedway President Robin Braig said. "Dan Gurney is one of the most decorated and accomplished racers in the world. It'll be a privilege to have him in attendance and start this historic sports car race that he first won back in 1962."

In 1961, Gurney won the inaugural Daytona Continental, a three-hour sports car race that has now become the historic Rolex 24. Driving on the 3.81-mile road course, Gurney -- behind the wheel of the No. 96 Lotus-Climax 19b S 2500 car -- won the Daytona Continental completing 82 laps and averaging 104.101 mph in what was the fastest sports car race ever run in the U.S.

As an owner and car builder, Gurney's All American Racers Toyota team set the current Rolex 24 qualifying record for the 3.56-mile road course in 1993. Driver P.J. Jones posted a lap of 136.521 mph in Toyota Eagle Mk III.

-credit; garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Carlos de Quesada , Jon Fogarty , Wayne Taylor , Jimmie Johnson , Robin Liddell , Bill Auberlen , Dan Gurney , Hurley Haywood , Darren Law , David Donohue , Gilles Villeneuve , JC France , David Empringham , Max Angelelli , Tom Nastasi , Joao Barbosa , P.J. Jones , Jean-Francois Dumoulin , Scooter Gabel , Andrew Davis , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , John Stevenson , Eric Lux , Bob Stallings , Alex Job , Michael Shank , Marc Basseng , Ricky Taylor
Teams Stevenson Motorsports , Alex Job Racing