GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing perseveres for hard-earned 12th place in problem-plagued Rolex 24 At Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 30, 2011) -- GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, and its trio of all-star drivers Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and Jimmie Johnson, performed like the champions they are in the face of a problem-plagued and frustrating Rolex 24 At Daytona this weekend, finishing 12th in the Daytona Prototype class after dealing with race-long brake problems and a hard hit to the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley from an archrival Saturday night.
Although the final part of the race was much smoother than Saturday's opening half, the gap that resulted from three different trips to the garage in the race's first 10 hours was ultimately too much to overcome. Gurney did move to 12th - earning GAINSCO the 19 championship points that go with it - in the final 45 minutes of the race on Sunday, but that was the only slight bright spot of an otherwise tough day and night of competition.
"We just had chronic brake problems, which required the crew to make a bunch of adjustments and repairs during the race," Fogarty said. "We did it and got some well-placed points. Our pace was probably the best it's been in several years, so we're pleased about that, but we would have liked to show it a little more."
Although Gurney ran as high as third in the first driving shift of the race, a brake issue that emerged during Johnson's stint sent the GAINSCO "Red Dragon" to the garage for the first time in the race's fourth hour. A second brake repair was also needed later that evening but a bump-and-run incident by Juan Pablo Montoya before that was the real strain on the No. 99 team. That repair job alone cost GAINSCO 20 laps.
"We basically have new parts on the car, and you can't go and do a 24 hour test," Fogarty said. "You go straight to a 24 hour race with stuff that's not fully tested and things crop up. With the motor change, that's what it kind of boils down to, we have an entirely new motor package this year."
The new motor package from ECR Engines was actually a key factor in GAINSCO's improved performance at the Rolex 24, although the team never had the chance to battle for the lead. After the rollercoaster opening half, most on the team were just happy to make it to the finish, although they never quit working to improve the car.
"It was great that we finished," Gurney said. "Very character building, and now we are full of character! We worked on the car setup wise and actually made some good gains during the race. We were reasonably quick on occasion. The finish does matter, that could be the difference on the championship, and 12th place is not too bad.
In GRAND-AM Road Racing championships, 12th place pays 19 points. GAINSCO scored less than that after retiring and placing 22nd in the 2007 Rolex 24, but the team still went on to capture that year's GRAND-AM Rolex Sport Car Series Daytona Prototype Driver and Team Championships.
Jimmie Johnson drove second in the driver rotation, staying with his teammates throughout the day-long grind. Johnson actually took over for Gurney during the last of the three major repair sessions early Sunday morning, and returned to the race 32nd overall, 15th in the Daytona Prototype class and 43 laps in arrears. By the end of the race, GAINSCO had raced to 15th overall, in addition to the 12th place class finish.
Next up for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing is the Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway, March 4 - 5.