BRAKE MALADIES AND A MAULING BY GANASSI'S JUAN PABLO MONTOYA DELAY NO. 99
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing down but not out as the 49th Rolex 24 At Daytona rolls through midnight mark
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 30, 2011) -- The midnight hour failed to bring any magic to GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, and drivers Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and Jimmie Johnson, at the 49th annual Rolex 24 At Daytona where early brake issues and a hard bump-and-run mauling by Juan Pablo Montoya have put the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley over 40 laps down as Saturday slipped into Sunday.
Although starting driver Gurney ran as high as third in the opening race stint, a brake issue that emerged during Jimmie Johnson's shift later forced the GAINSCO "Red Dragon" to the garage in the race's fourth hour.
"We have some unusual brake issues going on right now with our car, so we're trying to get to the bottom of it," Johnson said after his driving shift. "The brake pedal is really long, and if I don't pump it before every brake zone multiple times, it just goes to the floor. And there's a few situations in traffic that were quite spooky when I didn't have quite enough time to pump the brakes up, and I needed to have the brakes. Man, I'm lucky I didn't run anybody over a couple of times out there."
Although the brake repair job dropped GAINSCO several laps down, the real blow came when Montoya came together with Fogarty in Daytona's International Horseshoe early in hour five. The No. 99 suffered severe right suspension damage, a pair of bent right-side wheels and a badly broken steering arm. Fogarty managed to make it back to the garage where the team lost another 20 laps for repairs.
"These things happen but it would be nice if they played a little nicer," Gurney said. "It's a 24 hour race and that was only five or six hours in."
The Montoya incident may have also contributed to another GAINSCO setback just before 1 a.m. Gurney was back at wheel when the No. 99 suddenly sounded "off" and louder, and sparks started showering from the back of the car. GAINSCO went to the garage for the third time in the first half of the race.
"We think the earlier contact with the 02 may have damaged the exhaust, and it finally just broke, it fell down, and was dragging on the ground and sparking," Gurney said. "The engine wasn't working very well, so we had to come in and fix that."
Johnson took over for Gurney during the repair stint and returned to the race for an early-morning night shift in the No. 99. The team is soldiering on, 32nd overall, 15th place in the Daytona Prototype class and 43 laps behind the overall race leader. Although a victory in the 49th annual Rolex 24 is no longer a realistic possibility, GAINSCO will now focus on finishing the race and earning valuable points for the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series championship.