Rolex testing Day 1: No. 10 SunTrust fastest
Jeff Gordon is usually turning laps at Daytona International Speedway on the famed 2.5-mile tri-oval in his No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet.
But on Thursday, for the first time in his career at "The World Center of Racing," Gordon was behind the wheel of a sports car tackling the twists and turns of the 3.56-mile road course.
During the first day of the three-day Rolex 24 At Daytona test session, Gordon, a four-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion and three-time Daytona 500 winner, was behind the wheel of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley as he continues preparation for his first start in the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 27-28.
Gordon will share the driving duties with SunTrust Racing car owner/driver Wayne Taylor and Italian Max Angelelli in the twice-around-the-clock challenge that kicks off the Rolex Sports Car Series season.
While Gordon was able to test the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley in early December at Homestead-Miami Speedway, his first road course laps at DIS have been educational.
"It's really been a great experience," Gordon said. "I had an idea of what to expect with the car by doing Homestead but I've never been on this road course before and it's pretty challenging track to learn. That last time out I was getting a good feel for it. I'm with the right team. I'm having fun and enjoying it. It's a lot different peeling off that banking at the start/finish line than turning into the infield.
Gordon participated in two shifts on Thursday and had a third shift planned later in the afternoon. He will continue Rolex 24 testing on Friday.
"The first shift I wasn't (comfortable with the times)," Gordon said. "I was a little disappointed but the second shift the speeds started to come and I'm going to get more laps later this afternoon. I'm feeling pretty good about it."
Gordon hopes to follow the tire tracks of fellow NASCAR driver Casey Mears, who was part of the overall winning team of last year's Rolex 24.
For Gordon, a Rolex 24 victory would be his 13th at "The World Center of Racing" tying him for fifth on the all-time DIS wins list with racing legends Hurley Haywood and Richard Petty.
Another historical Daytona International Speedway milestone Gordon could accomplish is being one of only three drivers to win both the Daytona 500 and the Rolex 24 during their career. Currently, Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt are the only drivers to have accomplished that feat (Andretti's 1972 Rolex 24 win wasn't a 24-hour race).
Jimmie Johnson, Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports teammate and the 2006 Daytona 500 champion, is also competing in the Rolex 24 and will be looking to pull off the same feat. Johnson will be racing the No. 91 Lowe's Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley with Jim Matthews, Marc Goossens and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Fastest of the day: There were three different Rolex Sports Car Series test sessions on Thursday. The fastest in the first session was the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley of Taylor, Angelelli and Gordon with a lap of 122.085 mph, 1 minute, 44.976 seconds.
In the second session, the No. 05 Sigalsport BMW Riley with Bill Auberlen, Matthew Alhadeff, Gene Sigal and Karl Wendlinger were fastest with a lap of 122.084, 1:44.977.
In the final session of the day, the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley returned to the top of the speed charts with a lap of 122.809, 1:44.357 - the fastest of the day.
In the KONI Challenge Series, driver Romeo Kapudija had the No. 54 Hyper Sport Mustang GT atop the speed charts for both test sessions. Patrick Dempsey, star of the ABC hit television series "Grey's Anatomy," is a co-driver on that car and is expected to test later this week.
The Roar Before the Rolex 24: On Friday, Jan. 5 and Saturday, Jan. 6, sports car fans will get all-access with the inaugural Roar Before The Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The Roar Before The Rolex 24 At Daytona will prep sports car fans for the 45th anniversary of the Rolex 24 on Jan. 27-28 with fan forums, displays, entertainment in the NEXTEL FANZONE and a technical talk about the Daytona Prototype from Howard Motorsports.
In addition, sports car fans will be able to view all the Rolex 24 At Daytona testing action from anywhere in the historic infield of Daytona International Speedway (with exception of the hot pits) and will have access to the garage area. Admission for the inaugural Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona is $5 at the gate and children 12 and under are free. Gates open at 9 a.m.