Jimmie Johnson testing for Rolex 24
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."