Johnson Joins GAINSCO team for final day of Daytona testing
NASCAR's biggest star, Jimmie Johnson, exits his car looking a bit dejected after not being able to match the times of his ex-Champ Car driver teammates
Two-time reigning NASCAR Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson joined his GAINSCO/Bob Stallings teammates for the third and final day of Daytona Test Days Sunday and handled the majority of the driving as the team went through its final preparations for the 46th annual Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 26 – 27.
Johnson, who also tested with the GAINSCO team last November at Daytona just prior to clinching his second consecutive NASCAR crown, quickly turned laps comparable to his teammates Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and Jimmy Vasser, who handled the first two days of testing.
"The team is working on different things, but from my standpoint I was trying to get up to speed and try not to tear up their great race car," Johnson said. "I just wanted to get in some laps and get up to the pace that I need to be at. I think I'm there. I think it's time to race. I feel great in the car and I got a lot of laps here today. I am really looking forward to coming back."
Johnson is prepping for his fourth Rolex 24 start but his first with Rolex Series Champions GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing. He co-drove to runner-up honors in his second start here in 2005 and decided to come back in a full attempt to win the Rolex 24 while watching from home the following year.
"I'm strictly here to win," Johnson said. "The first two years, it was more for fun, but then I took a year off and I watched Casey Mears, a great friend of mine, win and I watched the event on television. I said, 'You know I finished second in this thing and I've got to work hard to find a ride that I can go down there and have a chance of winning with.' Being in a lineup with guys like this, it's really a dream come true to come down here and compete and be a favorite for this event."
Team owner Stallings likes the all-star addition to his championship lineup of drivers and was pleased with all of their work over the weekend. Gurney turned the GAINSCO team's quickest overall lap of the test with his Friday time of 1:41.761 seconds (125.942 mph) around the 3.56-mile Daytona road course, which was the fifth overall fastest time of the weekend. The team also topped Saturday's night practice session with Fogarty lapping at 1:42.010 seconds (125.635 mph).
"We had a good test and the guys did a real good job all weekend," Stallings said. "Jimmie Johnson did a great job coming in here today and getting right up to speed, Jimmy Vasser is real strong at Daytona and Alex (Gurney) and Jon (Fogarty) ran like the champions that they are. We will keep working with the new Pirellis. It is a great racing tire but much more sensitive than what we have run in the past. The Rolex 24 is going to come down to tire management and who can get the most out of the new Pirellis and take care of them. We are up to the challenge."
Between Sunday's sessions, the No. 99 Lowe's/GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley the team will race in the Rolex 24 At Daytona was officially unveiled.
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