Overheard in Homestead - 2 There was a lot of good news in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 in the GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Not only did we see the Dallara and Lola Daytona Prototypes in competition for the first time, plus the Level 5 Crawford-built Ferrari in GT, there was plenty of talk in the paddock about cars we should see in the near future.
Another Dallara at Mexico
Doran Racing will field the No. 77 Ford Dallara for Burt Frisselle and Gabriele Gardel in the April 19 race at Mexico City, putting three of the new Dallaras in the field.
Kevin Doran said the new car will be similar to the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley, that led 20 laps Saturday before being taken out in an accident. While the bodywork is identical, the No. 77 Kodak Ford Doran is very different underneath, with the car bodied after racing in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.
"We're reasonably happy with our first run here, but it's not very balanced yet," Doran said Saturday morning prior to the race. "It's still pretty quick, with good top speed. Now, we have to learn what the car wants."
While Doran didn't know of any additional Dallaras coming into the series, he wouldn't be surprised to see more of them.
"I imagine if they run as well as we expect them to, there will be more Dallaras running at the end of the season," Doran said. "But, that's just my prediction."
Ricky Taylor to Test with Beyer
Beyer Racing will test a pair of 18-year-olds this week at Virginia International Raceway as it closes in on its Rolex Series debut.
Ricky Taylor, who finished fifth in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in the last run for his father Wayne Taylor's SunTrust Pontiac Riley, will join Jared Beyer in a Ford Crawford that the team purchased from Finlay Racing. Beyer tested the car at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February, joined by Daniel Herrington.
Max Crawford will assist with running the team, which hopes to run selected races this season in preparation for a full schedule in 2009. This week's test will help determine the schedule for the remainder of the campaign, with a possible debut of April 27 at Virginia International Raceway.
Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand finished second in Saturday's GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami for Alex Job Racing in the Ruby Tuesday Porsche Crawford. That team is hoping to have new Crawford bodywork following the April event at Virginia International Raceway.
Mr. Daytona ... Prototype
Scott Russell earned the moniker "Mr. Daytona" by winning the premier Daytona 200 By Honda five times. After sitting out a few years following injuries, Russell returned to two-wheeled competition last year in the SunTrust MOTO-ST, and raced in the Daytona 200 Week earlier this month.
Russell spent the weekend at Homestead as a guest of the Spirit of Daytona team, observing the team's preparation in hopes of racing with them in the Rolex 24 At Daytona next January.
"I can't wait to test this car," Russell said. "I hope I can get in it soon. I'm here at Homestead to learn more about it, so when I get in to test, I'll know what I'm talking about somewhat. I've never raced cars before. I'm learning everything. There's so much to do with a car. Of course, we've got all these technicians around to help you. I've got to learn the different lines around the racetrack in a car, waiting later to brake and turn in. I don't think it will take that long to get a grip on."
At least Russell won't have to lean the car into a turn the way he does when he rides a motorcycle.
"But I'll be leaning my head, I'm sure," he said.
Next up for Russell will be April 11-12 Super Moto competition in the new X Games motorcycle weekend at the San Diego Chargers' stadium, followed by the full-scale X Games Aug. 1-2, at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles. Then, he's hoping for a pair of classics at Daytona International Speedway, the Rolex 24 and Daytona 200 By Honda.
da Matta to Run Full Time
Perhaps the most heart-warming news of the weekend was the announcement that Cristiano da Matta will return to competition when he joins fellow Champ Car titlist Jimmy Vasser in the No. 98 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Pontiac Riley in the May 17 race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
In addition, Stallings is in the final stages (he hopes) that will secure major sponsorship necessary to run the car for the remainder of 2008, plus a run at the 2009 Daytona Prototype championship.
da Matta missed more than one year while recovering from a traumatic accident when he hit a deer while testing a Champ Car at Elkhart Lake, Wis.
Even though he felt good, da Matta expressed concerns leading into a recent test with GAINSCO at the Eagles Canyon track near Dallas.
"After only a few laps, it was right there," da Matta said. "It's like what they say about riding a bicycle. It was very, very good news for me."
Now, Stallings is looking to finalize his sponsorship talks.
"You never know about these things until they actually happen," Stallings said. "I've got to find a sponsor - I don't want to run against this guy."
If it works out, da Matta will be another high-profile addition to the Rolex Series for at least the next two seasons. And, Stallings hinted at another very high-profile driver to join what he hopes is a two-car team for January's Rolex 24 At Daytona.
And, who might that be? That's just some of the speculation heard behind the wall this past weekend at Homestead.
de Quesada Plans Firming Up
Carlos de Quesada, winner of the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona in the GT category, is closing in on his debut in a Daytona Prototype.
de Quesada recently purchased the Riley that Henri Zogaib formerly raced with Michael Shank Racing. He's also pretty sure he will go with the Porsche Cayenne-based powerplant. Now, he's ready to go racing.
"We want to test and see how it goes," de Quesada said. "We need to make sure that the car is all right before we go out there. Possibly, we'll be ready by the Sahlen's Six Hours of Watkins Glen."
While he continues to race Porsches in GT, de Quesada felt the trend in that class was to the Prep II tube frame cars.
"If we've got to go with a purpose-built race car, we might as well go to Daytona Prototype," de Quesada said. "Besides, sponsorship is easier to get for a Daytona Prototype." Grand-Am