Gainsco All-American team ready for Rolex 24
Reigning GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Champions GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and its returning all-star lineup of champion drivers will once again be the only all-American Daytona Prototype team competing in this weekend's 48th annual Rolex 24 At Daytona, Jan. 28 - 31, where Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty, Jimmie Johnson and Jimmy Vasser will compete for the team's first victory in America's premier endurance race. The Rolex 24 starts at 3:30 p.m. local time Saturday with live coverage on SPEED beginning at 3 p.m. EST (12 p.m. PST).
Two-time reigning Rolex Series Champs Gurney and Fogarty will be joined by record four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Johnson and former CART Champ Car World Series titlist Vasser in the Rolex 24 for the third straight year. GAINSCO's drivers are the only returning all-American and all-champion lineup entered in the top-tier Daytona Prototype division.
"I am very excited to get the season kicked off at the Rolex 24, especially with the team that GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing has put together," said Gurney, who joined Fogarty and the GAINSCO team in winning the 2007 and 2009 Rolex Series titles. "With the experience that we've gained and the lessons we've learned from the last four 24-hour races, we are more confident than ever that we can get to the end in a position to win."
This is the fifth consecutive year that the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance "Red Dragon" Daytona Prototype has been entered in the Rolex 24. The current all-star lineup debuted in 2008 with a second-place finish and the GAINSCO squad overcame a myriad of mechanical issues to finish seventh last year. Nothing short of a victory is the goal this weekend.
"It would be unbelievable to win the Rolex 24," said Johnson, who was also part of 2005's second-place team. "I've had such a great time racing here with Bob and his entire race team. I'm really looking forward to the 24-hour race. Big compliments go out to the GAINSCO team for their 2009 championship. I am very proud of the guys and I know that it's very important for all of us to win the Rolex 24. We're going to show up with that in mind."
In testing at Daytona earlier this month, GAINSCO ran its new Chevrolet Riley package for the first time and left pleased with the results. With Gurney at the wheel, the No. 99 was fastest in two of the three afternoon practice runs during the test.
"We had a good test earlier this month," Fogarty said. "It is never as much running as you want but we feel we came away with some knowledge of what we are going to need to do for the race weekend. We seem to have a little more pace this year and the team is as focused as ever. All of the same guys on the team are back this year too. We are all pretty familiar with each other at this stage of the game and that is so important in a grueling race like this."
Vasser is a key part of the team's continuity and GAINSCO has never run a Rolex 24 without him.
"The camaraderie and seeing some old friends here at the Rolex 24 every year is a big part of the fun factor outside of the car," Vasser said. "Hanging out with the GAINSCO team is also pretty interesting. Some of the discussions inside the engineering office are far from just racing. It is always interesting to me that this team can go from talking about a race car to talking about world affairs or politics, or just about anything. For me, that is a very cool thing and something that you don't see very often in other race teams. At the same time, when it is time to get down to the business of racing, we get on with it and get the job done. It's all pretty cool."
An all-American team of drivers has never scored an overall Rolex 24 victory since the introduction of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series in 2000, and you have to go all the way back to 1993 to find the last time an overall winner featured nothing but drivers from the U.S. Appropriately, that race was won by an AAR (All American Racers) Toyota Eagle GTP that was entered and run by Gurney's legendary father and AAR founder Dan Gurney and driven by Americans PJ Jones, Rocky Moran and Mark Dismore.
"Representing the USA gives us all a lot of extra motivation," Gurney said. "It's something very rare these days in motorsports. We are definitely very proud that we are able to put forth such a competitive all-American effort."
GAINSCO's red, white and blue connections, however, go well beyond its drivers. The team's pit crew is made up entirely of Americans and the No. 99 GAINSCO race car is a U.S.-made Riley XX powered by a Chevrolet version of GM's legendary small-block V8 straight out of Detroit. Taking all of those factors into account, a top-to-bottom, all-American team - U.S. drivers, crew, race car and engine - has never scored an overall win overall in the illustrious history of Daytona's 24 hour classic that dates back to 1962.