Rolex 24 Thursday Notebook
It Will Be the 99 Car (Updated Thursday at 2:15 p.m.)
The GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team changed plans. After a Riley Technologies rep inspected the crash damage from the morning incident, the team decided to remove the section of the chassis behind the driver compartment. Meanwhile, a new rear-end assembly is being put together at the Riley shop in Concord, N.C. Jimmie Johnson is providing aircraft to have the assembly shipped to Daytona. The team hopes to be back on track for Friday morning practice.
Which Car Will GAINSCO Race?
While Bob Stallings was announcing that the team will not race the No. 99 chassis this weekend - bringing in the No. 98 for the Rolex 24 - the team was re-evaluating damage sustained in a morning incident in the high-speed kink when a GT car moved in front of the No. 99 Chevrolet Riley.
"The Rolex 24 is essentially 10 races in one race so we have to bring a lot of extra parts," Stallings said. :What we don't bring is a second chassis. Backup cars are not allowed in this series to help contain costs."
Stallings said the incident twisted the chassis, with Jimmie Johnson bruised but OK. "He feels ugly but OK. He's not injured in any way. He may be sore, but there's no reason for him not to race this weekend."
The team - with Johnson pitching in with his aircraft - began planning to move engineers between Orlando and Houston, shipping in the No. 98 chassis.
"We know that car," Stallings said. "We won a championship (2007) and won a record number of races (seven) in that car. Alex (Gurney) said 'this might be a blessing.' It was a minor setback. The car is undriveable, and we will not race it in this event."
However, while Stallings was meeting with the media, the team was re-evaluating the No. 99. Stay tuned for updates!
Valiante, Tremblay Lead Opening Session; Three Crash
Michael Valiante led opening Rolex Series practice with a lap of 1:41.098 (126 768 mph) in the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley.
"Practice was great," Valiante said. "The whole team is working really hard. It's fantastic, a great way to start the weekend. Hopefully it will keep going."
Will he win the pole? "I will try," he said. Valiante has three career pole positions, all coming in 2008 with SunTrust Racing.
Sylvain Tremblay led GT with a lap of 1:50.009 (116.499 mph) in the No. 70 SpeedSource/Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8. "I've won a few poles here before and I know what it takes," Tremblay said. "My prediction is that a Mazda will be on the pole."
The session had three incidents. Martin Ragginger locked up the brakes coming into turn six and backed into the tire wall in the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Foametix/Battery Tender Porsche GT3. Job said the team is taking the car to a local body shop to fix the right-rear corner today and tonight. "We'll be at it hard and heavy tomorrow morning."
Lucas Luhr was involved in an incident in the No. 95 Crown Royal/NPN BMW Riley. "I was coming up the kink. There were two slower GT cars and I was passing them. One turned down on me - you can see the marks here - and I turned around and hit the wall."
Jimmie Johnson was unhurt in an incident involving the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley. Details to follow.
Crown Royal/NPN Sets Qualifying Plans
With Christophe Bouchut and Scott Tucker entered in both the Crown Royal/NPN Motorsports BMW Rileys, each driver must qualify and start one of the two cars. The plans are for Bouchut - the 1995 Rolex 24 At Daytona overall winner - to qualify the team's No. 55. Tucker - the 2009 SCCA National Champion - will be at the wheel of the No. 95.
The pair are part of an all-star lineup. Four-time Champ Car titlist Sebastien Bourdais, 2005 Rolex 24 winner Emmanuel Collard and long-time Porsche factory driver Sascha Maassen will also drive in the No. 55. IndyCar Series regular and WGI winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, 2001 Rolex 24 class winner and 2006 pole sitter Lucas Luhr, plus 2009 FIA GT champion Richard Westbrook.
It's no accident that all of them have won major races and/or championships.
"Champions are drivers who consistently make good choices," said team manager David Stone. "They consistenly take care of their cars, and all of our drivers have won championships.
"That's what we look for in our drivers, and also in our engineers," Stone said. "We don't always draw from the same box, either. We don't mind if they don't have prior background in this series, either. That way the guys tend to stay focused on the task at hand."
Ian James Joins Starworks Motorsport for Rolex 24
Ian James will be the fourth driver on the No. 7 Starworks Motorsport BMW Riley for the Rolex 24, joining Bill Lester, Mike Forest and Dion von Moltke.
Team principal Peter Baron also announced the web site, www.race4haiti.com, where online donations can be made with all funds going directly to Dunamis Medical Missions - a group of American doctors and nurses already active in Haiti since 1995, long before the devastating earthquakes. Driver Ryan Dalziel - who will join Starworks for the Miami Grand Prix after running for Action Express in the Rolex 24 - has a family connection. His wife Jessica's parents are both on the Board of Directors of Dunamis Medical Missions.
Dalziel and all four Starworks Motorsport drivers will sport the cause on their helmets this weekend.
Beyer Crawford Added to Daytona Prototype Field
Beyer Racing is on the grounds at Daytona with its No. 2 Chevrolet Crawford. Drivers expected to be entered are Romeo Kapidija, Jan Dirk Lueders, Jared Beyere, Dane Cameron and Cort Wagner.
"Eric Burch put this together for me for P1 Groupe," Lueders said. "This is my first pro race in the U.S. The past three years, I raced in the Le Mans Series and FIA GT in Europe."
Wagner finished fourth overall for Chip Ganassi Racing in the 2005 Rolex 24, co-driving with Stefan Johansson and Jamie McMurray - the highest finishing of three Ganassi cars in the top seven that year.
Jaeger Added To Doran Racing Lineup
Brad Jaeger will return to the lineup of the No. 77 Doran Racing Ford Dallara this weekend. He will be paired with Memo Gidley, Fabrizio Gollin and Derek Johnston.
Johnston won the 2009 Rolex 24 Driver Challenge presented by Sunoco to earn a funded seat in a Daytona Prototype for this weekend's race. To do so, he had a higher point average than all entered competitors in four British racing series.