Johnson to race Grand-Am at The Glen
Four-time reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson will make his second start of the 2010 season with GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and its team of two-time champion drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty at next month’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen. The GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race takes place June 4–5 on the full 3.4-mile Watkins Glen International (WGI) road course in Watkins Glen, N.Y.
The Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen marks the first time Johnson has made more than one start in a season with the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team and just his second time running multiple GRAND-AM Rolex Series races in a year. The Sahlen’s Six Hour will also be Johnson’s first start in any series on the traditional 3.4-mile Grand Prix road course that has played host to some of the greatest racecar drivers of all time since opening in the 1950s. The six-hour sports car race has been an international fixture on The Glen’s annual schedule since 1968.
“I always look forward to racing with Alex, Jon and the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team,” said Johnson, who drives the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevy for Hendrick Motorsports in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. “We’ve tried to make some things come together for other races and it’s just never worked out so I’m very excited that we were able to make this happen. I think most people know how much I want to win on a road course and also in a GRAND-AM car. It would be pretty cool if we could pull it off. I know Alex and John have won this race before and I hope we’re able to do it again.”
Johnson co-drove the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona the last three years, scoring a second-place overall finish with Gurney, Fogarty and Jimmy Vasser in their debut race together in 2008. Team owner Bob Stallings has always looked to expand Johnson’s races with the team beyond the Rolex 24 and the circumstances were right for this year’s Sahlen’s Six Hours. Johnson will compete at both Watkins Glen, which is a Saturday race, and in the Cup race activities at Pocono Raceway on the same weekend.
“The door is always open to Jimmie to race with us at any time, but making that type of scheduling work with his massive NASCAR commitments is easier said than done,” Stallings said. “Happily, it worked out this year and Jimmie is going to travel back and forth between The Glen and Pocono on Friday and Saturday. We are grateful to Jimmie and the Hendrick team for the effort and cooperation, and having three champion drivers in the lineup for the Six-Hour for the first time is going to give us another edge on the competition.”
Johnson has seven career GRAND-AM Rolex Series race starts, all at Daytona International Speedway (DIS), in the top-tier Daytona Prototype division. In addition to the last three Rolex 24 races with GAINSCO, Johnson also drove a Crawford Daytona Prototype in the day-long Daytona race in 2004 and 2005. He did not make any GRAND-AM starts in 2006 but returned in 2007 to compete in both the Rolex 24 and the July sprint race at DIS with the Riley-Matthews Daytona Prototype team. In addition to the Rolex 24 runner-up finish with GAINSCO in 2008, Johnson was also part of the Crawford team’s second-place effort in the 2005 24-hour.
“We are very motivated to win another Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and for our first race there with Jimmie,” Alex Gurney said. “This isn’t a guest driver situation and never really has been as Jimmie has been a key part of this team since we first raced with him in 2008. I know Jimmie will have no problem getting up to speed, as he has proven that to us each year at Daytona. I think he’ll also really love the Glen long course. Those particular sections in the “The Boot” are some of the best parts of the track and Jimmie should really shine there.”
Gurney and Fogarty won the 2007 Sahlen’s Six Hours in a season of domination that saw GAINSCO capture seven wins in 14 races and the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype Team and Driver Championships. The team and drivers scored repeat championships in 2009 despite a rare DNF (Did Not Finish) in the Sahlen’s event when Gurney was punted off course by a competitor. GAINSCO also struggled to an eighth-place finish in the 2008 six-hour race after dealing with late-race engine issues.
“We are ready to get back to our winning form at Watkins Glen and Jimmie is just the guy to help us do that,” Fogarty said. “I say this every time we announce that Jimmie is going to drive with us, but he is a great guy to have around not only as a driver but as a friend and teammate as well. The only bummer is that we will not get to see him as much as we normally do at the Rolex 24 because of his split racing schedule, but that is a small price to pay. It is great to have him back.”
The No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley team is currently fifth in the team championship with 97 points, with one race at Lime Rock Park on Memorial Day Monday before the Watkins Glen event. The Daytona Prototype class will join the GT division at Lime Rock for the first time on the 1.50-mile configuration of the classic Connecticut road course. The race can be seen live on SPEED at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT on Monday, May 31.