In Opening Day of Practice at Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Test Days
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and lead drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty put in a largely uneventful yet productive opening day of practice Saturday at Daytona International Speedway where the 2009 season officially got underway with the start of Daytona Test Days. The three-day test on the 3.56-mile Daytona road course continues Sunday and Monday and also features a special 90-minute night practice later on Saturday evening.
For GAINSCO, the opening day of the session marked the team's first real testing opportunity since 2008's season-ending 1000k race at Miller Motorsports Park last September. The team missed the chance to run at Daytona in a pair of tests late last year and a shakedown run just before Christmas on a club track near the team's Dallas race shop was all but a wash due to damp conditions, cold temperatures and high winds.
"It was good to be back racing," said Gurney, who did the majority of his driving in the Saturday morning session. "It was a some what in the air kind of off season for a lot of people, so we are really happy to be back here and racing. We've got a lot of work to do. A lot of guys are really fast and we are struggling a bit. There is plenty of time left to figure it out, and we always seem to, so on to tomorrow."
Each driver posted fastest laps in the 1:42.9 second range, with Gurney turning his fast time in the morning session and Fogarty matching the lap in the afternoon run.
"We weren't afforded any testing opportunities since the end of the season," Fogarty said. "This is the first time we have been able to test so (Engineer) Kyle Brannan had a bunch of testing items that we worked through pretty much most of the afternoon. That, combined with the abbreviated session because of all the black flags, really didn't allow us to actually try to set a fast time. So, we got through a bunch of test items, but it is time to get on with racing."
While Rolex 24 race preparation is a key par of the traditional Daytona Test Days, Fogarty and Gurney would also like to leave Daytona on Monday with some competitive lap times in the books.
"A fast time is important," Fogarty said. "You have to assume that you are going to be faced with a sprint race in the last hour of the 24, and you want to be prepared for that. If it comes down to that, you don't want to be caught out. We have to work towards that. Of course, reliability is key, but that is always the case. It is so competitive, you have to be fast."
Saturday will conclude with a 90-minute night practice that will see Vasser takes his first laps of 2009 in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley. He last drove with GAINSCO in the 1000k Miller finale and was part of the team's third-place finish in that race. Vasser has also been part of GAINSCO's Rolex 24 lineup in each of team's attempts in the race the last three years. Gurney, Fogarty and Vasser will be joined by teammate and fellow champion Jimmie Johnson for Monday's final session of the three-day test. All three days of Daytona Test Days are open to the public for a $10 admission, which includes access to the infield, garage, Sprint FANZONE and all Fan Forums.