For First 2009 Laps Sunday in Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Testing
Johnson and Vasser Drive in Final Practice; Gurney Turns Top Lap Of Weekend in a.m. Run
Jimmie Johnson joined his GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing teammates Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and Jimmy Vasser Sunday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway and quickly got up to speed in the afternoon's final practice in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley.
"It took about three or four laps and then I was like "OK, got it,'" said Johnson, who will run in his second-consecutive Rolex 24 At Daytona with GAINSCO later this month. "I can get within a second, but getting that last bit is the hardest in any sport. It is one thing to get close but to be competitive is the hard thing. My reference points, I have got those down as far as where the braking zones are, but the track has changed a little bit with some of the curbs through the bus stop (chicane). It is just going to take some more laps."
Johnson will likely get many more laps in the third and final day of the test on Monday. He is expected to do the majority of the driving for the team after Gurney, Fogarty and Vasser shared the No. 99 for the first half of the test. The reigning three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion is preparing for his fifth career Rolex 24 At Daytona start and knows how difficult but rewarding the day-long race can be.
"Man, it's so worth the pain," Johnson said. It is so much fun to do this event. I have been second twice and it is so sweet to finish the race, I can only imagine what it would be like to win. I would love to add that credential to my resume with the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. It would be awesome."
Johnson shared the car in Sunday's final one-hour practice with Vasser after Gurney set the team's fastest lap of the weekend so far in the morning practice. Gurney's time of 1:42.230 (125.364 mph) ranked fourth fastest in that session and the lap put the GAINSCO team back within range of the competition's fastest times.
Johnson and Vasser joined lead drivers Gurney and Fogarty in finishing second in last year's Rolex 24 At Daytona and GAINSCO is one of the few teams to return with the same driver lineup in 2009. Johnson's first second-place Rolex 24 finish came in 2005 when he was part of the runner-up lineup in a Pontiac Crawford.
Monday's testing schedule includes a morning practice at 10:15 a.m. and the final run of the test that afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Testing is open to the public for a $10 admission, which includes access to the infield, garage and Sprint FANZONE.