/Bob Stallings Racing From Scoring A Hard-Earned Seventh-Place Rolex 24 Finish
Team Recovers from Major Repairs in Race's First Half to Earn Solid Championship Points
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing recovered from two major repair jobs before the Rolex 24 At Daytona even reached its midway mark and spent the final 12 hours clawing back into the top 10 before taking the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley across the finish line in seventh place Sunday in the 47th annual running of America's premier endurance race.
The GAINSCO team swapped out gearbox internals in a quick 10-minute pit stop in hour four and then endured a major change of the entire rear-end componentry in under 30 minutes just before the race's halfway mark early Sunday morning. The setbacks put the No. 99 GAINSCO team out of realistic contention for a victory, as much as 24 laps down from the leaders at one point and well out of the Top 20, but the 2007 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Champions never gave up.
"I am really proud of everybody," said GAINSCO's starting driver Alex Gurney. "Everyone hung in there. Considering all of the problems we had I think it was a really good finish, points wise. It wasn't anywhere near as bad as we thought it was going to be, so overall I think it was a pretty good day."
In the end, GAINSCO finished 21 laps behind record-setting winners Brumos Racing and drivers David Donohue, Darren Law, Buddy Rice and Antonio Garcia in the No. 58 Porsche Riley. The GAINSCO No. 99 completed 714 laps and scored is second-straight Top-10 finish in the Rolex 24 after finishing second last year. The most recent results are GAINSCO's best Rolex 24 showings in four attempts.
"We just don't give up," said Gurney's fulltime teammate Jon Fogarty, who drove the final stint of the race. "That's the wonderful thing about this team. There is just not a negative thread running anywhere. We have these issues and we just put it back together and we go back out. At the same time, you don't only go back out, you go back out to race, because you never know when a lap here or a lap there is going to pay off. Six hours later, somebody else might have a problem, and you might be a lap ahead of them because you went for it. That was our plan, we did everything we could to advance, and I think seventh is a pretty good result for having so many issues."
Team regulars Jimmy Vasser and Jimmie Johnson were also part of GAINSCO's determined charge back to the front. Each drove a pair of stints during the race and once again left Daytona impressed by the GAINSCO team and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series.
"It is great to finish in the Top 10 again," Vasser said. "A win wasn't meant to be with the mechanicals we had and, quite honestly, we really didn't have the speed. The team just has a never-give-up attitude and we didn't. We came from nearly dead last in class to finish seventh. We got some good points for the team for the season and hopefully they can use them to win another championship."
Johnson raced in his second consecutive Rolex 24 with GAINSCO and scored an impressive third Top 10 finish in five attempts, including last year's runner-up showing and another second-place finish in 2005.
"The Grand-Am Series is something special that everybody is focused on and the truth is that it is some of the best road course racing I have ever seen," Johnson said. "You have got a nice balance in the car where you can lean on somebody and not hook wheels and flip each other over or rip wheels off your car. Grand-Am has done a great job building cars that are durable and can run door-to-door and put on a great show. It was nice to be out here and I hope to race here a little more."
Seventh position awards 24 points for both the Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Driver and Team Championships. The winning No. 58 Brumos Porsche team, by comparison, earned the maximum 35 points and now leads the 2009 standings after this weekend's season-opening race.
"Obviously we came here with the idea of winning this thing but under the circumstances, I am extremely happy," said GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Team Owner Bob Stallings. "We won the 2007 championship but it was very difficult after not doing well here in the Rolex 24. We are leaving here with some good points so we are real happy."
Next up for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing is the Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway, April 24 – 25.