in 50th Anniversary running of the day-long Daytona classic
Gurney, Fogarty & Gidley in GAINSCO Auto Insurance Corvette Daytona Prototype
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, and drivers Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and Memo Gidley, will be shooting for nothing short of the team’s first Rolex 24 At Daytona victory this weekend in the 50th Anniversary running of the legendary day-long race at Daytona International Speedway (DIS) that marks the competition debut of the new No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Corvette Daytona Prototype. The green flag drops this Saturday, January 28 at 3:30 p.m. ET with live television coverage on SPEED beginning Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET/11 p.m. PT.
This weekend’s race is the seventh consecutive Rolex 24 for GAINSCO and sixth straight with Gurney and Fogarty as lead drivers. Gidley rounds out the driver list as the three California road racers are eager to win their first Rolex 24 At Daytona event for themselves, sponsor GAINSCO, and the entire GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team.
For Gurney, a win when the checkered flag falls on Sunday afternoon would be more than just a career-achievement. His father Dan Gurney, an American racing icon, won the inaugural sports car race at DIS in 1962, then called the Daytona Continental, and a victory by his youngest son a full 50 years later would be the stuff of a Hollywood movie script.
The new Corvette Daytona Prototype is the latest version of the No. 99 GAINSCO “Red Dragon” and among the newest cars in the race. It was completed just before Christmas but the hard-working GAINSCO crew managed to fit in three test sessions – one in Texas and two in total at Daytona – in order to fast-track the car’s technical development.
“We’ve had some good test days already and covered a lot of ground,” Gurney said. “I’ve been impressed at how focused the team is on every possible reliability issue. We’ve learned a lot from our previous 24 hour races and we’re trying very hard to cover all the bases. I think this year might be a little bit more challenging because the larger GT field is the thing we have to be most mindful of at all times. There are going to be at least 45 GTs out there, that’s a lot of cars to navigate on any given lap for 24 hours.”
The new Corvette Daytona Prototype is the most sophisticated race car of its type ever built, but debuting any car in a race as grueling as the Rolex 24 is a steep challenge.
“In previous years, we had a pretty good idea of where things stood, but it really is wide open this year,” Fogarty said. “Nobody knows who is going to be fast, and more importantly who is going to last. As a driver you tend to concern yourself with what is happening behind the wheel. I feel good about our car, but jumping right into a 24-hour event is a big test. Winning any Rolex 24 race is special, but yes, winning the 50th running would be all-time incredible.”
Gurney likes the team’s chances with their new “Little Red Corvette.”
“The main difference in feel this year comes down to the car,” Gurney said. “It is a different beast and it’s proven to be competitive so far. We really want to have a very strong debut for this new Corvette. A win is our ultimate goal and we would be over the moon if we can make that happen.”
GAINSCO’s best Rolex 24 result to date came in the 2008 race where Gurney and Fogarty were joined by Jimmie Johnson and Jimmy Vasser for a second-place finish. Gidley is the sole co-driver with the season-long Gurney and Fogarty duo for the 2012 Rolex 24.
“I feel very prepared as a team going into the race,” Gidley said. “We have had a methodical approach to get to where we are, even after some new car teething problems. That has really been a testimony to the team, they are a great group. Working with fellow Californians, Alex and Jon has also been very rewarding, they are fantastic drivers who both know what it takes to win.”
The Rolex 24 At Daytona weekend begins tomorrow with opening practice and qualifying. Friday features final practice before Saturday’s race start at 3:30 p.m. local time.
Dan Gurney was the Rolex 24 Grand Marshal when his son and GAINSCO teammates hit the podium in 2008, but the legendary driver will not make the trip to Daytona this weekend. The elder Gurney is doing well recovering from recent knee surgery and joined his son for several media interviews in the past week to promote the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24. “I have two great memories so far at the Rolex 24,” Alex Gurney said. “Winning the pole on the last lap of qualifying in 2007 and also being on the podium with my Dad who handed out the trophies in 2008, those are two pretty good ones!”… As they have done for the last several years, GAINSCO will be entertaining a large group of agent partners and corporate guests at this weekend’s race. “Someone said to me the other day that we are very unique in that we’ve been together as a sports car team for so long,” Gurney said. “We owe our longevity to everybody at GAINSCO Auto Insurance. We feel incredibly lucky to be racing in this fantastic series with their support, and against so many great teams and great drivers. Long live the ‘Red Dragon’!”… What GAINSCO’s drivers will be doing out of the car during the race is almost as important as their time at the wheel. “I usually go back to the bus and try to rest a bit but I’ve rarely been able to sleep during any of the previous races, maybe a couple hours at best,” Gurney said. “I’m usually on my laptop on the live timing feed checking out what everyone is doing.” Gidley also tries to take a break from the on-track action. “After my stint I leave the pits immediately, go back to the motor home, eat and then try to sleep. Try is really the key word there as it is much harder than it sounds!”