THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN’

The weather warmed up for the second Thursday practice of the Rolex Sports Car Series in preparation for Saturday’s Rolex 24. The times started to fall. JOAO BARBOSA was fastest with 1:40.969/126.931 mph in the Brumos Porsche No.59 Porsche Riley Daytona Prototype. His teammates are TERRY BORCHELLER, JC FRANCE, and HURLEY HAYWOOD, who evidently didn’t completely retire after all. The winningest driver in Grand-Am history has five Rolex championships on his resume.

The fastest GT driver was SYLVAIN TREMBLAY at 1:49.841/116.677 mph, driving the No.70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8, with co-drives with JONATHAN BOMARITO, NICK HAM and DAVID HASKELL.

Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates added a driver to each of its two cars. Both SCOTT PRUETT and SCOTT DIXON are already entered, in No.01 and No.02 Lexus Riley DP, respectively. The two have been added as drivers on each others car. The team explained that as qualifying drivers, they can also drive the other car, in case the need arises.

BOB STALLINGS, owner of GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley, finished second last season to the 2008 Rolex Championship team of Ganassi No.1 DP driven by SCOTT PRUETT and MEMO ROJAS. Stallings attributed Ganassi’s championship to something told to him by DAN GURNEY, father of one of Stallings drivers-ALEX GURNEY. “The car which has the most time on the track at a consistent time wins.” Stallings said CHIP GANASSI has figured it out.

In the second practice, the two Ganassi cars were eighth and ninth overall. Stallings car was fourteenth in a field of 19 Daytona Prototypes. His Rolex 24 drivers are again Gurney; JON FOGARTY; NASCAR Sprint Cup three-time champion, JIMMIE JOHNSON; and CART Champion and IRL team owner, JIMMY VASSER. Stallings said the entire 2008 team is back also. The car has the American flag on the roof and says it is an All-American car and team. Dan Gurney won the Rolex 24, but it was in an English car.

This year’s Rolex is the fourth such race for Johnson, and his fifth Grand-Am Rolex Series race at Daytona. He ran the Rolex 24 in 2004-2005, and again in 2008. He also ran the 2007 Daytona Grand-Am race. He watches the Grand-Am races on his TV in the motor home at NASCAR races. One day, Johnson said he’d like to run the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500. He likes a challenge.

Vasser, along with KEVIN KALKHOVEN, owns KV Racing in the Indy Racing League IndyCar series. Last year they ran a two car team, and Vasser said they’d really like to do that again this season. With the economy as it is, it’s tougher to do. The team has signed MARIO MORAES for the first seat. Vasser said there are ongoing talks next week with sponsors and three drivers – last year’s KV driver, ORIOL SERVIA; PAUL TRACY and LUCAS di GRAZZI.

Next up for the Rolex Series will be qualifying.