The saga is changing even as we speak regarding the damaged No.99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley Daytona Prototype at the Rolex 24 at Daytona for the Grand-Am Rolex Series Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16
NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, JIMMIE JOHNSON, crashed Thursday morning at Daytona International Speedway during the first Rolex 24 practice. He hit the tire wall in ‘The Kink’ after being cut off by a GT car which evidently didn’t see Johnson coming flat out at 85-88 mph. Johnson let off and the car got away. The 90-minute session was ended ten minutes early. Team Owner BOB STALLINGS said Johnson was OK – a little sore and bruised, and “I’m sure he’s not feeling too good; but Johnson needed no treatment.”
The latest word from the team is that the No.99 car can and will be repaired and on track Friday, an about face from an hour before when it was announced GAINSCO would be bringing in the sister No.98 car from the Dallas shop.
However, the back half of the No.99 car has been cut off. The complete rear assembly has been removed and is on its way to the Riley shop in North Carolina for rebuilding. The chassis from the driver compartment forward is here at the track and being worked on feverishly by the crew. Johnson’s fleet of aircraft is facilitating the speedy transports and logistics are falling into place.
Owner, BOB STALLINGS, originally said the No.99 car was irreparably damaged, undrivable, with a twisted chassis. The original plan was to get the sister car, No.98, from Dallas, get it to Daytona and them refresh it with usable No.99 parts. Stallings said that he was 90 percent sure the No.98 car would be ready to start the race.
Riley chassis are the chassis of choice for ten of the 15 Daytona Prototypes in this year’s race. Stallings said most Riley chassis builders were at Daytona working with their customer cars. GAINSCO has the only Chevy Riley combination.
In Grand-Am, the Team Points go to the car number. Once a car is entered and has run on track, that number can’t be replaced with another chassis (essence of the car). So, this would have meant that the team would have to enter another car, No.98, which would receive the Rolex 24 points. A Grand-Am official opined that in all probability – had that scenario played out – that the Rolex 24 car would also run at the next race in Homestead.
In Grand-Am, the Driver Points stay with the driver regardless of what car he (or she) races.
Stallings said the No.98 car was older but has a good history. It won the 2007 Grand-Am championship, set records which still hold – most poles, most front row stars and wins in a season. In 2008 it was raced at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with JIMMY VASSER and CRISTIANO ad MATTA, who led during the race.
Stallings wasn’t happy at the point of the original press conference at noon. “We made our determination to get the other car 20 minutes ago. Since we’re the only Chevy Riley here and our car is just a little different from any others, we thought it best to bring our other car here rather than try to get parts from other Riley teams. Most of the Riley chassis builders are here at the track with their customers, It was a pretty big setback. But, “It is what it is. All the drivers feel badly, and Johnson is no exception. It’s all part of racing. The #98 car is a good solid sports car, and has its own personality.”
Stallings didn’t think it made any difference that Johnson hadn’t been at the Rolex test earlier this month. “Johnson usually gets up to speed by his sixth lap. This day he was already quicker in three or four places by his fifth lap. The ‘Kink’ is one of the Daytona places for physical activity. It was just one of those things.”
When asked why a second or backup car wasn’t brought to the race, it was pointed out that backup cars are specifically not allowed in Grand-Am Rolex. It’s a cost containment issue. Most teams don’t bring a second car. For GAINSCO it would mean another truck, because the current two-car truck is loaded with car parts. “We don’t have the budgets they do in NASCAR. They’re racing with cubic dollars and we’re racing for thrills. In our case we bring lots of car parts rather than a second car. A 24-hour race is essentially ten races in one. After one race, our car looked like it spent ten hours in Baghdad.”