AJ Allmendinger has been racing the Rolex 24 At Daytona for Michael Shank Racing in a Riley since 2006, when he finished a career-best second. He will be racing a Dallara for the first time in the 49th running of the event on Jan. 29-30, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular is proving to be a quick study.
Allmendinger was fastest in Saturday's second day of "Roar Before the Rolex 24" testing at Daytona International Speedway, running the day's fastest lap of 127.318mph in the No. 6 Curb Records DP he shares with Michael McDowell and Justin Wilson. He also beat Scott Pruett's fastest speed (126.848mph) from Friday.
"Since I'm only running in the Rolex Series once a year, I didn't know if I would remember what the DP felt like," Allmendinger said. "But when I got in the Dallara, it definitely had a different feel. It slips through the air with good speed, but I don't know if we can drive it on the edge like this in a 24-hour race."
Allmendinger later backed up his speed by posting the fastest lap of night practice (123.713mph).
"AJ's a rock star," car owner Michael Shank said. "I've been telling people that for years."
Also leading DP sessions were defending Rolex 24 winner Ryan Dalziel, who ran a lap of 127.168mph in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport BMW/Riley, and open-wheel star Scott Dixon, 127.263mph in the No. 02 Target/TELMEX BMW/Riley.
Reigning five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson practiced in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet/Riley, joining two-time champions Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty for the fourth straight year. While Johnson finished second in the Rolex 24 on two occasions – most recently in 2008 – he hopes to join Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt as the only drivers to win both the Rolex 24 and Daytona 500.
"That would be something special," Johnson said. "I love this team and I love this series."
In the production-based GT class, Andy Lally ran a lap of 150.303mph to lead the morning session in the No. 67 TRG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup that co-driver Spencer Pumpelly drove to Friday's fastest speed (116.329mph). Co-driver Wolf Henzler (ABOVE) set the fastest lap in night practice (105.797mph). Andrew Davis (116.025mph in the No. 59 Brumos Porsche)) and Dominic Farnbacher (115.879mph in the No. 66 TRG Porsche) led the remaining sessions. Testing continues Sunday.
NOTES: Frenchman Pascal Gibon escaped injury when his No. 00 Aten Motorsports Ferrari F430 Challenge caught fire in the East Horseshoe. "The damage from the fire looks a lot worse than it is," said team principal Tony Dowe. "It appears we had an engine issue but the damage isn't catastrophic, if we had to be racing next weekend - we would be there." ... Todd Snyder led Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge testing, running 108.289mph in the No. 21 SOS Mustang GT. ... Actor/racer Patrick Dempsey unveiled a bright yellow Visit Florida on his No. 40 Mazda RX-8. Dempsey is looking to make his fourth Rolex 24 start, co-driving with Joe Foster, Charles Espenlaub and Tom Long. ... ModSpace is stepping up its GRAND-AM involvement, sponsoring a pair of Mazdas for 2011. The company will back the No. 26 MAZDASPEED3 in Continental Tire Sport Car Challenge Street Tuner competition, and the No. 36 Yellow Dragon Motorsports Mazda RX-8 in the Rolex Series GT category. ... Grand Sport driver Steve Miller (No. 41 TRG Porsche 911) was taken to nearby Halifax Health Medical Center for evaluation following a hard crash in Turn 1, during an afternoon session for the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. He was later released.