Going into the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing had a couple of sentimental positives in hand. It had a Gurney (Alex) trying to emulate his father's win in the first major sports car race at the track, 1962's three-hour Daytona Continental. And its car, the No. 99 “Red Dragon,” tied in nicely with 2012 being the Chinese Year of the Dragon.
Unfortunately, the team's quest for the Rolex watches ended associated with the infamous number 13 – its final finishing place in the Daytona Prototype class. Had the team opened a fortune cookie, it would likely have read something to the effect of “adversity builds character.”
Still, Stallings' team could accentuate the positive. One of the Grand-Am Rolex Series' most successful teams entered 2012 with more moving parts than normal, thanks in large part to new third-gen DP bodykits and a new third driver.
Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson opted to rest, leaving Memo Gidley to slot into the laid-back atmosphere at BSR. Thanks to Gidley's personal sponsorship from Muscle Milk, its “strawberries 'n' cream” flavor brand adorned his helmet, and so regular drivers Gurney and Jon Fogarty gave the Mexican-born Californian a variety of different nicknames including “Creme Fraiche” and “Banana Head.”
The main task for the team at Daytona was coming to grips with the new Corvette DP bodykit. Five examples raced in this year's Rolex 24, but GAINSCO's was the only one wrapping a Riley chassis and Fogarty said there was a major difference in aerodynamics and handling between old and new kit.
“For a rules package that doesn't allow much in aerodynamic development, I was surprised to see how much change there was in the bodywork compared to last year,” Fogarty says. “It's a totally different animal. It requires a finer edge in setup, so ride heights, spring rates and other bits become more critical. More mechanical aspects affect how the aero works. The chassis and the body talk as separate entities.”
Gurney qualified fourth at 1:41.519, second of the Corvettes and exactly four-tenths off the polesitting Starworks Motorsport Riley-Ford in Ryan Dalziel's hands. However, given that his team was the last of the four running the Corvette body to receive it, Stallings regarded that as impressive. “It's remarkable that, given the short timeframe to put this car together [a month], the car is doing so well,” he said.