Two-time GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series champions GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, and lead drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, will be joined by winning sports car driver Memo Gidley for the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona. The Jan. 26 – 29 race is also the debut race for the team’s new No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Corvette Daytona Prototype.
The team made the announcement of its complete driver lineup for the 2012 Rolex 24 during the first of a two-day test session at Daytona International Speedway where Gurney, Fogarty and Gidley took their first laps on the 3.56-mile DIS road course in the new Corvette. Gidley replaces five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson who partnered with Gurney and Fogarty in the No. 99 GAINSCO “Red Dragon” in the last four runnings of the Rolex 24.
“As soon as Jimmie told me he wanted to take a year off from the 24, I immediately thought of Memo,” said GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team owner Bob Stallings. “We have known him a long time, he’s a really solid driver, he’s an American from California, and I have always held him in high regard. He’s just a terrific person, gets along really well with Alex and Jon, and is awesome on the track. He rarely lays a tire off the track. We just had a test in Texas last week and Memo was just as solid as expected. We feel very good about our driver lineup.”
Gidley has extensive experience in nearly every form of automobile road racing in the United States, including GRAND-AM Daytona Prototype competition. He joined with then-teammate Michael McDowell for a victory in the season-ending race at Mexico City in 2005 in a Finlay Motorsports BMW Riley, in addition to driving for other top Daytona Prototype teams in the following years.
“I am super pumped to be racing for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing,” Gidley said. “They have been a team that is always in contention for a win or a championship, and as a driver this is a great environment to be in. It was very exciting to get a call from Bob asking if I would be interested in driving for him in the 24. His first question was whether I am ready for this. I told him I was ready last year… last month… and I’m ready NOW, so let’s do it. In the short time talking to and being around Bob, I realized that he is a great motivator and has fantastic energy that I believe is a key to his team’s success. I am really looking forward to being a part of the 50th Rolex 24 with such a great team.”
Gurney, who won the pole for the 2007 Rolex 24, is more than pleased with the arrival of his newest teammate at GAINSCO.
“We are very excited to have Memo join our team,” Gurney said. “He has all the attributes we look for in order to help us win the Rolex 24 At Daytona. He is very quick, he is a team player, has lots of experience in Daytona Prototypes, stays out of trouble on the race track, is solid in all conditions, and is a nice guy on top of all that. When he showed up at our shakedown test, he fit in right away.”
Gidley continues an unintentional but somewhat uncanny trend for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing that has seen only drivers from California in the No. 99 “Red Dragon” since Stallings stepped out of the cockpit after co-driving with Gurney in the team’s first year of competition. Gurney is a native of Irvine in Southern California, Fogarty hails from Portola Valley in Central California, Johnson comes from El Cajon near San Diego, while former team drivers Jimmy Vasserand Rocky Moran were born in the greater Los Angeles communities of Canoga Park and Pasadena, respectively. Gidley was actually born in La Paz, Mexico, but considers Central California his stateside home, as he and his family lived on a sailboat as “anchor outs” in the San Francisco Bay when he was a boy.
“I am really happy to have Memo aboard for this year’s 50th anniversary Rolex 24,” Fogarty said. “Memo has proven his speed not only in Daytona Prototypes, but in all categories of cars from Indy Car to sedans. He has the pace, 24-hour experience in both DP and GT, and he is another West Coast American. So he fits right in.”
Last week’s two-day test at Texas World Speedway was the first time GAINSCO’s new Corvette turned a wheel. All three drivers put in some laps during what was primarily a shakedown run.
“The Texas test went extremely well,” Stallings said. “Obviously this is a car that we have to get familiar with. There are things that we have to learn about it and I suspect it will take two or three races for us to get a good handle on the car. Beyond that, the manufacturers themselves are doing a lot of learning. They have done a terrific job so far. When you think about how far they went from design to getting the car on the track, it’s a pretty short period of time.”
Gidley didn’t get a lot of time in the GAINSCO Corvette in Texas but quickly found both the car and the entire GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team to his liking.
“I really enjoyed being at the test at Texas World Speedway and driving the new Corvette Daytona Prototype,” Gidley said. “I saw pictures of the new Corvette body and thought immediately that the car looked fantastic. Then when I saw it next to the old Riley body in the GAINSCO shop, it immediately made the old Riley look like a vintage car. It was exciting to take the car out for laps for the first time at Texas and I really liked how it felt. It really was a shakedown, but I do feel the potential to be very fast is there. I expect the race to be an interesting mix of performance from both the new and old cars, but in typical GAINSCO team fashion I expect the No. 99 to be at the front.”
GAINSCO concludes its 2011 on-track schedule on Tuesday at DIS but will return early in the New Year for the annual Roar Before The Rolex 24 At Daytona Test Days, Jan. 6 – 8.