Wednesday, December 02, 2009

NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson to compete In 2010 Rolex 24 At Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will kick off his 2010 racing season at Daytona International Speedway in the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 30-31, the prestigious twice-around-the-clock challenge and the ultimate test of driver and machine. For the third straight year, Johnson will co-drive the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing entry – the 2009 Rolex Series Daytona Prototype champions – with the team’s lead drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty as well as open-wheel veteran Jimmy Vasser.

The 2010 Rolex 24 will be Johnson’s fifth appearance in the grueling race that kicks off the season for the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16. Johnson has a best finish of second in both the 2005 and 2008 Rolex 24s.

Johnson, the 2006 Daytona 500 champion, recently made NASCAR history by winning his fourth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

He could make history again in late January at Daytona by becoming the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion to also win the overall Rolex 24 title.

“It would be unbelievable,” Johnson said about winning an overall Rolex 24 title. “I’ve had such a great time with Bob (Stallings) and his entire race team. I’m really looking forward to the 24-hour race. Big compliments go out to the GAINSCO team on their championship. It was exciting to watch and an awesome battle all the way to the end and I’m very proud of the guys.

“I hope to do a better job (in 2010) in the 24. I kind of broke our toy (in 2009) after a pit stop. We had a great time. I know it’s very important for all of us to win the Rolex 24 and we’re going to show up with that in mind.”

Johnson, always a fixture at the Rolex 24, thrives on the tough competition that the race annually produces and the opportunity to drive something totally different from his NASCAR Sprint Cup car.

“To me, on a personal note, to win this race, it's hard to say where it would rank,” Johnson said. “But it is extremely high on my list because it's outside of my comfort zone and cars I haven't spent a lot of time driving.  I just don't have experience in higher downforce cars. To run well and finish second in the two times I have is really special to me.  Certainly hope we can win this year.” 

The Rolex 24 is one of only two 24-hour sports car events in the world and attracts a star-studded driver lineup from all racing disciplines around the world.

Besides Johnson, other drivers who competed in the 2009 edition of the Rolex 24 included NASCAR stars Kurt Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya, IndyCar stars Dario Franchitti, Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon and Danica Patrick and sports car veterans David Donohue, Darren Law, Max Angelelli, Hurley Haywood and Scott Pruett.

“The Rolex 24 is an event that's been around for ages and there’s a lot of prestige that goes with it,” Johnson said. “To me it's in the top five of races in the world.  You can lump it in with the 24 Hours At LeMans, the Daytona 500, the Monaco Grand Prix, the Brickyard. I think it's in the top five of all racing world wide.”

The Rolex 24 also produces a festival atmosphere with plenty of activities for fans to experience such as a massive GRAND-AM autograph session, wine and cheese tasting, Chili Cook-Off, the Daytona 5K run/walk and Uncle Robbie’s Breakfast Garage.

From www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.

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