Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Hello, race fans. Hope you enjoyed the off-season. It’s all over now. I know that after this weekend, there is a two week lull before the rest of Speedweeks gets underway, but we are ready.
This weekend, the Rolex Sports Car Series gets their 13th season of racing underway with the 50th Anniversary running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. For the second year in a row, I will be in Daytona representing Frontstretch at the track. Stay tuned to our Twitter feed, @TheFrontstretch, or my personal Twitter feed, @Critic84 for updates from the track, especially during the overnight hours, when there is no TV coverage. I only list both feeds because my experience at Watkins Glen last August goes to show that it is possible to tweet too much and get your feed parked.
Multiple personalities from the past will be in Daytona, including Grand Marshal (and 1985 winner) A.J. Foyt, in addition to a large contingent of classic former race cars. Granted, a good number of those cars would be there anyway, but even more of them will be in attendance than normal.
So, before everyone takes their shots at Chip Ganassi’s A-team of Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Joey Hand and Graham Rahal this weekend, we should take a look back to a classic Rolex 24. Last year, we covered the infamous 1996 race, where American race fans were first introduced to Max Papis. This year, we’re going to be a little bit more recent.
The 2003 Rolex 24 at Daytona was the beginning of a new era in sports car racing. The previous year, Grand-Am announced that 2002 would be the final year for Prototype race cars (referred to as Sports Racer Prototypes, or SRP’s) in the series. Those cars would be replaced by a brand-new top class, known as the Daytona Prototypes. This class, which was designed to be a more cost-effective formula for race teams, was designed to utilize cheaper materials (metal tube frames, as opposed to carbon fiber). In addition, the series was in favor of less powerful engines. For example, the 3.6 liter Flat 6 engine out of the Porsche 911 GT3 RS was considered to be the baseline engine for the Daytona Prototypes. Teams running those engines were allowed to run them unrestricted. Turbocharged engines were, and still are, banned in the category. Also, a eight cylinder maximum was instituted.
Open-cockpit prototypes in the slower SRP-II class were still allowed to compete in the 2003 Grand-Am season, but were phased out at the end of the season.
Unfortunately, Grand-Am was effectively blazing their own path in regards to sports car racing. Previous to 2003, the Rolex 24 was an even more international affair than it is today with multiple international teams and teams from the American Le Mans Series coming over to try their luck. However, the new rules barred all the top prototype teams from even attempting the race. Additional rule changes in the GT-level classes designed to create a unique set of rules for the series dropped the number of entries from well over 80 in 2002 to only 55 for 2003, spread out among four different classes. By the time the start came around on Saturday afternoon, only 44 took the green flag.
Those classes were the brand-new Daytona Prototypes, along with the leftover SRP-II open-cockpit racers. The production-based classes were GTS, GT. Those GT cars could technically qualify for more than one class. For example, the Porsche 911 GT3 was entered in both the GTS and GT classes with minor modifications.
Unlike the Daytona Prototypes of today, the original DP’s were much slower than the prototypes that fans and teams were used to. In fact, the fastest of the GTS cars were actually a match for them. In qualifying, the No. 40 Chevrolet Corvette for Derhaag Racing shared by Derek and Justin Bell, Simon Gregg and Kenny Wilden turned in the fastest lap overall with a 1:49.394. They were followed up by the No. 48 Ford Mustang shared by Tommy Riggins, David Machavern, Kevin Lepage and Scott Lagasse with a 1:50.163. These cars were effectively older cars that would have been run in the SCCA Trans-Am Series (and in the case of the No. 40, very recently).
However, due to Grand-Am’s desire to show off their new division, the six Daytona Prototypes that were entered in the race were designated the first six starting spots, whether they deserved it or not. This ruling put the No. 88 Ford Multimatic driven by Scott Maxwell, David Empringham and former Simtek F1 driver David Brabham on pole with a lap of 1:50.512, over a second off the fastest lap in qualifying. This lap was over ten seconds slower than the Daytona Prototype pole speed for last year’s race.
Of the six DP’s that showed up for the Rolex 24, only five were even ready to go at all and only four of them even put up a time in qualifying. The No. 8 BMW Picchio and the No. 54 Chevrolet Doran did not put in a time at all.
The Multimatic No. 88 was a quarter of a second faster than the second quickest DP, the Red Bull-sponsored No. 58 for Brumos Racing shared by David Donohue, Mike Borkowski, Chris Bye and Randy Pobst. This team is the current No. 5 for Action Express Racing. The third-place starter was the No. 59 for Brumos Racing, sporting the classic red, white and blue colors. However, the Hurley Haywood, J.C. France, Scott Goodyear and Scott Sharp-shared second Fabcar chassis was a full two seconds slower than the team car was.
The only other Daytona Prototype to put up a time in qualifying was the No. 3 Motorola-sponsored Fabcar powered by a 4.3 liter Toyota engine. This car was over five seconds off the class pole and 22nd fastest overall.
In GTS, the No. 40 Corvette and No. 48 Mustang were the two fastest cars. Due to Grand-Am’s expository desires, these two cars started seventh and eighth. Third in class was the No. 05 Chevrolet Corvette for Re/Max Racing, driven by Truck Series veteran Rick Carelli, along with John Metcalf, Dave Liniger and Craig Conway. Another second back was the No. 24 Mosler MT900 R for Perspective Racing. This car, particularly with Joao Barbosa at the wheel, was very strong in the GT-class towards the end of 2002. The Morgan-Dollar Motorsports No. 46 Chevrolet Corvette driven by Truck Series veterans Lance Norick and Rob Morgan, Charles Morgan (Rob’s father) and Jim Pace rounded out the top-5 in class.
In GT, it was the Orbit Racing No. 43 Porsche 911 GT3RS shared by America Grand Prix at Port Imperial promoter Leo Hindery, Peter Baron, Marc Lieb and Kyle Petty that turned in the best time. Their lap of 1:53.386 was good enough to be tenth fastest overall, but earned them the 13th starting spot. They were followed by the No. 98 Porsche 911 GT3-RS for Schumacher-Champion Racing, the No. 66 Racers’ Group Porsche 911 GT3-RS, the No. 35 Ferrari 360 Modena GT for Risi Competizione and the No. 33 Ferrari for Scuderia Ferrari of Washington.
Finally, in the SRP-II category, only five cars officially entered the class. The fastest of those cars was the No. 5 Nissan-powered Lola B2K/40 for Team Seattle/Essex Racing. However, this car only turned in the 28th fastest time in qualifying with a lap of 1:56.898. They were followed by another Nissan Lola, the No. 21 for Archangel Racing. The No. 15, a team car to the No. 5, was third in class.
The relative closeness of the four classes involved, plus the unknown factor of how the new Daytona Prototypes would hold up over a 24 hour distance meant that this was the most wide open Rolex in years. Anyone in any of the classes could have legitimately won the race overall. All they had to do was stay out of trouble.
Some drivers, such as The Racer’s Group’s Kevin Buckler, were planning on going as hard as possible at the start.
“With all these [Porsche] factory drivers and fast cars in GT, we don’t want to be two laps down with a couple of hours to go because we were too conservative,” Buckler said. “We’re going to set a very fast race pace and run hard.”
Others, like Multimatic driver Scott Maxwell, had other ideas.
“Our concern is making it to the finish,” Maxwell said prior to the race. “If they want to pass me, fine, they’re welcome to. I’ll be happy running first or tenth. We know what we have to do to keep the car in one piece.”
44 cars took the start at 1:00pm Saturday afternoon with Maxwell in the No. 88 Ford Multimatic leading the field to green. However, their advantage was short-lived. Just after the completion of the first lap, the No. 58 Porsche Fabcar sponsored by Red Bull took over the advantage. For the first few hours of the race, the No. 58 appeared to be the fastest car on the track.
Meanwhile, the teammate of the Red Bull No. 58, the No. 59 running the classic Brumos Racing colors (white with red and blue stripes) was right up there in the hunt. The No. 59 took the lead on Lap 30 after the No. 58 made their first pit stop.
However, attrition was already starting to plague the field. The Chevrolet Doran combination for Bell Motorsports would prove later on in the season to be a quick one, winning multiple races and eventually claiming the Rolex 24 overall victory (after the engine was rebadged as a Pontiac) in 2004. However, the Doran drove around for only a couple of hours before packing it in due to engine problems, but not before setting the fastest lap of the race. The G&W Motorsports’ No. 8 BMW Picchio, also sponsored by Red Bull, had a long series of issues that resulted in the team being in and out of the garage for the majority of the race.
The lone Porsche 911 GT1 (albeit powered by a 3.6 liter Flat 6 out of a regular 911) in the race for Gunnar Racing lasted a mere nine laps before the engine failed, relegating the GTS-class runner to a 43rd place finish. The Heritage Motorsports No. 48 Ford Mustang that was second fastest overall in qualifying lasted less than two hours before blowing an engine and dropping out of the race. Lepage and Lagasse never even got in the car before it was all over.
Even though the Daytona Prototypes were faster than the other classes, the GT-class runners were not far behind. The No. 83 Rennwerks Porsche shared by Johannes van Overbeek, David Murry, Richard Steranka and Dave Standridge would actually take the overall lead during rounds of pit stops. This is quite notable since the No. 83 had turned in the 11th fastest time in qualifying, second in GT. However, they were forced to start in the back due to unapproved changes.
The Brumos Racing Fabcars continued to trade the lead throughout the first five hours of the race. However, on Lap 134, the No. 59 was forced into the grass on the right side of the kink in order to avoid a spinning GT car. While in the grass, the splitter dug into the sandy soil and basically made a mess of things inside and out. Multiple stops had to be made to fix the damage and get the dirt of the cockpit, costing the No. 59 multiple laps in the pits.
When the incident happened in Hour 6, this allowed the No. 58 to retake the lead. However, the normally indestructible Flat 6 engine blew in the Bus Stop Chicane, forcing Donohue to pull off the track and out of the race on Lap 161.
The retirement of the Red Bull No. 58 catapulted the No. 66 Racers’ Group Porsche 911 GT3-RS shared by Buckler, Timo Bernhard, Jörg Bergmeister and Michael Schrom into the overall lead with a shade over 18 hours remaining. However, the No. 59 Brumos Porsche Fabcar was still faster by multiple seconds a lap. The Nos. 59 and 66 would trade the lead back and forth for the next couple of hours until the Brumos No. 59 lost additional time on another pit stop in Hour 12. From that point on, the No. 66 was not caught for the overall lead, although the advantage did get down to as little as 10.8 seconds at one point.
The biggest crash of the race occurred at roughly 7:50am on Sunday when the No. 68 Racers’ Group Porsche shared by Jim Michaelian, R.J. Valentine, and the father-son duo of Tom Hessert, Jr. and then 16-year old (and current ARCA driver) Tom Hessert, III crashed hard. Michaelian, who was running 14th overall at the time, appeared to spin off-course at the Kink and fly rear-first into an Armco barrier. The hit spun the No. 68 around and deposited the car on its drivers’ side. The car was totaled, but Michaelian exited the car with some assistance from officials.
As the sun came back up, the No. 66 Racer’s Group Porsche continued to expand their lead, while the No. 59 continued to drop back with additional issues. The No. 83 Rennwerks Porsche moved up to second overall with the No. 35 Risi Competizione Ferrari close behind. The No. 83 was just about as fast as the leading No. 66, but the fast pace ended up breaking the Rennwerks No. 83. A long pit stop late allowed the Risi Competizione No. 35 to take the runner-up spot in the last couple of hours, but they could do nothing with the Racers’ Group No. 66. Picking names out of a hat resulted in Schrom getting the honor of driving the No. 66 under the checkered flag to claim the first overall victory for The Racers’ Group, the fourth Rolex 24 victory for a Porsche 911, and the 20th overall victory for a Porsche-powered car.
Afterwards, Buckler was overjoyed with his team’s success.
“The [crewmembers] did what they always do best,” Buckler said during his Victory Lane interview. We came here, we put our heads down and we went to work. We had a battle last night with one of the Daytona Prototypes, like 30 seconds apart for hours. We were biting…our fingernails. As the race stretched on, we just stayed consistent and didn’t make any mistakes. The little Porsche was perfect.”
Meanwhile, the ongoing reliability issues with the No. 59 Brumos Racing Fabcar allowed the pole sitting No. 88 Ford Multimatic to take the class lead with a couple of hours to go. In the end, the Multimatic’s approach of just trying to finish the race was the correct one for the Daytona Prototype class, as they did not have significant issues on their way to the DP-class victory. However, that victory was only good enough for fourth overall, 16 laps behind the winning No. 66.
In the SRP II class, the question entering the race was whether any of the five entries would actually finish. In 2002, Rand Racing and Risi Competizione combined to field two Nissan-powered Lolas in the Rolex 24 and won the SRP II class while finishing third overall. However, the cars were slowed down in an attempt to make the DP’s the dominant class and Rand Racing didn’t return.
In this race, three of the five SRP II entries were Nissan-powered Lolas. The exceptions to the rule were the No. 80 Picchio, powered by a BMW engine (this car was the open-cockpit Picchio run for the previous couple of years prior to this race), and the No. 97 Lucchini, which was also powered by a Nissan-engine. Lucchini was a European manufacturer of prototypes that was particularly strong in the P675 class of the FIA European Sportscar Championship at the time.
The two Team Seattle/Essex Racing Nissan Lolas were by far the fastest cars in the class and held the advantage for most of the race. Meanwhile, the rest of the competition was slowly eliminated. The No. 21 Nissan Lola for Archangel Racing, lost a significant amount of time when Larry Oberto spun the car out exiting Turn 1 on a restart in Hour 6. Oberto was then hit head-on by the No. 67 Racers’ Group Porsche 911 GT3-RS driven at the time by Andrew Davis. The No. 67 was out on the spot, but the Archangel team was able to make repairs to the Lola and return, albeit completely out of any contention for a top finish. Eventually, the Nissan gave up the ghost late in the race, relegating the team to 18th overall and third in class.
The No. 80 Picchio with the driving roster of Shawn Bayliff, Steve Marshall, Andy Lally and Robert Prilika, simply had issues all weekend. These problems resulted in the team failing to set a time in qualifying and starting from the rear of the field. The issues continued into the race and the team was forced to retire well before halfway due to a gearbox mount failure. The No. 97 Lucchini was just about the slowest car in the field in qualifying, but they were able to hold on almost as long as the Archangel No. 21 before falling victim to oiling issues and dropping out in the final hours.
In GTS, the cars that were considered most likely to vie for the overall win in the days leading up to the race were simply not up to task. In addition to Heritage Motorsports’ Hour 2 engine failure, the class pole-winning No. 40 Derhaag Racing Chevrolet Corvette also suffered a blown engine during the overnight hours. The No. 05 Re/Max Chevrolet was never really in the hunt for the class victory before steering issues put them out late at night.
In the end, it came down to a fight between the No. 24 Perspective Racing Mosler MT900R and the No. 46 Morgan-Dollar Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette. However, neither of these teams were anywhere near contention for the overall victory. Perspective Racing ended up winning the GTS-class, but finished ninth overall, 54 laps down at the finish. Their margin was two laps over the No. 46. The No. 31 Rollcentre Racing Mosler MT900R was third in class and 12th overall with the lineup of Rob Barff, Andy Britnell, Richard Stanton and Rick Sutherland, six laps behind the No. 24. The second Rollcentre Racing Mosler, No. 30, was fourth in class, but another 34 laps back. The No. 7 Konrad Racing Saleen S7R rounded out the top-5.
This years’ Rolex 24 at Daytona is not likely to be as much of a race of attrition in the top class as was this event. However, it is likely to still be a classic showdown between the different chassis in both classes.
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