Daytona Beach, FL: Spirit of Daytona headed home from Birmingham’s Barber Motorsports Park last season with great optimism after scoring their best finish ever in GRAND-AM Rolex Series competition. The team’s increasing competitiveness in 2010 is evident, as they returned to Barber this year following a solid top ten performance at Homestead. In a weekend shared with the Indy Car Series, practice time was limited, but the #90 Porsche V-8 Coyote didn’t disappoint.
After they posted the fastest time in the second and final practice session, Antonio Garcia went on to put Spirit of Daytona on the front row for the start, narrowly missing the pole. The 2nd place represented the best qualifying position for the Spirit of Daytona in their Rolex Series DP history. The first few laps proved the #90 to be as fast in the race as it had been in qualifying, as Garcia kept pace with the frontrunners. He was running in 2nd when contact from another DP car cut his rear tire. The resulting flat spun him off track and off the lead lap, as he was forced to limp back to pit lane. The crew got the #90 back on track quickly and Garcia set out to regain lost position. He put the car back onto the lead lap before handing it off to Buddy Rice for the finish. Rice kept the pace and was able to end the day with the Spirit of Daytona in 6th place, their best finish to date in 2010. The comeback drive boosted the Spirit of Daytona team up to 9th place in team point standings.
After seeing the car’s capabilities, Antonio Garcia found the finish a bit of a disappointment. “Starting from the font row we were really fast and we kept that same level of speed during the race,” he said. “Our strategy was to conserve fuel and everything was going well. Then I was clipped by the other DP car and the rear tire went down, so that was it for us. We went down a lap, but I was fighting hard and finally got back on the lead lap. Without that cut tire, I am sure we would have finished better, but after going down a lap, I guess we cannot ask for more. This was our first road course this year, so I am really looking forward to the rest of the season because we are much better now than we have been before.”
Buddy Rice gave Garcia credit for battling back from the incident, saying, “Antonio drove like he was on a mission and we had one of the fastest cars out there. In outright speed, we were one of the best overall cars from start to finish and I’m just disappointed that our result didn’t really reflect that. When I got in the car we were back on the lead lap and I was able to pick up a couple of spots, but late in the race everyone is working hard not to let you by. It gets really tight, but that’s just the nature of the Barber course. We are staying over a day for some additional testing and then we’ll regroup and be ready for VIR.”
Team owner Troy Flis was pleased with the Spirit of Daytona’s results, giving high marks to his team for their fast and efficient pit stops. He said, “We had a couple of things that didn’t go our way, so that put us behind early in the race. To come back from one lap down and still finish 6th is a good indication on just how strong this team has become. Our goal now is to be here every race, week in and week out, and make sure we don’t make mistakes. All in all, it was a good weekend, and while there is still more to be done, we earned some good points here and it is only a matter of time before we reach the podium.”
Following a weekend off, the Rolex Series travels to Virginia International Raceway for Round 4 of the season. The Bosch Engineering 250 will be held on April 24th with a 12:00 PM start time, and will be broadcast live on SPEED TV.