Daytona Beach, Fla. (28 January 2013) – Looking to open the season with a strong first step toward a championship campaign in the 2013 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series championship, Spirit of Daytona Racing opened the year with a run to fifth place in the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Sunday with the No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.com Chevrolet Corvette DP behind the driving efforts of Ricky Taylor, Richard Westbrook, Antonio Garcia and Oliver Gavin.
The team, which calls Daytona Beach home and scored three victories in the 2012 GRAND-AM season, showed a strong competitive pace through the course of the race, rebounding from a series of setbacks to stay on the lead lap until the closing moments of the race.
“I told myself coming in, I’d take a top five,” said team owner Troy Flis. “I can’t be mad at myself for that. We got the top five- it was some big picture racing at the end of the day. We had some issues we needed to get over and we knew we were going to be behind some of the other competitors here. All in all, I think it was a decent weekend for us. We had an off in the middle of the night and it kind of bit us throughout the rest of the time and that’s what kind of hurt us I think.”
The team battled through a range of issues, from the dashboard lights going out to a problem with some wiring that kept the battery from charging, to the exhaust bracket dragging at the back of the car and making a dramatic show of sparks on the high banks. But despite the challenges, the team stayed focused on the finish.
The race marked the Spirit of Daytona Racing debut for Taylor, who showed himself to be a winner with the Corvette DP last year and looks to return to the top some time soon. The late stages of the race saw the No. 90 continue to fight on, despite having to stop in the pits several times for a range of maladies late in the going.
“I never would have thought that you’d end the race like that–like we did–coming in, spending two laps in the pits, and still getting my best ever 24 Hours result,” said Taylor. “It’s good to get some solid points. We could have easily come away with 15th place points–it’s the easiest race to lose a lot of points, so that’s really good. To have finished third in the championship last year with a bad 24 Hours, just kicking the year off stronger–I think we’re going to be chasing the two toughest teams who are first and second anyway, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Spirit of Daytona Racing finished eighth in the 2012 event, and the run to fifth marked the teams best-ever result in the DP ranks, but the emerging organization had been looking for even more this weekend.
“Our goal is always to be the top finishing Chevy,” said Flis. “We ended up being third (of the Corvettes) today which doesn’t make me happy, but I think the 10 car had a better car from day one at this racetrack for whatever reason. But even this morning, we had a car that we could compete with those guys, but little things would come up and they were all related to this one off. So that’s what I’m disappointed in. The leaders kept us pushing hard enough that we had to push harder than we probably could or should have for what we wanted to do. I thought we could run 42’s all day and night, but we couldn’t. All in all, I think we’ll pick up the pieces and the next racetracks are definitely better for Chevrolet, so we’ll go get ‘em there.”
Richard Westbrook has a long history of showing his speed on track, but had one more example of that on display Sunday afternoon as he bolted from the track to catch the next flight to be with his wife Jessica, who is expecting the newest member of the Chevy Racing family any day.
Spirit of Daytona Racing will return to race action in Round 2 of the Rolex Sports Car Series season as the series debuts at the Circuit of the Americas March 2.