Watkins Glen, NY (30 June 2013) – It is always better to be fast than slow, but a little bit of good luck always helps too.
For the second consecutive Rolex Sports Car Series race, Spirit of Daytona Racing showed strong pace and excellent preparation, but didn’t enjoy the graces of lady luck to convert the team’s pace into a big result. Racing in the Sahlen’s 6 Hours of the Glen on Sunday with the No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.com Corvette DP, the Florida-based team led 10 laps and ran among the top-five during most of the challenging six-hour endurance event.
But the mixed weather conditions ended up costing the group track position as the team came home ninth at the checkered flag.
The team welcomed back Antonio Garcia who joined full season pilots Ricky Taylor and Richard Westbrook in the No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.com Corvette as the trio targeted Spirit of Daytona Racing’s first victory of the season after the team claimed three wins last year with Westbrook the anchor driver.
Taylor opened the race from fifth on the grid after qualifying was washed out on Saturday and the field was set by championship point order. He immediately moved forward as he progressed to third by the end of Lap 1. He took over the lead just an hour into the race and would remain at the point until the Spirit of Daytona squad called him to pit lane for a routine pit stop and driver change.
Westbrook took control of the VISITFLORIDA.com machine and also made his way up to lead the GRAND-AM field during his stint. He remained behind the wheel until just past the two hour mark as he handed the car over to Garcia.
Once again the No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.com Corvette showed strong pace as Garcia re-entered the track fifth in line but quickly moved his way up the order to run among the top-three.
“The car was as competitive as it was last year when I left so it was good to be back and right away have a competitive car,” said Garcia of his return to the team. “Even though I didn’t have many laps during practice, I was able to get up to speed very fast and be around the leaders for my stint.”
Garcia pitted when the team took advantage of a full course caution with about two hours and forty minutes remaining in the race and Taylor took over the controls.
Taylor restarted fifth when the field went back to green and had worked his way up to second when rain appeared around the track. Hoping to stretch the fuel window and keep the No. 90 machine out one more lap, the team made the call to keep Taylor on track but unfortunately the skies opened up and Taylor was caught out on a very wet track surface while still on dry tires.
Under the treacherous race conditions Taylor did not have enough grip as he entered Turn 7 and the No. 90 went off track. Taylor had to wait several agonizing minutes until track officials could retrieve him, and the No. 90 fell one lap down with about an hour to go in the race.
“I just feel terrible for our team,” said Taylor following the incident. “I saw the rain and I misjudged the grip and that was the end of our day. The car was good in the dry and we had a really good shot to win.”
Once restarted, Taylor brought the No. 90 back to pit lane and Westbrook took over for the final stint. The rain quickly moved out of the area and Westbrook found himself once again on a dry track and as he ran lap times faster than the leaders, he raced his way back onto the lead lap. But without any more caution periods, Westbrook was unable to catch the DP field and the team was forced to settle for a ninth place result.
“It was a fun race and for a while we had a chance,” said Westbrook. “I think we took a bit of a gamble leaving Ricky out on the slicks when it was wet. It wasn’t Ricky’s fault at all, it could have gone our way. We found ourselves a lap down but we had a good car at the end and so I was able to get to the front of the queue and get the lap back. That was really nice. All we needed was a safety car. We were well in for a good race, but no safety car and no complaints.”
“We were stretching the fuel as long as we could for the window,” added team owner Troy Flis. “It was no fault of Ricky’s at all – we would have loved to bring him in a lap earlier but we were stretching the fuel window. He did a great job. He really did. The team worked their butts off. Sometimes you win them and sometimes you lose them. We’ve been in great situations this year and it just seems like whatever can bite us, bites us and I don’t know why. The performance of the car the team has done a great job, the preparation of the car and everything – we’ve had nothing like that that’s caused any of these things. We just have to keep digging. The competition is so close. You look at Ganassi and they haven’t had a very good finish in the last five races either. So it shows how this sport is the best in the world in my opinion and how great and competitive it really is. We just have to keep pushing and our time will come.”
Spirit of Daytona Racing will see a four-week break in Rolex Series before Round 8 of the championship at Indianapolis Motor Speedway July 24-26, but will participate in the prestigious Goodwood Festival of Speed in England July 12-14.
The team was invited to bring the No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.com Corvette Daytona Prototype machine to the event which will proudly carry the VISITFLORIDA.com livery, and will welcome some new as well as familiar drivers. Sonny Whalen, GoPro founder Nick Woodman, and Ricky Taylor will each get the opportunity of a lifetime behind the wheel of the Corvette DP as part of the weekend program.