Detroit, Mich. (31 May 2014) – It was a big weekend in Detroit for Spirit of Daytona and VISIT FLORIDA Racing as the team not only secured the pole position on Friday but then went on to capture the team’s first podium of the year in front of the thousands of Chevrolet fans in attendance at Chevy’s home track.
The 2.35-mile temporary street circuit is situated in the shadows of the Chevrolet headquarters which made Spirit of Daytona’s runner-up result all the more special.
The Chevrolet Sports Car Classic saw Spirit of Daytona Racing achieve its season-best finish in what was a thrilling race through the streets of Belle Isle Park. Michael Valiante and Richard Westbrook wheeled the No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.com Corvette DP machine around the bumpy street course to take the checkered flag second after a riveting final few laps of the 100-minute sprint event.
Valiante opened the race from the point and set the pace of the race. He led the 32-car combined class Prototype and GTD field for 16 laps before GT traffic slowed the No. 90 VISIT FLORIDA Corvette DP and allowed the No. 10 and No. 5 Corvette machines to get by.
As Valiante ran third in line with just over an hour to go in the race, a full course caution was displayed and Spirit of Daytona Racing took advantage of the yellow flag period to make the team’s one and only pit stop. The No. 90 Corvette took on four Continental Tires, fuel and a driver change which saw Westbrook return to the fray third in line.
“These races are so close and you never know what’s going to happen,” said Valiante. “Unfortunately I got caught up in traffic and lost a couple of positions and that’s pretty much what determines the outcome of the race here in Detroit. The car has great pace and the team is doing a great job.”
Westbrook took the green flag with 54 minutes remaining in the race only to be slowed again by a lengthy full course caution period just a few laps later. The long yellow run hindered the team as the No. 90 Corvette DP was better suited for a longer green flag run.
Once the field went back to green flag running with just 27 minutes to go, Westbrook worked to move forward while also defending the third position. The veteran driver set the fastest lap of the race with a time of 1:25.602-seconds and took advantage of contact between the two leading prototypes on the final lap of the race to take over the second position at the checkered flag, just .207-seconds behind the leader.
“It’s great to be back on the podium and Spirit of Daytona Racing deserves this,” said Westbrook. “It took several laps for the tires to come in and when they did, it was spot on like in qualifying. Unfortunately when you have a half-an-hour sprint at the end you need more weaponry than that. So it’s something to work on and Rome wasn’t built in a day and we have come from a long way down. We have a good car and we just have to fine tune now. Had there not been another yellow, I think it could have been our day today.”
“I didn’t think we’d be that close to be honest, we just struggled a bit getting the tire temperature up,” added Team Owner Troy Flis. “The caution at the end hurt us. We showed we had a quick car and the guys did a great job. I’m happy for Chevrolet with the 1-2 finish. It’s good to have that here and Michael (Valiante) and Richard (Westbrook) did a great job. The team did a great job. We need to get more podiums and hopefully we’ll get some more of these this year.”
Spirit of Daytona Racing will be back in action in one month’s time for Round 6 of the championship as the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship travels to upstate New York for the Sahlen’s 6 Hours of the Glen which also marks Round 3 of the North American Endurance Cup.