Daytona Beach, Fla. (10 June 2013) – Fresh from scoring a big breakthrough win in the early rounds of the 2012 season, Spirit of Daytona Racing delivered a command performance at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to score another victory with the No. 90 Corvette DP last year. Now they know they are a target as GRAND-AM returns to Mid-Ohio and the 2013 Rolex Sports Car Series championship heats up.
The triumph was the second of three wins on the 2012 season for the Florida-based team, which returns to the popular road course nestled in northeastern Ohio for the Diamond Cellar Classic looking for a repeat performance.
Richard Westbrook, who won the 2012 event while co-driving with Michael Valiante, is once again back with Spirit of Daytona Racing in 2013, driving the No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.com Spirit of Daytona Racing Corvette DP. His co-driver is a new but familiar face as the team also welcomed Ricky Taylor for 2013 as he joins Westbrook behind the wheel.
Taylor, the son of sports car veteran Wayne Taylor, will make his sixth Daytona Prototype start at Mid-Ohio this weekend. But as he joins the VISITFLORIDA.com effort with Spirit of Daytona, he’s really hoping for an uptick in luck at Mid-Ohio as he looks for his first-ever career top-five at the track.
“Every year, it’s been just something unlucky happening, or one bad decision or something like that,” said Taylor, who aims to improve on his best Mid-Ohio finish of seventh. “I think we should have a good car there this weekend. I think, in the past, it’s just been little things – getting caught out by a yellow or making contact with another car at a key moment in the race. As long as nothing crazy happens, we should have a solid finish this weekend. I like the track and I think our car should be good. Personally, I don’t have a great record there, but the team is excellent, and they’ve been excellent all five rounds this season and there’s no reason why we can’t repeat last year’s win.”
The 2012 Mid-Ohio race saw the team take on a substitute driver in Michael Valiante for the weekend, but the result was similar as the No. 90 Corvette DP showed strong pace around the 2.258-mile road course, remaining among the top-five throughout each practice session and setting the fastest lap time in the second practice.
Valiante, who subbed for full-season Spirit of Daytona Racing driver Antonio Garcia in four races last year due to Garcia’s prior American Le Mans Series commitments, nabbed the outside pole in qualifying to score a front row starting spot.
Together, the Spirit of Daytona driving duo led a race-high 87 laps of the 111-lap race and looked poised for victory in the closing stages with Westbrook maintaining a 10-second advantage over the entire field. But it was far from a cruise to the finish as a late-race caution bunched the cars back up and staged a six-lap shootout to the checkered flag. With five-time Rolex Series Champion Scott Pruett in close pursuit at the restart, Westbrook defended masterfully against the sports car ace in the final six laps to bring home the win – just .236-seconds over Pruett.
“It was a big day for all of us at Spirit of Daytona Racing,” said Westbrook of last year’s win. “We had a very good car, but it was a lot tougher than I think it looked. Scott Pruett was very strong at the end, and I was very relieved to see the checkered flag. I really didn’t have anything else there at the end. I think we have another good shot at a win this year. Our car has been very strong so far this season. We just had some bad racing luck at Circuit of the Americas but we’ve finished well in all of the other races so I think we should be good.”
As the defending champions, Spirit of Daytona Racing is no stranger to Mid-Ohio victory lane and would love nothing more than to spray the victory champagne from atop the podium once again.
With last year’s win came a healthy haul of points toward the 2012 championship with the team finishing third in the standings and placing as the top Corvette DP of the year. The Mid-Ohio event marks Round 6 of the 12-race championship and a second consecutive victory at the track would give the team some positive momentum as GRAND-AM enters the second half of the season.
“We were up and down and up and down last year,” said team owner Troy Flis, who led the team to three GRAND-AM wins, on the year. “The guys have worked really hard to find and fix the things that were keeping us from finishing races last year. We know we’ve just got to perform to get every last point that we can out of the weekend because this summer stretch is where you put your team in position to collect in New York City (at the Rolex Series awards banquet). So when we go to a track like Mid-Ohio where we won before, we know that the expectations are high and we are ok with that!”
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