Elkhart Lake, Wis. (10 August 2014) – Visit Florida Racing came from the back of the pack to finish fifth in the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America on Sunday with drivers Michael Valiante and Richard Westbrook in the No. 90 VISIT FLORIDA Corvette DP.
After scoring a strong run of IMSA finishes stretching back to the team’s victory at Watkins Glen in June, the team had podium ambitions on the weekend to score critical points toward the 2014 IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
Unfortunately, despite showing impressive speed all weekend with the No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Corvette DP, the pit stop strategy didn’t pay dividends for the team as the caution periods played out unfavorably.
Valiante started the race from the end of the nearly 50-car field after a qualifying tech discrepancy invalidated the time set by the team during the qualifying session. But the Canadian was not to be denied as he made the most of the speed with the Visit Florida Corvette DP to move up to fifth before turning the car over to Westbrook to take to the finish.
Westbrook was soon running in third place and looking for more as a yellow flag appeared, making for a go-or-no-go decision from the pits. Electing to stay out to go deeper into the fuel stint, the strategy didn’t pay off after a subsequent yellow flag saw the team take to the pits as Westbrook returned to the fray in 13th. But for the second time on the day, the No. 90 Visit Florida machine was once again upwardly mobile as Westbrook charged to take fourth at the finish.
“We just took a risk with the strategy, and followed the 10 and the 01 on strategy, and in hind sight, that is what cost us the race,” said Valiante. “Had we have stopped, we would have won. At the start, the main thing was to try and stay out of trouble and not lose too much time to the leaders. I was able to get through without any incidents and make up positions, and we came in to the pits in fifth so the race was going really well for us. But, you win some, you lose some and it ended up that we just didn’t make the right call with the strategy. On to COTA.”
“The car was fantastic, we knew that from qualifying and it was the same in the race,” said Westbrook. “It was really quick. There was a decision to be made to pit with an hour to go and it was a tough call. Unfortunately we chose wrong, and they chose right. At the time I was ahead of (race winner) Barbosa and we had a very quick car. It is always disappointing to not win when you’ve got this strong of a car. At this point in the championship, we can’t just take comfort in having a quick car. You have to execute on every part of what you are doing. It has been a bad weekend on that front, but we will regroup and get back on it at COTA.”
After a very busy stretch of summer races, IMSA will return to race action at the Circuit of the Americas in just over one month’s time.
“You hate to have strategy take away a chance for making some big ground up in the championship, but you know everyone knows the best strategy after the race is over!” joked team owner Troy Flis. “We had a very fast car and really hit our marks this weekend, right from the start. But we just didn’t get a break with that last yellow coming out and that cost us here. I’m proud of how we came from the back of the field and were in position to have a big finish, but it just didn’t play our way today. We’ve got two big races to go in this championship, and a ton of racing yet to play out so that’s our focus all the way to the last lap of the season.”
Round 10 of the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar will be staged at the Circuit of Americas on September 20.