Spirit of Daytona Racing scored the team’s sixth GRAND-AM Rolex Series podium result with drivers Ricky Taylor and Richard Westbrook at Barber Motorsports Park on Saturday in a two-hour sprint race that saw various fuel strategies play out at the beautiful Alabama facility.
The team had been hoping for a repeat win at the 2.3-mile road course with the No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.com Corvette DP after having earned a breakthrough victory at the track in last year’s event, but a lack of yellows saw the team forced into fuel conservation mode – Taylor and Westbrook saving just enough fuel while still laying down quick lap times to take third at the finish.
Taylor posted the second quickest time in Friday’s qualifying session to start the two-hour race from the outside pole as Spirit of Daytona Racing made its third consecutive front row start at the track. As the field of 13 Daytona Prototypes took the green flag, Taylor had a great start in the No. 90 and filed into second in line as he chased down the leader.
The first and only caution of the race was displayed just 18 minutes into the race and with Spirit of Daytona opting for a one-stop strategy, had Taylor stay out on track while several other Daytona Prototypes hit pit road. Taylor inherited the lead under the caution and led the field back to green with about 1 hour and 30 minutes remaining.
With Taylor doing a great job of conserving fuel while still setting quick lap times, the No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.com Corvette paced the field for 24 laps before relinquishing the position just prior to the team’s pit stop.
“The car was really fast in clean air,” said Taylor. “I felt like we were definitely as good as the 99 and then the 10 and 01 didn’t have the pace we did for sure. I was a bit frustrated with myself in traffic and I kind of let them get away. But at the end of the day it’s a good podium and I think we can build on this for the rest of the year.”
A blisteringly fast stop under green flag conditions had Westbrook back out on track and re-entering the field 10th in the order. Despite once again having to conserve fuel in order to make it to the finish, Westbrook pushed the No. 90 back up through the field to sit third with 30 minutes remaining in the race.
Team Owner Troy Flis made the call for Westbrook to conserve even more fuel in the final stages of the race while also maintaining the podium position over the No. 01. The experienced Westbrook was able to do just that and bring VISIT FLORIDA another podium finish.
“We were pretty much out of fuel toward the end,” said Westbrook. ”But that’s part of sports car racing. Sometimes you have to play the fuel mileage game. It’s a real shame when you’re driving and you know how good the car is but you have to save fuel. But it was good points for the championship and I think when we all wake up tomorrow we’ll be happy.”
The healthy haul of points moves Spirit of Daytona to fifth in the provisional championship standings.
“We saved more fuel than what we thought, so we were pretty happy with that,” said Team Owner Troy Flis. “We didn’t have to take as much during the pit stop which was good. So then we had Richard (Westbrook) conserving as well as being on that lean map. So it lost some power and we weren’t as quick as we needed to be to run the leaders back down. But the leaders did what they needed to do which was a great call of doing the short pit – stuff that we’re still learning here. I’d love to say that we know everything but we don’t, we learn every weekend. A great effort from the drivers today, a great effort from the team, ECR did a great job with the motor and we got VISITFLORIDA on the podium and that’s what we need to do for the championship.”
Next up for Spirit of Daytona Racing is Round 4 of the championship at Road Atlanta April 18-20.
*From team media release
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