No. 90 Spirit of Daytona - Grand-Am photoEnlarge Photo
It took Michael Shank Racing nine tries to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona this past January and it's taken the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Daytona Prototype team more than seven years of trying to capture their first Grand-Am Rolex series victory.
When Richard Westbrook and Antonio Garcia combined to lead an overwhelming 84 of 103 laps in Saturday's Porsche 250 on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park permanent road course, they brought home the first win for the new Corvette DP in series history.
This was sweet revenge for Spirit of Daytona, which won its first DP pole at Barber last year and led a race-high 50 laps before being slowed by an electrical gremlin late in the event.
Polesitter Westbrook started the race and handed over to Garcia for the final romp to the flags; he was leading by 32 seconds when a late-race caution period set up a three-lap sprint to the checkers. Over the course of those final three circuits on the undulating road course, the Spaniard was able to pull out 2.326 seconds on Alex Gurney's No. 99 GAINSCO/Corvette DP.
"The car felt great all weekend, particularly in race trim," Westbrook said after his 33-lap opening romp.
"The most important thing was to bring home the first victory for the Corvette DP," added Garcia, who led two times for 51 of the 103 tours. This race was Garcia's second Grand-Am contest; he competed in the 2009 Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Gurney held off a charging Scott Pruett in the No. 01 TELMEX BMW/Riley after that team made a strategic early pit stop and needed all of Pruett's and Memo Rojas' skills to take their championship-holding car towards the front. Gurney remarked, "Spirit of Daytona has a magic cause here, based off what they've done here in the last few years. We tried real hard to find out their secret, but we're only about halfway there." Pruett called it a "tough day, tough weekend. We did what we could but it was exciting to see the 90 car get to Victory Lane. Now we'll try to make things better for Miami."
SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 at Barber - Grand-Am photoEnlarge Photo
The third Grand-Am Rolex race of the season is scheduled for April 29 on the Homestead-Miami Speedway road/oval circuit.