Garcia, Westbrook Give Spirit of Daytona First Rolex Win

March 31, 2012 Updated: December 20, 2012
Antonio Garcia and Richard Westbrook earned Spirit of Daytona its first Rolex win in the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park. (grandam.com)
Antonio Garcia and Richard Westbrook earned Spirit of Daytona its first Rolex win in the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park. (grandam.com)

After several seasons of being fast but fragile, Antonio Garcia and Richard Westbrook brought the #90 Spirit of Daytona to the checkered flag ahead of the rest of the field by a margin of 2.362 seconds, the team’s first Grand Am Rolex Daytona Prototype class and the first in the series in ten years.

The finishing margin belies the total dominance the Spirit of Daytona car demonstrated. The SoD Corvette-Coyote looked like the Telmex-Ganassi Riley-BMW of the past two seasons, driving away from the rest of the field.

The team had opened a gap of 23 seconds with eight minutes left in the race when debris in Turn 12 brought out a full-course caution, bringing all the cars together. This gave a final chance to Alex Gurney in the #99 Gainsco/Stallings Corvette-Riley and Scott Pruett in the #01 Telmex-Ganassi Riley-BMW, which pitted for fresh tires. Despite his best efforts, Gurney couldn’t catch Antonio Garcia in the #90. Pruett pushed his way from fifth on the restart to third in only two laps, but couldn’t close the gap to Gurney.

In GT Jonathan Bomarito and Sylvain Tremblay took the win in their #70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8. This pair took the lead through pitwork and then opened a 13.5-second gap over the competition by the final caution. Bomarito managed to hold off former teammate Jeff Segal in the #69 AIM-FXDD Ferrari 458 to win the class by .852 seconds.

The 2.3-mile, 17-turn course at Barber Motorsports Park is a gorgeous facility, beautifully maintained, but it is a narrow track; passing is hard, and cautions can be frequent as impatient drivers try to muscle past their competitors. It only took four laps for the first yellow in the Porsche 250.

On laps two and three some contact broke some bodywork. First Alex Popow in the #2 Starworks car had some contact with Ricky Taylor in the #10 SunTrust Corvette Dallara. On the next lap Enzo Potolicchio in the #8 Starworks Riley-Ford tried to cut inside his teammate Alex Popow in the #2 Starworks car, hitting the #2 in the left rear fender, spinning both cars. Debris on the track brought out a full-course caution on lap four.

Richard Westbrook in the #90 SoD Corvette-Coyote ad opened a four-second gap by the lap four yellow. After the restart he wasted no time opening that gap again. The race ran cleanly until lap 24 when Emilio de Guida in the #68 TRG Porsche lost control in Turn Five, bouncing off Joe Sahlen in the #49 Sahlen Mazda and his teammate Steve Bertheau in the #67 TRG Porsche, damaging both Porsches but not bringing out a caution.

The GT race was typically intense. Emil Assentato pushed his Ferrari hard chasing Paul Edwards’ Camaro, while Eric Foss in the brand-new #73 Horton Porsche took third from Ronnie Bremer’s Stevenson Camaro; then the Porsche’s throttle stuck and Foss went the course. Charles Esplenaub’s Dempsey Racing Mazda was the next to target Bremer, passing him for third on lap on lap 20.

Boris Said in the Marsh Racing Corvette then passed Ronnie Bremer’s Stevenson Camaro and pushed equally hard to get by Charles Esplenaub’s Dempsey Racing Mazda.

On lap 25, Memo Rojas in the #01 Telmex-Gansassi Riley-BMW, who had flat-spotted his tires overcooking it in the hairpin and had to pit, losing two places.

On lap 28 Assentato passed Paul Edwards who was struggling with worn tires. Assentato pitted two laps later; he probably wished he could have held out for another lap, because lap 31 saw another full-course caution. Joe Nonnemaker in the #43 Sahlen Mazda spun in Turn Nine; when he tried to rejoin, his car slid across the grass and shot back across the track right on the path of John Pew in the #60 Shank Racing Riley-Ford. Pew buried the nose of his car in the soft sod, doing no damage but getting totally trapped.

This yellow brought every one into the pits—except for David Donahue in the #5 Action Express Corvette-Coyote. Donahue had been just about to enter the pits when the pits closed due the the yellow; Donahue tried to change course at the last second but ended up in the gravel.

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