DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge is known for highly competitive racing and the 2015 season opening BMW Performance 200 at Daytona International Speedway Friday went far to maintain that reputation.
With 25 Grand Sport and 31 Street Tuner entries, there were car s al over the 3.56-mile Daytona road course, drafting on the banking and trying bravely to outbrake one another in the tight turns of the infield.
After two-and-a-half collision-free hours of racing, it was the Plumb brothers, Hugh and Matt, in the #13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche 911 leading the GS field, followed closely by the two Stevenson Racing Camaros, while the ST win went to Spencer Pumpelly and Luis Rodriguez, Jr. in the #17 RSI Porsche Cayman, after a lengthy battle with teammate Adam Isman in the #18 RSI Cayman and Eric Foss in the #56 Murillo Racing Cayman.
The race started as a Porsche-Ford battle as Scott Maxwell in the #15 Multimatic Mustang led hugh plumb in hte Rum Bum Porsche. Maxwell had the torque coming out of the corners, but the slippery Porsche caught up on the banking and repeatedly tested Maxwell coming onto the infield. Plumb finally got by on lap nine but got caught behind slower traffic and had to give the position. A caution on lap cooled things briefly, but as soon as the green flag waved the pair resumed their joust, trading the lead several times while Andrew Davis and Matt Bell in the #6 and #9 Stevenson Camaros worked their way into position to strike. Less than a second covered the top four cars.
Another caution was called on lap 18 but because of the prior yellow flag, the pits didn’t open and action resumed immediately. When racing resumed the same four, joined by Max Riddle in the #07 TRG-AMR Aston Martin and Ashley Freiberg in the #46 Fall-Line BMW, resumed the fight.
Pit strategy started to play a part around lap 25 as Hugh Plumb kept the leading Porsche out on track while his thirstier V8-powered competitors came in. Max Riddle had already pitted the #07 Aston during the first yellow, and was out of phase with the rest of the leaders.
When Plumb pitted on lap 30, Riddle took over in the lead followed by Mike McGovern in the #2 Jim Click Mustang—McGovern had also pitted early, which gave he and Riddle a 45-second lead on the rest of the field. Ashley Freiberg came in and handed off to co-driver Trent Hindman, and Matt Plumb replaced brother Hugh and rejoined in fifth.
Matt Plumb worked his way back to second place by lap 37, but was nearly a minute down on Riddle. who pitted next lap, giving the car to teammate Kris Wilson and giving the lead back to the Rum Bum Porsche. At this point there was over an hour left in the race; Riddle and company were gambling on more yellow flags to get their car to the finish without another stop.
That caution came four laps later, and once again strategy came into play. Wilson pitted for enough fuel to finish the race; Plumb brought in the Rum Bum car for two tires only, trying to shorten the stop and gain track position.
Meanwhile Billy Johnson in the #15 Multimatic suffered a race-ruining disaster. Johnson had recycled his ECU to clear some problem, which had shut down his radio, which did not automatically restart. Johnson thus missed his pit call, and had to wait until both the GS and ST fields had cycled through before he could come in for service. This sent him to the very back of the pack ; he had been fourth when the yellow flag waved.
Mike McGovern in the Jim Click Mustang stayed out, taking over the lead when the race went green with 41 minutes to go, with Wilson and Plumb right on him.
A forty-minute sprint finish wasn’t sufficiently exciting for a Continental Challenge race, though, so Nature threw a few drops of rain at the track—just enough to make it a little greasy at a few unpredictable points.
Up front, McGovern led Plumb by half a second, with Kris Wilson another half a second back, but now Robin Liddell and Laswon Aschenbach in the two Stevenson cars had started their final runs to the front.
The Camaros were not as powerful as the Mustangs nor as fast as the Porsches, but had possibly the best brakes on the track. McGovern in his Mustang would pull away from plumb’s Porsche entering the banking; Plumb would close up by the end of the baking, drafting the boxy Ford. Then Liddell would close up on both of them by braking impossibly late, lap after lap.
Liddel passed Wilson on lap 49; Aschenbach was by three laps later, as with half an hour left, nine-tenths of a second covered the four leading cars. Nine-tenths of a second, after two hours of racing—and this race had been tame by Conti standards, with only one minor collision which left a car hurt but still rolling. Even with so few yellow flags, the field was tight—and even tighter in ST, where Eric Foss in #56 Murillo Racing Porsche Cayman was lapping with Spencer Pumpelly’s #17 RSI Cayman an inch off his bumper.
Pumpelly finally squeezed past Foss for the ST class lead on lap 57, with 17 minutes left in the race, while Plumb had passed McGovern two laps earlier to lead overall.
Five minutes later Mike McGovern’s gamble came up a loser; he had to pit for a splash of fuel. This left Robin Liddell and Lawson Aschenbach second and third only five seconds back but not in shape to catch Plumb’s Porsche.
Just as it seemed that the end of the race would be relaxed, Trent Hindman in the #46 Fall-Line BMW came charging out of nowhere to start harassing Liddell and Aschenbach. meanwhile in ST, Spencer Pumpelly’s teammate Adam Isman made a similar charge, going right by Pumpelly to take the class lead with two minutes to go.
Pumpelly took the place back on the next lap, and this pair looked to be locked in a fight to the finish until Isman’s Cayman started to stumble on the banking, low on fuel. After leading a lap form the end, Isman dropped to tenth in class, while Pumpelly cruised to victory, almost three seconds ahead of Eric Foss.
The win was Pumpelly’s first at Daytona, and the race was Rodriguez’s Continental Challenge debut; a fair way to enter a series.
In GS, Trent Hindman was unable to get past the Stevenson Camaros, and had to settle for four, four-tenths behind Lawson Aschenbach in third who was a tenth behind Liddell.
Matt Plumb brought the #13 Rum Bum Porsche 911 across the line seven seconds clear of the Camaros, scoring the first win of the 2015 Continental Challenge season.