Fallout From The Daytona Race

Orlando, FL (February 1, 2010) – The start of racing for the 2010 season for many starts with the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. With all the racing divisions represented in this field, it was building up to be one to remember.

Newcomer, Scott Tucker and his Level 5 / Super Car Life / NPN Racing team were going to be the outstanding team to watch this year. Series regulars Scott Tucker and Christophe Bouchut, coming off a tremendously successful 2009 campaign, will co-pilot both the #55 and #95 BMW Riley Daytona Prototypes during the prestigious annual twice-around-the-clock endurance event at the “World Center of Racing.” Tucker’s hiring of Sebastien Bourdais, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Sascha Massen, Lucas Luhr and Richard Westbrook became one of the stronger driver line-ups. With Tucker’s team having the same package as the powerful Chip Ganassi team morale was high going into the Rolex 24 weekend. “We’ve assembled a tremendous amount of talent and experience for the Rolex 24,” said Tucker. “We’ve got drivers that know what this event is all about and have the experience to manage a good result. We’re really looking forward to a great season opener.” Crown Royal and its Crown Royal Cask No. 16 brand will be featured as the primary sponsor on both the #55 and #95 BMW Rileys during the weekend. Crown Royal executives are pleased to hook their brand to the rising star of the Level 5 Motorsports team. The #55 Level 5 BMW Riley, with Tucker and Bouchut behind the wheel, is the only car in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series to have finished in the top 10 in every race (nine) it entered in 2009. “The Rolex 24 at Daytona is an iconic endurance event in the sport of motor racing and Crown Royal is proud to partner with such an organization as Level 5 Motorsports,” said Rob Mason, Senior Brand Manager, Crown Royal. Tucker added New Performance Nutrition to their sponsor lineup as well this season. “NPN is very proud to support the Level 5 Motorsports effort in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series,” said owner Matt Mahowald. “We’re thrilled to help fuel the drivers during this grueling endurance race and are hoping for a trip to victory lane at such a historical place like Daytona International Speedway.”

Tucker was proud of the team’s third place finish, “It was a hard fight. We had a lot of adversity we had to overcome. The guys did a great job. The team held it together, and we executed on what we could. And here we are.” Hunter-Reay said the team fought hard and overcame several obstacles. “Everything went really well. Everybody did a great job. The drivers did a great job. And Scott started the car in treacherous conditions, did a great job passing it off after that. And everybody pulled their weight unbelievably. We went two laps down because of duct tape in the seatbelt. We had it jammed so we couldn’t tighten our belts. It was a safety issue. But, unfortunately, we went two laps down because of that. We had one of the quickest cars on the infield. But when it came to the straights, I didn’t pass a single person the entire two days. Neither did these guys, neither did anybody, on the straight. We didn’t pass anybody on the straight. We passed everybody on the infield that we did. And it’s not anything of BMW or Demon, it’s just the way things are right now I guess.” However the team was lucky to actually come across the finish line as Hunter-Reay explained, “Completely fried the front pads. We were done — I was on conservation mode big time the last full tank of fuel, and I was short shifting everywhere because the sister car blew up. And it was total conservation mode. The pedal was really long. And finally it snapped and the brakes were done. It was Flintstone brakes from there. ”

Many teams with strong driver line-ups were up to the task in getting that Rolex watch. However, going into the race the Fords of Michael Shank Racing were looking to be the favorites of the Fords. Shank Racing was fast and looking like they had the speed. However, as in previous years racing luck wasn’t on their side. In the early morning hours, the #6 Ford-Riley of Mark Patterson, Michael Valiante, AJ Allmendinger, and Brian Frisselle was looking like a lock for third place. However, driveline failure with just over an hour remaining prevented the machine from reaching the checkered flag as the #6 was classified seventh at the finish. The #60 finished the Rolex 24 as drivers John Pew, Ozz Negri, Burt Frisselle, and Mark Wilkins did yeoman’s job bringing home the #60 Crown Royal XR Ford-Riley in fifth. “We didn’t get the results we wanted today, no question,” said team owner Mike Shank. “We had a pretty amazing performance this whole weekend, and to be leading the race at 8 AM was really encouraging. But we’ll come back from this and just look to be as ready to go as possible at Homestead. We finished last year on the podium there and hopefully we can get some good points in the championship with both cars in March. I’m really proud of the effort from this team, and even though we’re disappointed with the results, we know we did everything we could, and the performance of the cars showed that.”

It was the Action Express Team that was put together by Bob Johnson when the Brumos team went to a single car team, so a lot of the team members from the Brumos team came over to the new team. It was during the January test when the team finally got together and there were whispers as the team was struggling, some really did not think they had a chance. I spoke the German factory Audi driver Mike Rockenfeller was really having some troubles. However, I will tell you that is why he is so successful he figured it out with the team and these guys in the Actions Express ran a clean and flawless race. All the drivers did a great job and Joao Barbosa (along with Ryan Dalziel and Terry Borcheller) who ended last year with a win and started this year with one. He was still in shock but he said it will take a couple of days to sink in, but what a great way to start the season and he really ecstatic to be with this team and a lot of same guys from his old team. Barbosa led the most laps with a race high of 129 and the team led 316 of 755. Rockenfeller did not think he would be wearing the Rolex watch after his last practice session. He said whatever the team did to car it was great to drive and the team did a great job along with all the other drivers. “This was a great win for me and everyone at Action Express.” So now Mike wins the 24 hour of Daytona and heads down to Sebring to test the Audi R15 and the changes they have made to the car for LeMans they will be skipping Sebring race this year. He is heading down to Sebring with Lucas Luhr who will be testing the R8 GT car with Frank Biela for the upcoming season and I asked if there were any plans to bring the R8 GT to ALMS but you know how Audi like to play everything close to the vest. Mike will also be doing a full season of DTM again and he will have the same team as last year and really thinks this year he will get his first win, he said it has been very difficult because it the competition is so very close and everyone is equal, He also said he wants to come back next year so he can get another watch for his other wrist.

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