Highcroft's Dayton Has a Storybook Fifth-Place Finish In Prestigious Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 31 - The story of Duncan Dayton's run in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona Saturday and Sunday at Daytona Int'l Speedway was a...
Highcroft's Dayton Has a Storybook Fifth-Place Finish In Prestigious Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 31 - The story of Duncan Dayton's run in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona Saturday and Sunday at Daytona Int'l Speedway was a lot like a fairy tale.
In one way it was like Cinderella, because trouble struck almost on the stroke of midnight and all seemed lost, but in the end the North Salem, N.Y. driver and his teammates enjoyed a storybook ending, finishing fifth overall and in the top class, Can-Am.
It was like the story of the tortoise and the hare, too.
"We were steady, and that's what allowed us to finish as high as we did," Dayton summarized.
Head of Connecticut's Highcroft Racing, Dayton was a member of the SUPPORTNET Racing team for this event, America's most prestigious sports car endurance race. His teammates for this race were car owner Scott Schubot of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; Henry Camferdam of Indianapolis; and Indy Racing League driver Eliseo Salazar of Hollywood, Fla. They drove a Ford Riley & Scott, a yellow car that carried No. 8.
The team started ninth in the 78-car field Saturday at 1 p.m. and had moved into the top five by hour three. In the report issued 60 minutes later the No. 8 was in third place both overall and in the Can-Am class. By midnight it was still running a strong third, only two laps behind the leader.
Just like the fairy tale, that's when the plot thickened. Dayton was behind the wheel and he was running fast and consistent laps when the car's input shaft in the gearbox snapped with no warning. He had no gears, not even reverse. To make matters worse he was stranded almost as far from the pits as one could be on the 3.56-mile road course, and getting towed back to the area behind the pits by a wrecker took quite some time.
After the car arrived and the team pushed it back to its pit box, repairs began in earnest. About two hours later the car was again under its own power, but now it was back in 34th position, not third.
A sudden shower made the track surface treacherous and the team elected to pit for rain tires. That proved to be the wrong move because the rain turned out to be just a sprinkle, so the tires burned up and the lap times grew longer.
Still, there was time to make progress. That's just what the team did, steadily chipping its way through the field until it was back in the top 15 overall by hour 16. An hour later it was 13th, then 12th, and by hour 19 it was back in the top 10. Then it started to rain in earnest, but the team's progression was not to be denied.
On hour 20 it was seventh and then sixth, and with two hours to go it was back in the top five. At the checkered it was still in that position, which was an amazing accomplishment considering that just finishing this test is an achievement. Only 44 of the 78 starters took the checkered.
"I'd like to compliment the team; they prepared a fantastic car that was fun to drive," Dayton said after the race. "If the input shaft hadn't broken I think a third-place finish would have been in the cards. The car was a dream to drive from start to finish, which is thanks to the excellent testing program that was carried out at the official three-day test several weeks ago.
"It's great to have the opportunity to race at Daytona," he added "I've driven here numerous times but this was only my second Rolex 24. It was a treat to be out here with these great drivers on the high banks, doing battle."