Daybreak Crash Ends O'Connell Racing's Rolex 24 Endeavor O'Connell Racing, a southern California based Grand-Am Rolex Series and NASCAR road racing team announced today a 29th place finish in the 2008 Rolex 24 at Daytona. The team qualified ...
Daybreak Crash Ends O'Connell Racing's Rolex 24 Endeavor
O'Connell Racing, a southern California based Grand-Am Rolex Series and NASCAR road racing team announced today a 29th place finish in the 2008 Rolex 24 at Daytona. The team qualified the car 19th of 42 in the GT class. Seconds after the green flag waved the drama unfolded for the team after another Porshce 997 was hit from behind and sent spinning into the grassy infield and ultimately into the drivers side door of team driver Kevin Roush. The hit subsequently crushed the carbon fiber exterior door panel, rocker and quarter panel. On the next round of pit stops under caution the team was able to use its Rubb-n-Repair bonding material to reinforce the driver's side door to keep it from opening on the superspeedway. Since the drivers side door was now permantly sealed shut, all drivers had to enter the car under a hot pit stop conditions through the passengers side door. Technical Director Roy Montgomery commented, "We knew the guys would have to come in thru the right side door. Hugh Plumb being 6'2" had the most trouble getting in. It is difficult under these extreme conditions with your helmet and Hans device on to get in the car that way. I had to lean in through the driver's side window to help the drivers get buckled up properly, but we managed."
Despite the damage to the Porsche 997, the team moved steadily up through the field reaching 7th position of 42 GT cars after six hours of racing and nightfall. Kevin Roush radioed into team officials that the #70 Mazda had spun backwards in the bus stop chicane causing a Krohn DP to go offroad throwing mud and debris into the racing line. Roush missed both cars but hit a huge hole on the exit of the bus stop tearing off the front nose of the 997 and two radiators. Driver Kevin Roush commented, "I was the first or second car through there and there wasn't a flag out! That stalled black car in the night was not even visible until I got pointed right at it two thirds through the bus stop. I had it on full lock in the slippery mess in the chicane and then I saw the #70 straight ahead facing the wrong way. I just pointed it behind him taking to the smooth appearing grass. There must have been a big hole as it ripped off the lower third of the bumper, broke the center radiator, and tore the right radiator off."
The team worked quickly replacing the entire front end of the car and was able to re-enter the race in 29th place less than 45 minutes after the incident. Incredibly, the overall set-up of the car seemed undamaged and the car ran pre-damage lap times. The driver's side door damage was also repaired during this time. After the car re-entered the track the windshield was smashed by a large piece of debris from another car sending glass shrapnel into the cockpit. The remaining tear offs were key to keeping the windshield together and the car was run that way through the night until sun rise.
After the traditional midnight fireworks display from the speedway, O'Connell took over driver duties. O'Connell stated, "Much of my stint was in the rain in the middle of the night and I witnessed all kinds of spins and crashes, but what struck me a unusual was the amount of debris on and around the track. On my out lap, and having not been in the car since practice, I exited NASCAR turn 2 which is typically 5th gear flat and narrowly missed half of what appeared to be a DP nose sitting right in the racing line. As close as that was to taking the car out that was minor compared to the clutter and mud around the bus stop."
The team continued its march back towards the top ten with a measured pit strategy and flawless execution by the pit crew. By daylight, having survived the perilous rain and cold, the team had clawed back to 13th in GT from 29th after the Roush incident. Upon O'Connell and Plumb's exit, the car was handed off to driver Kris Wilson. At approximately 7:30 am, Wilson radioed in that he had hit the "turn-in" orange safety cone at the bus stop chicane on the back straight that had been moved into the racing line by a DP. Wilson's attempt to avoid the cone caused him to head off road and into a muddy hole that once again ripped off the front of the car and two radiators. This time in conjunction with the destroyed windshield the damage was terminal and ended the race for the team. O'Connell commented, "We really had none of the breaks we've had in previous races here and it ultimatley ended our fight. The guys executed like pros and the overall strategy was clearly succeeding. The 24 Hour requires both execution and luck and you have to have both to make it happen here. That is what makes this race so extraordinary."