Daytona II: Finlay Motorsports preview

Returning to Daytona for the first time since the Rolex 24, Michael McDowell and Memo Gidley Are On A Roll and On A Mission In This Weekend's Brumos Porsche 250 Rolex Sports Car Series Event Charlotte, NC (June 27, 2005) -- Momentum and ...

Returning to Daytona for the first time since the Rolex 24, Michael McDowell and Memo Gidley Are On A Roll and On A Mission In This Weekend's Brumos Porsche 250 Rolex Sports Car Series Event

Charlotte, NC (June 27, 2005) -- Momentum and familiarity count for a lot in motorsports, and the Finlay Motorsports team returns to Daytona for this weekend's Brumos Porsche 250 Rolex Series race with a healthy helping of both.

Drivers Michael McDowell and Memo Gidley have scored back-to-back 4th-place finishes in the past two Rolex Series races with the #19 Air Force Reserve / Make A Wish / Commercial Defeasance Dinan-Powered BMW Riley, and the Finlay Motorsports team is currently in a 3-way tie for 5th place in the championship points battle with eight races left of the 2005 schedule.

The season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona earlier this year was the first race for the brand-new Finlay Motorsports team, and it provided even more than the usual share of mechanical teething problems as the team familiarized itself with a new car and engine package. Recurring failures of the constant-velocity joints in the rear axles caused multiple lengthy pit stops and resulted in a 42nd-place finish, 245 laps down from the winner. Since then, however, the team has not only finished every race, but also led two of them for a combined total of 45 laps.

"Our first visit to Daytona was a mechanical nightmare, but it also accelerated our learning curve with the car into top gear," says McDowell, the 2004 Star Formula Mazda series champion with 8 wins in 10 races. "We've analyzed the data from that race so thoroughly, and spent so many hours in our driving simulator, that I believe I could drive the track with my eyes closed. The differences this time are that we're in a sprint race rather than an endurance contest, so the NASCAR fans who hang around for our event will definitely be seeing some exciting, wheel-to-wheel action."

The Finlay team comes to Daytona with the momentum imparted by solid finishes in the last two races. In the 6 Heures du Circuit Mont-Tremblant on May 21, a race whose results were largely dictated by a torrential downpour during the three hours, McDowell and Gidley came back from three laps down to finish 4th on the lead lap. And on June 12, at the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen, McDowell, who had qualified the car in 3rd, was leading with 11 laps to go when he was punted from behind by the car that went on to win the race. He dropped back to fifth, recovered one position quickly and was firmly blocked from the team's first podium finish when he attempted to pass the 3rd-place car on the last lap.

"The momentum of a couple of good finishes is a really important thing to an auto racing team," says Gidley, whose racing resume includes 38 Champ Car starts. "For us, this is the first time we're going back to a track where we've raced before, so we won't be starting from zero in finding a good setup for the race.

That's a huge advantage right there, and then there's the energy you get from racing in front of the big crowd that will be here for the NASCAR race, many of whom are seeing this kind of racing for the first time. Then you add in the fact that we'll be compressing the practice, qualifying and race that normally takes three days into a single day, which kind of levels the playing field for everyone, and I think we stand a good chance of that podium finish breakthrough we've been working toward."

On-track action for the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona begins at 9:00 am Thursday, June 30. The standard 15-minute Rolex Series qualifying session takes place from 1:30 pm to 1:45 pm, and the 250-mile / 70-lap / 2 0x00be-hour main event is scheduled to take the green flag at 7:15 pm. The race will be broadcast live on the SPEED Channel.

The Grand American teams get a few weeks off before the next event on the schedule, the Porsche 250 Presented by Bradley Arant at the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, July 28 -- 31.

-fm-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Memo Gidley , Michael McDowell