Notes from the wet Daytona paddock

Notes from the wet Daytona paddock

With equatorial downpour slowing the Rolex 24 at Daytona pace to a leisurely 87.784mph and later stopping the pace entirely, drivers had little to do but talk about the rain. Race stopped: cars under cover. Photo by Eric Gilbert. When...

With equatorial downpour slowing the Rolex 24 at Daytona pace to a leisurely 87.784mph and later stopping the pace entirely, drivers had little to do but talk about the rain.

Race stopped: cars under cover.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
When the Grand American Road Racing Association decided to park the race cars on pit road, the #2 Howard-Bell Motorsports Chevrolet/Crawford had a one-lap lead over the #54 Bell Motorsports Pontiac/Doran of Terry Borcheller, Forest Barber, Andy Pilgrim and Christian Fittipaldi.

While some might not expect the two NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers in the #2 car to be successful in the wet, Pilgrim had no such doubts. "I am not surprised to see Dale [Earnhardt Jr.] doing so well. The guy can drive. Tony Stewart can drive and, of course we all know Andy [Wallace] is a good driver. I knew Dale was a driver," Pilgrim advised, "when I drove with him back in 2001" at this race.

"And Tony Stewart can drive anything! We know that, so it's not surprising at all. You know, if we can't win, there is nobody I'd sooner see win than Dale," Pilgrim continued. "Conditions were appalling bad," before GARRA called a halt to the action. "Even when it dried out, it didn't dry out. It's been atrocious; certainly the worst Daytona I've ever seen," reminding Pilgrim and Borcheller of Le Mans in 2001. "It's just been a tough, tough, tough race."

#10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley: Wayne Taylor, Max Angelelli, Emmanuel Collard.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Despite setting a sub-two-minute lap just before officials called for yellow and then red flags, Max Angelelli of the #10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac/Riley said, "It was a good idea to stop the race because, even behind the safety car, I just couldn't keep up with the queue. The visibility was very poor. There was a lot of standing water on the track, so I think it was the right decision."

Looking ahead to green flag conditions, Angelelli remarked, "We just have to make sure we stay on the road and try to get as far as possible. We'll see what happens. You can expect a lot of accidents when they restart the actual race," he prophesized.

Once the race was restarted and the grounds began to dry, the #4 The Boss Snowplow Chevrolet/Crawford began to have overheating problems, pitting with just over two hours remaining. Driver Butch Leitzinger's views during the stoppage: "It's not much racing in the rain; it's racing in the lagoon," he laughed.

"It's right to red flag it because you can stand up out there. If you can go around without certain destruction, that's one thing, but with this, if they would throw green, no one would be left because of the cars hydroplaning," the second-generation pilot remarked. "There's only so much the tires can do to pump out the water."

#09 Spirit of Daytona Racing Chevrolet Crawford: Doug Goad, Stephane Gregoire, Robby Gordon, Milka Duno.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Charged with helping propel the #09 CITGO Spirit of Daytona Pontiac/Crawford back to the front of the field after co-driver Robby Gordon's early gaffe yesterday, Milka Duno said, "There's so much water everywhere.

"The team was working very hard and the drivers were too. I was so impressed [by the team]. I think [when it goes green] I will make one lap and bring the car in because we need fuel and tires and we'll change drivers." She gave way to former Indy car driver Stephan Gregoire.

When the skies began to clear, the Michael Shank Racing #6 Lexus/Doran began to move up in the Daytona Prototype standings and just after the two- hours-to-go mark was passed, moved to 8th overall and 6th in class. The team's Thomas Erdos was dismayed by the weather: "It's very wet and has been for the whole event. It's still a great event, though, whatever the weather.

#6 Michael Shank Racing Lexus Doran: Kelly Collins, Brent Martini, Cort Wagner, Mike Newton, Thomas Erdos.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
"We're just happy that we had some good moments for the team. We've had the car for only one month and these guys are a great bunch of people to work with. I'm really happy to have met the team, but I'm just frustrated that we couldn't achieve what we really what we could have achieved if we had the track time," Erdos explained.

In the SGS class the #91 Doncaster Racing Porsche GT3 Cup attained the lead prior to the stoppage. The sole non-Canadian driver, Marc Lieb found conditions, "Unbelievable out there. It was like swimming; it wasn't racing. The visibility was zero and it was really dangerous to drive the car. You had no control and, in the bus stop chicane it was just unbelievable. So I think it was the right decision."

Mexican sports car ace Jimmy Morales in the #01 CompUSA Lexus/Riley fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates wasn't pleased by the circumstances either. "It is such a bad feeling that we have this kind of weather because we thought we had a very good car."

The Ganassi team was hampered by cooling problems in the early morning hours and Morales didn't get into the car until late in the race. "We tested on dry tires and never expected to have 20 hours of rain," Morales said. "We've been having a lot of problems through all the rain. It is disappointing. Before and after the rain delay the #01 was in 14th place and, with an hour and 45 minutes remaining, was 30 laps behind the leader.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Michael Shank Racing