ROUSH®/Valvoline Post-Race Report – KONI Sports Car Challenge @ Daytona International Speedway
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Two months ago they didn’t have a race team. Two weeks ago they were moving into a new shop. Today, in their first race together in the No. 61 ROUSH®/Valvoline Mustang, Jack Roush, Jr. and Hugh Plumb finished second in the Fresh From Florida 200 season-opening event for the KONI Sports Car Challenge.
Both drivers led the race, with Roush leading the 63-car field around the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway for eight laps; Plumb led for two circuits late in the race. Unfortunately, the race ended under caution so he never got the chance to battle for the race win as the clock ticked across the three-hour mark signaling the end of competition.
Roush qualified the No. 61 ROUSH®/Valvoline Mustang in fourth, but got shuffled back to sixth in the melee on the first lap. He settled in there for 16 laps around the stadium road course, and then started his climb through the field.
By lap 23 Roush had moved up to second, thanks to some timely passes on the track and early pit stops by other teams. This positioned him right behind Dean Martin, his co-driver for the past three seasons (in the same car Roush formerly drove). He admitted that it was a little odd racing his former teammate.
"It was really strange (to be racing Martin), but it was also a lot of fun. We had a nice clean race together, but didn’t cut each other any slack," Roush claimed.
Roush drafted Martin through the high-banks and down the front straight into the first turn when he dove inside and took the lead on lap 29. Roush paced the field through lap 36 when he pitted and Plumb climbed into the cockpit.
Due to the varying pit strategies playing out, Plumb came back into the race in 18th position, but wasted little time moving past those in front. In just eight laps Plumb had moved into seventh, and was still climbing. On lap 51 Plumb blasted out a lap of 2:00.771, the fastest lap of the race by more than a quarter-of-a-second to that point.
On lap 68 Plumb got past the BMW M3 of Bill Auberlen and took the lead. Unfortunately, in a fierce battle with Auberlen and Ken Wilden in the No. 59 Mustang he was hit in the rear and slipped to third. Undaunted, on one wild lap Plumb got past Wilden and was bumping the rear end of Auberlen’s BMW when the Grand-Am officials showed the yellow flag with just four minutes remaining in the contest.
Though the No. 61 ROUSH®/Valvoline Mustang was certainly quick enough for the overall win, the race ended under caution and Plumb slowly circled the track in second place when the checkered flag dropped.
"We were inches away from the win," Plumb said after the race. "We got bumped out of the lead on what turned out to be the very last lap of green flag racing. Jack drove the wheels off the car today, and was a huge part of our success.
"Still, I walked away from the race feeling very good about finishing second. Looking at the big picture, this was huge for a new team with all the new people working together for the first time. The speed is there, the parts are in place, but it just didn’t work out this time."
Roush too was pleased finishing second which equaled his career-best in KONI Sports Car Challenge competition.
"I’m real happy with the second place finish. It was great to be able to have this brand new team come out of the box and be very competitive. I think that we could have won this race if the yellow flag didn’t come out," he said.
The Horsepower Ranch team car, the No. 60 Sunset Hills Vineyard Mustang, had a much more disappointing day. Hopes were high after the team posted the quickest time during the final practice session this morning (a lap of 1:59.435 which would have put them on the pole had it been qualifying). However, once the green flag was shown Mike Canney got caught up in a three-car incident not of his doing. The car received heavy damage and was only able to complete 33 laps, finishing well off the pace in 30th place in the GS class.
The No. 61 Ford Mustang, based out of the Horsepower Ranch shop in Mooresville, N.C., carries sponsorship from ROUSH® Performance, Valvoline and MossMuscle.com. The No. 60 Ford Mustang is backed by Sunset Hills Vineyard.
This race was taped for a broadcast on SPEED Channel on Saturday, January 31 at 4 p.m. (Eastern). The next event on the KONI Sports Car Challenge schedule is the March 13-15 contest at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
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