Concord, NC. – February 2nd, 2012 - ROUSH Performance started the 2012 Grand-Am season in strong form fielding three cars, occupying the front row in qualifying, and having two cars finish in the top 10 in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge BMW Performance 200 on Friday, Jauary 27th at Daytona International Speedway.
Rookie driver Shelby Blackstock sat the No. 51 Starstruck/Vion Ford Mustang BOSS 302R on pole with a time of 1:57.6 beating teammate Jack Roush Jr. in the No. 61 Gary Yeomans/USANA Health Sciences Ford Mustang BOSS 302R clad in the 2013 Mustang GT bodywork by less than one-tenth of a second. This mark's Blackstock's first career pole in professional racing. The No. 49 Micasa Ford qualified an impressive 10th place with Roly Falgueras behind the wheel.
"It's a real honor to be wearing the ROUSH name on my suit and to qualify on pole for such an organization was really special" said an enthusiastic Blackstock. "It was great to have an all Roush front row. While I was hoping for the top spot, I'm really proud of Shelby's accomplishment." Roly Falgueras added "The car was very good. The ROUSH Performance team gave me a very good handling car and I was pleased to qualify in the top 10 with such tough competition."
The green flag fell under wet conditions and with a field of anxious drivers who haven't raced in months made for quite an exciting beginning to the season. Both Blackstock and Roush maintained a top six position keeping both cars out of harms way and raced hard into a drying track. With just under 30 minutes into the race, a yellow flag caution signaled the perfect time to switch from rain tires to dry slicks. All 3 cars came into the pits for fuel and a change of tires and were good for another hour of competition.
"I think pretty much the first hour and a half was a close moment," Roush Jr. said of the racing. "There's opportunities to have incidents at any moment in time, especially at the beginning of the race, it was really sketchy."
With around an hour to go, all three cars pitted for the last time to change drivers and Billy Johnson, Jade Buford, and Brian Ortiz took over the controls for the 61, 51, and 49 respectively. Johnson made a hard charge to the front and took over the race lead on lap 41. Ortiz equally charged through the field to get the 49 into the top 10 before a last lap incident which crippled the car to limp home in a 30th place finish. Meanwhile Buford in the 51 made it through the last lap mess to finish in the 10th place in the No. 51 while Johnson and held off a gang of hard charging BMWs for the last 18 laps including two restarts for the first win of the series and first finish the Roush/Johnson Duo has had at Daytona in three years.
"First of all it's great to finally finish this race, especially after not being able to finish in the last two years," Johnson said. "To come here with a strong finish and start off the season on a good note rather than having to dig ourselves out of a hole with zero points is huge. I'm really proud of our team for giving all of our cars awesome pit stops, great handling cars, and Brad Francis and our crew chief 'Lumpy' on the pit box for making great calls. The 2013 Bodywork is beautiful and I'm glad we were able to bring the first victory to Ford in the new bodywork."
"This was a very good points day," said Buford "To start the season with a top-10 puts us in a good position to continue for even better finishes in the future."
"The car was very nice to drive and I look forward to coming back again in future races," said Ortiz.
The ROUSH Performance team is back at the shop preparing for Round two of the 2012 Grand-Am season which will be held at Barber Motorsports Park, in Birmingham, Alabama on March 30-31st.
The Daytona season-opening race will air on SPEED Channel Saturday, February 4th at 12:00pm EST.