What better way to start the decade than to win Daytona! I am beyond belief, and it still hasn’t fully sunk in yet. To drive Daytona is one thing. To race it is another. To win it.., that’s just an entire new level of emotions.
The three day weekend started on Wednesday, and race on Friday. I was racing in the Wynn’s Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4, co driving with Jim Cox and Jeroen Bleekemolen. Two of the three practices were raining. We decided to go out anyway. In the first practice, we were the fastest. In the second practice, we were still top 5. Our car was really quick to start with, and only improved from there.
Cox was to qualify and start the race. Bleekemolen did the middle two stints, and I did the last two hours of the four hour endurance race. It was a pretty tight field, and Cox qualified 15th. He was only marginally off the top 5. He did a great job and held his position throughout his stint. 40 minutes into the race, Bleekemolen got in the car. He quickly worked through the field. He eventually got into the lead and started to pull away. He did a really fantastic job maneuvering through traffic.
When I got in the car, we were in the lead. There was two hours left, and a caution came out. Once I came to take the green flag, I started to pull away from the field and gained almost a 3 second gap before we had to come in to get fuel. I was able to maintain that gap for quite a while. With 38 minutes to go, we came in for our final pit stop to top off on fuel, and get two new right side tires. Since the track was still green, the team knew they had to be quick in the pit stop. And quick they were. Going from a 2 second gap, to a 9 second gap after one pit cycle is really impressive. Our tire changers, Lloyd Potts and Mike Yankovich did an incredible job. A couple days ago in the shop, the car actually fell on Lloyds hand and he had to get about 10 stitches in his finger. That did not stop him from being quick. Kudos to him.
Once I got back out on track for the final stint, I knew I had a big enough gap to conserve my tires in case a caution came out. With 12 minutes to go, there was a very bad crash in the bus stop. I was not involved, but was very thankful to see that the drivers involved walked away unharmed. It really proves the safety of the cars now. I was still leading when the caution came out. With about 5 minutes to go, they had most of the wreck cleaned up. However, there was not enough time to go back green.
We finished under caution and won at Daytona!
You can believe I took a really slow victory lap high on the banking soaking in the sunset over Lake Lloyd and the notorious Ferris wheel at Daytona International Speedway. I could have sworn that something got in my eye, or both eyes as a matter of fact. I have never felt so emotional about a race win. I have always been coming to this race ever since I was born. Always watching my dad race, I finally got my chance, and took it to victory lane.
It was a flawless execution. From tire changers, to engineers, to managers, and hospitality, and every single person at the shop and at the track that put so much effort into this. Our entire team was absolutely PERFECT the entire race. Drivers Jim Cox and Jeroen Bleekemolen were spot on. That last pit stop in the race was incredible (really every pit stop was). Lloyd Potts, Mike Yankovich, Ian Moore, JR Kessler, Adam Holland, Nic Davidson, Megan Dietrich, and Matt Martin. Everyone over the wall executed perfectly. Absolutely incredible. Matt Bejnarowicz and Bill Riley working together to engineer an incredible Mercedes, proved that we were, in fact, unbeatable and dominating in that race. And everyone who contributed to the effort at the track including Ben Levite, Ted Woody, April Pruitt, Maggie Goodwin, Mary Morris, dad, and everyone at the shop. Everyone at Wynn’s for an amazing opportunity to race at Daytona, and all the engineers and employees at Mercedes and Michelin. THANK YOU for an incredible win at Daytona! Really, I mean that!
Now, let’s go get a nice Rolex in the 24 Hour next year!