DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Report by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — F. Peirce Williams/LAT for IMSA photo —
Entering Friday’s season opener for the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge at Daytona International Speedway, Rum Bum Racing appeared to be the team to beat for the Grand Sport (GS) class and overall victory as they sought their fourth career triumph at the ‘World Center of Racing’.
And for nearly 80 percent of the BMW Performance 200, that looked to indeed the case as the brothers Plumb — polesitter Hugh and co-driver Matt — held or were right in the mix for the top running position overall in the two-and-a-half hour endurance showdown. Leading 32 of the first 54 laps, the duo looked to be in the driver’s seat for another Daytona victory.
However, a late-race caution with 29 minutes to go — combined with a fuel delivery issue aboard the No. 13 Porsche 997 — derailed the hopes of the defending race winners and opened the door for Ford Performance to lay siege to the top of the podium.
Led by Multimatic Motorsports, with Billy Johnson at the controls of the No. 15 Ford Shelby GT350R-C late in the going, the ‘Blue Ovals’ stormed to the front of the field two laps before the yellow flag — and following the race’s resumption with roughly 20 minutes to go, they never looked back. Johnson powered away from the field and to a 2.328-second victory over Ford stablemate Pierre Kleinubing’s No. 76 Compass360 Racing entry.
The result was Johnson’s third overall Daytona victory in the last five years (fourth DIS win total, including a Street Tuner (ST) class triumph in 2007 for Compass360 Racing), but first with Scott Maxwell as his co-driver — Johnson’s wins at DIS in 2012 and 2013 came with Jack Roush, Jr. sharing the controls.
“It was tough knowing how good [the Rum Bum Racing Porsche] was for so long this weekend,” Johnson said in victory lane. “I hated to see them go out with the problems like they did, because we were having a fun little battle there for the lead, but this is still a good day for us. Scott did a fantastic job on the first stint and together with everyone on the team we were able to pull it together. It feels great to be back here in victory lane at Daytona.”
“We had an up-and-down season last year with the new car, but we knew we could come out here and be fast [to start 2016],” added Maxwell, a two-time CTSCC champion for Ford Performance who also brought his Daytona win tally to three with the result. “It’s a great way to start the season for us and it’s a long year, but we’re excited about this one.”
“We knew we had a good car right away this morning. I’m not used to starting, but when you have a guy like Billy, your job is to get him a good position to go at the end, which he always does and did today. Under pressure, he did a phenomenal job down the stretch. As a team, you have your good days and bad days, and today’s a good day for us.”
For Kleinubing, who shared the seat of his Ford with Paul Holton, to come within 1.3 seconds of the lead during the final green-flag stint and narrowly miss out on the victory was tough to swallow, but still a solid day for the manufacturer as a whole.
“We were close, but not quite as good as Billy at the end,” Kleinubing admitted. “He seems to be the master of these Mustangs; I think I’ll have to learn a little bit from him throughout the year. We’re going to build on this [result] and get better, but I’m ecstatic to leave Daytona with a solid podium result. Paul did a great job all weekend — we’re going to give [Billy and Scott] a run for their money all season.”
Rounding out the podium in the GS class was the No. 33 Porsche Cayman co-driven by Marc Miller and Daniel Burkett. The Plumbs held on to finish fifth behind the No. 99 Automatic Racing Invisible Glass Aston Martin Vantage of Rob Ecklin Jr. and Al Carter.
In Street Tuner (ST), the battle for the checkered flag was not nearly as close in the final laps — but the battle for third place in class came down to the final inches to determine who came out on top.
While Eric Foss, driving the No. 56 Porsche Cayman for Murillo Racing, cruised home to a 7.1 second class win over Spencer Pumpelly’s No. 17 RS1 entry (shared by Nick Galante), Jorge Leroux and reigning GS co-champion Robin Liddell came to the stripe in a dead heat — with Leroux’s Honda Civic Si edging out Liddell’s Porsche Cayman by 17 one-thousandths (0.017) of a second to deny the German automaker a sweep of the class podium at the checkered flag.
Foss and co-driver Jeff Mosing, meanwhile, were able to celebrate the spoils of their victory in the winner’s circle after a dominant closing stint.
“Jeff Mosing drove the door off this car,” Foss joked in victory lane. “We did a lot of testing this offseason, and I think it showed today. We came out swinging and you know, I think we did have a lot of luck on the day [that played into the win] but you always want to take a win when you can get it. This is a long season and there’s a lot of great competitors out there, so we’re really happy with this one.”
“Every season I’ve competed professionally and won the first race of the season, I have won the championship,” Foss, who also won at Daytona for Murillo Racing in 2014 and backed up the effort with the ST title. “This win means a lot to me because if you have the confidence going into a season, you will flourish as a driver. The Murillo Racing team has done a lot of testing and we knew we had to put our best foot forward coming to this track this week.”
“We love racing here in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge,” Mosing added. “It’s some of the best sports car racing, I think, on the planet. Eric and I are doubling up in the [Riley Motorsports Dodge] Viper for the [Rolex] 24 … so this is a great shot in the arm for both of us. It’s a definite confidence builder … and we’re going to try and see if we can carry the momentum through the whole year.”
Just three total full-course cautions slowed the race, with 68 total laps being completed by the race winners around the 3.564-mile road course that encompasses both the Daytona infield and portions of the high-banked stock car oval.
The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge returns to action for round two of their 2016 points season March 17-18, with a two hour, 30 minute event at the Sebring International Raceway as part of the 64th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring fueled by Fresh from Florida race weekend.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network. Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 21-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for both the United Sprint Car Series and the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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