DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Roush empire won again at Daytona Int’l Speedway on Friday as Billy Johnson and Jack Roush Jr. scored a repeat Grand Sport (GS) class victory in the BMW Performance 200, while Lara Tallman became the first female Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge class winner since 2011 with her Street Tuner (ST) victory alongside co-driver Vesko Kozarov.
Johnson led the final 70 minutes of the 2013 season-opening race in the No. 61 Roush Performance Mustang. He finished 1.812 seconds ahead of 2012 GS driver champion David Empringham in the No. 15 Multimatic Motorsports Aston Martin Vantage. Empringham, who co-drove with John Farano to the driver title last season, swapped the lead with Johnson just after the halfway mark, but a small bobble on the team’s final pit stop gave the Johnson/Roush pairing the cushion it needed.
Roush drove from mid-pack early in the race when the Mustang suffered from a flat left-front tire. Between that and the back-and-forth tilt between Johnson and Empringham, it proved to be a dramatic day.
“There was probably more drafting and passing back and forth than I’ve ever seen here,” Johnson said. “Jack did a fantastic job on his first stint, and it’s great to get this win for all the work put in by the team. I was trying pretty darn hard the last few laps. Those Astons and Porsches were pretty quick. I knew if I could get good restarts and get a little cushion I could maintain it. But if I couldn’t, it was going to be a crapshoot.”
Matt Plumb and Nick Longhi finished third in class in Rum Bum Racing’s Porsche 997. Plumb moved from seventh to third inside the final 30 minutes.
In ST, Kozarov and Tallman each scored their first career victories in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. Driving the No. 33 Skullcandy Team Nissan Altima, Kozarov took the lead for the first time in the race near the one-hour mark and seized it for good with 40 minutes left during the race’s final full-course caution.
The victory also made Tallman the first female winner in the series since Sarah Cattaneo also claimed an ST class victory in 2011 at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
“What a big thrill – to win my first race at Daytona,” Tallman said. “It’s by far the best way to start the year.”
Gregory Liefooghe and Tyler Cooke finished second in the No. 81 BimmerWorld Racing BMW 328i after leading in the race’s opening half. Compass360 Racing’s Kyle Gimple and Ryan Eversley were third in the No. 75 Honda Civic Si.
An incident on Lap 11 of the 63-lap race left No. 74 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si driver David Thilenius with six fractured ribs on his left side. Scans and x-rays of his head, neck and back were negative. Thilenius was awake and alert and was held overnight at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach for further evaluation.