DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The fastest car won the Fresh From Florida 200 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race Friday at Daytona Int’l Raceway, but the victory wasn’t easy for its drivers Gianluis Bacardi and Matt Plumb.
Making his pro debut in the series’ biggest race of the year, Barcadi survived a 19th-place starting spot in the 77-car field and stayed out of trouble in order to turn the Rum Bum Racing BMW M3 Coupe over to his co-driver/coach in perfect shape. The team had to serve a 20-second penalty for using improper eye gear during a pit stop.
Plumb then had to work his way through the field twice and find a way around Charles Espenlaub. With just four minutes left in the two-hour-and-49-minute race, he passed Espenlaub going into the chicane to nail down the victory.
The Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 Coupe that Espenlaub shares with Charles Putnam was only .107 of a second behind Plumb’s BMW at the checkered flag. A TRG Porsche 997 driven by Steve Miller and Spencer Pumpelly took the final podium position.
JBS Motorsports drivers Bret Seafuse and James Gue had the best results for Ford when they took fourth with their Mustang GT, while the new Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GS.R of Matt Bell and Jeff Bucknam rounded out the top five.
Andy Pilgrim won the pole and led the first 29 laps of the 66-lap race on Daytona’s 3.56-mile road course in another Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 Coupe that took 11th at the line with Mark Boden behind the wheel. Eventual seventh-place finisher Ryan Winchester led laps 30-36 in the Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT he shares with Ray Mason. The rest of the race was controlled by Espenlaub, Plumb and Terry Borcheller. The latter gambled on fuel, but had to pit near the end and ended up sixth in another Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 Coupe that he shares with Andrew Hendricks.
Three different manufacturers were represented on the podium in the ST class. David Thilenius and Lawson Aschenbach posted a 1.771-second victory in the class with their Compass360 Racing Honda Civic. Bill Heumann and Seth Thomas were second in the BimmerWorld/GearWrench BMW 328i that was badly damaged in testing earlier this month. Rhett O’Doski and Andrew Carbonell were third in a Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5.
This was the series’ first race with Continental Tire as the title sponsor. KONI had that role for the last three years.