DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Midway through the 19th hour of the 59th Rolex 24 at Daytona, a major mechanical issue dropped the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac from Action Express Racing out of contention for the overall win at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
Felipe Nasr was at the wheel of the two-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship title-winning entry when he “heard a loud bang” in the process of going to fourth gear in the infield section of the 3.564-mile course at turn six.
From there, the 28-year-old Brazilian brought the car – co-driven by Pipo Derani, Mike Conway and reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott – back to the pit area at a crawl with gearbox issues.
Nasr was running on the lead lap, inside the top five, when the issue occurred.
The Action Express team brought the entry to the garage for repairs, which took nearly two hours to complete before the No. 31 came back to the race track, 22 laps off the lead pace with Chase Elliott in the car for a third driving stint.
Nasr spoke to NBC Sports about what he felt behind the wheel prior to the car’s return to competition with Elliott behind the wheel.
“There were two different things (that happened), and I don’t think they were connected,” Nasr relayed. “We had an exhaust issue; that’s why the engine was sounding a little weird, but we kept going and we had pace. Then, unfortunately, when I was leaving turn six on the transition up to the banking … when I was going up to fourth (gear) was when I lost the drive (train). It was a pretty loud bang on the gearbox, so that was fourth gear done.
“It’s a shame. I feel terrible for everyone. Everyone put in hard work all weekend, starting on pole. I don’t know what to say. We’ve got to come back with better luck next time.”
Neither the No. 31 Cadillac nor Nasr has ever triumphed in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and that goose-egg in the win column will continue for another year, something that disappointed Nasr greatly after he climbed from the car Sunday morning.
“That’s racing, right? This is the hardest race we go to and that’s why this is the biggest race of the year,” Nasr said. “It caught us off guard this time … but this is still the race that I really love coming to. I really enjoy being here. It is what it is. The season is long.”