Valiante fastest of Finlay drivers Daytona test days for the prestigious Rolex 24 Hour endurance race came to a close Saturday afternoon. Twenty-eight Daytona Prototype machines were scheduled to participate in the three day open test session, including the No.19 Ford Crawford driven by Rob Finlay, Michael Valiante, Michael McDowell and the 2000 NASCAR champion Bobby Labonte.
Finlay Motorsports proved once again that they have what it takes to run up front in the twice around the clock event scheduled to take place on Saturday, January 27. The Mooresville, NC – based team finished within the top-10 spots on the speed charts in every session but two (8 practice sessions total) and Michael Valiante is credited with posting the team’s quickest lap of the week, with a lap time of 1:44.518.
“Once again the Z-Line Designs/Mission Residential/Make-A-Wish car was quick out of the box,” said Rob Finlay. “The Ford Crawford package ran strong all three days and we’re looking forward to the 24-hour race.”
Rob Finlay, who competed in both the Grand Am Cup event at Daytona last year (finishing on the podium) and the Rolex 24 hour event in the No.5 machine with Michael Valiante will make his second 24-hour endurance start when he returns to Daytona in just a few weeks. His teammate, Michael Valiante returns to the cockpit of the Finlay Motorsports prepared machine once again and looks forward to the teams assault on the endurance classic.
“Overall I’m pleased with the test,” said Michael Valiante. “We came here with a long list of things to accomplish and I think we’re looking pretty good for the race.” Michael McDowell, who ran for Finlay Motorsports last season in the No.19 Daytona Prototype machine and competed with Rob Finlay in the Grand Am Cup series, will be making a cameo appearance with the team before kicking off his ARCA campaign next month.
“It’s great to be back behind the wheel of the No.19 machine,” said Michael McDowell. “I really enjoy driving these cars and appreciate the team asking me to participate in this event.” And what an event this will be.
Bobby Labonte will be making his first appearance with the Finlay Motorsports team at the Rolex 24 at Daytona but hopes to make a few more guest appearances throughout the season, schedule permitting. “Well, I’m not quite as happy as I was after the November test,” said the likeable Bobby Labonte. “I’m still getting used to the car but I think I’ll be ready for the race. I’ve been working close with my teammates and can’t wait for the drop of the green flag.”
The team will spend the next two weeks making final preparations for the grueling 24-hour event that is scheduled to kick off on Thursday, January 25.