Plumb, Bacardi Give Rum Bum Racing Win In GRAND-AM Matt Plumb pitted during a caution late in Friday's Fresh From Florida 200, and watched out his windows as the rest of the field flashed by down the main straightaway. That decision, however, proved to be the right one, as Plumb took series debutants Gianluis Bacardi and Rum Bum Racing to Gatorade Victory Lane.
Plumb took command of the race from Charles Espenlaub on Lap 64 of 66 and sprinted to a 0.107-second advantage over Espenlaub in the two-and-a-half hour event. It proved to be fresh tires on Plumb's No. 13 RumBum.com BMW M3 E92 that made the difference, as he shaved off several seconds after falling to sixth after pitting.
In Street Tuner, Lawson Aschenbach made it two consecutive victories for himself, putting Compass360 Racing back in winner's circle at Daytona for the first time since 2007. Aschenbach passed Jameson Riley to give himself and No. 74 HPD/Skunk2 Honda Civic Si co-driver David Thilenius the victory.
Bacardi, in his first career professional motorsports race, started 19th and moved up to second before pitting and handing the BMW M3 - ironically purchased from Fall-Line Motorsports, the team fielding Espenlaub's entry - off to Plumb.
"Traffic is a big deal around here and can kill your momentum," said Plumb, whose car was involved in a first-lap crash in last year's Daytona race. "I got very lucky with a couple batches of traffic that let me gain the most amount of time behind them. We were pretty even up until that point. I believe we changed right-side tires whereas I think they stayed out. I had the sights pretty set on (Espenlaub) and we had a great car. He didn't make it easy for me, but I didn't expect much as far as courtesy, and I wouldn't give him the same. But it was clean when we came out the other side. I've raced with Charles many times and it's always a pleasure."
Plumb led six laps, taking the point from Espenlaub, before the fourth and final caution - for an exhaust pipe on the track - came out. Plumb pitted, while Terry Borcheller - running second - drifted back onto the racing surface just before the pit entrance. Most of the remaining GS cars stayed on the track as well, leaving Plumb to pit on his own and then back onto the track fighting through the field.
It didn't take long for Plumb to make his return to the front. While Borcheller and Espenlaub fought for the lead, Plumb sliced through the field, and took second with under 10 minutes remaining from Borcheller, who pitted later that lap. Espenlaub drove in deep and his No. 48 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 drifted wide, allowing Plumb to make up more distance.
Plumb, who set the race's fastest lap on the 63rd circuit, cut the advantage to under a second, then dropped in right behind Espenlaub to set up the winning pass. He pulled alongside Espenlaub on Daytona's Superstretch and completed the pass coming into the chicane. From there, he held on for his fifth career victory, while Bacardi is now one-for-one. Ironically, last year's ST co-winner Pat Iannucci also triumphed his first career car race.
"I thought it was going to take a couple more months to get the car into place," Bacardi said. "I just thought it was going to take a while to tune the car and get everything right. I guess we did it in a short period of time and it worked."
Espenlaub led twice for 15 laps in attempt to give co-driver Charlie Putman and Fall-Line their first victories. However, they settled for second.
"We have battled each other quite a bit through the years and today was also a great clean, fun race with him," Espenlaub said. "I was surprised. I told him I wasn't going to give it to him easy. He told me that I gave him more room than he thought I would. Next time we'll have to work on that a little bit."
Finishing third were Spencer Pumpelly and another series debutant Steve Miller in the No. 41 Colo Logistics Porsche 997, ahead of two-time series runners-up James Gue and Bret Seafuse in the No. 37 Trumansburg ShurSave Ford Mustang GT. Fifth were Jeff Bucknum and defending race co-winner Matt Bell in the No. 6 Stevenson Automotive Group Chevrolet Camaro.
All three Fall-Line Motorsports cars led laps. Polesitter Andy Pilgrim led the opening 29 laps in the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 before pitting. However, he drove through his pit box into his teammate's, and was forced back, losing valuable time. Team owner and co-driver Mark Boden drove the car to 11th. Borcheller and rookie Andrew Hendricks finished sixth in the No. 45 Fall-Line/Stable One BMW M3.
Defending race co-winner Bill Auberlen did not compete in the race after mechanical problems forced the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 out with Paul Dalla Lana in the car.
The GS race featured the first-ever finish in the series for the Dodge Challenger, as well as the Subaru WRX STI, and the return of the Audi S4. Defending series champion Ken Wilden and co-driver Andrew Caddell finished ninth in the No. 59 Rehagen Racing Products Ford Mustang GT, extending the team's top-10 streak to 18 consecutive races.
Aschenbach earned his fourth victory in 11 starts, and Thilenius his second career in his first start for Compass360. Thilenius started second, and the pair never fell from the top 10 in giving defending series class champion Compass360 a good start toward winning a second straight title. Aschenbach, who led Thursday's opening practice session, led twice for 18 laps, including the final 17.
"We had a pretty good race," Aschenbach said. "David did a great job keeping the nose clean and saved some brakes for me. Luckily we had a great pit stop. The guys did a great job. Everybody at Compass360 did a great job this weekend setting the car up. Fortunately, I was able to bring it home."
Thilenius was joining Compass360 after several seasons with Bill Fenton Motorsports. He acknowledged Aschenbach's skills following the race.
"We had a pretty good race," Thilenius said. "I've never had a co-driver like Lawson. He's just been fantastic for me. The car has been spot-on from the very beginning. I wasn't even at the test and we were still ready to go. I'd be happy to run all the races for the rest of the year here at Daytona."
Following Aschenbach, 1.771 seconds behind, was Seth Thomas in the No. 81 BimmerWorld/GearWrench BMW 328i, sharing the car with Bill Heumann. The car was damaged in the first of three practice days at Daytona earlier in the month, and was completely rebuilt. The runner-up finish signified the depth of one of the series' newest teams.
"The BimmerWorld crew, unfortunately, we've had our share of hiccups like that in the past," Thomas said. "That's one of the things that makes them one of the best crews out there. They're able to take a car that's pretty smashed up and turn it into a podium finisher. My hats off to those guys. They worked hard to put us here."
Third were Andrew Carbonell and Rhett O'Doski in the No. 26 Freedom/Mazdaspeed Mazda MX-5; Carbonell finished fourth in points a season ago, while O'Doski missed last year's Fresh From Florida 200 after a practice incident. However, the pair, team and Mazda lost five points each after the car was deemed underweight during post-race technical inspection.
Aschenbach and Thilenius were not the lone Compass360 co-drivers in the top five. Brothers Benoit and Donald Theetge finished fourth in the No. 77 HPD/Skunk2 Honda Civic Si, while Ryan Eversley and Zach Lutz were fifth in the No. 75 HPD/Skunk2 Honda Civic Si. Both Donald Theetge and Lutz were making their first career series starts.
Four caution periods for 15 laps slowed the race's average speed to 93.455 mph.
The second race of the 2010 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge comes March 6 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, running in conjunction with the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16.