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Marathon Coach Daytona Beach Enduro 14-Hour Race Recap

Copyright 2018 Matthew Dalton
/Copyright 2018 Matthew Dalton

Marathon Coach Daytona Beach Enduro 14-Hour Race Recap

April 7, 2018
Story by Doc Waldrop
Picture by Matthew Dalton

It may not be the driver’s favorite track, but there is something about the allure of Daytona International Speedway that certainly makes it the most popular stop in the ChampCar Endurance Series yearly schedule. 2018 was no exception as 130 cars registered for the event with 121 entrants eventually taking time for the 14-hour race sponsored by Marathon Coach.

Of those 120+ entrants, fully half the field saw Daytona as their first race of the season or were entirely new builds. As the speedway favors big horsepower cars it should come as no surprise that almost 30 cars were in the EC or D classes, the EC cars not being eligible for the overall win because they fall outside the 500-point limit or are regularly classed cars that do not want penalty laps applied to their finish.

Two manufacturers dominate the entrants and BMW led the way with almost 40 entries, most of them the popular E30 chassis, while Mazda fielded a very strong entry list with just over 30 cars, virtually all of them the popular Miata model. Some of the rarer entries included Dead Pedal Racing’s Maserati BiTurbo, Randy Pobst’s Happy Moose Racing’s Volvo, a Porsche Boxter fielded by Pistol Star Racing, and Renntech’s Mercedes 190E. By far the favorites for the win would be numerous Lexus SC300 models followed closely by several Porsche 944 models.

Before the business at hand began, the hit of the driver meeting was the Krispy Kreme microbus pulling in and distributing doughnuts to the estimated 400+ drivers gathered in victory lane. That and a few well-timed (and funny!) responses to questions from race director Dana Morrison sent the drivers off for last minute preparations for the 9 AM start in a pretty good mood.

The random start by a blind draw of a pit # guarantees the field will be somewhat jumbled up at the start, but by the 30-minute mark, the Pancerz EC Class #20 BMW 325is had taken the lead from the R Bank Racing/Rust Repair Saab which led over the BackWoods Racing EC class ’95 Mustang. The Cage Gage Camaro held down 4th followed by the KSR/Flatout Racing SC300, the Precision Racing EC class Camaro, the OMP/Condor BMW 540i (also EC), the Cone Crushers familiar Porsche 944, and the Rusty Nuts Racing 325is.

The first full course yellow (FCY) caution fell fairly quickly when on lap 11 the WM Racing Miata, trying desperately to get going after being punted around to face traffic in turn 1 was hit hard by the Kosi Racing Miata on the front left quarter panel. The most serious incident of the race occurred only a few laps later, shortly before the one-hour mark, when the Empty Pockets BMW came upon the R Bank/Rust Repair Saab stranded on course in the short straight before the infield kink and jerked right and almost cleared him before hitting the Saab with the left front. The Treasure Coast Miata following close behind the BMW had no time to react and plowed into the rear of the 9-3 under full acceleration. All 3 cars were heavily damaged, but thanks to strict safety regulations all the drivers emerged unscathed, sore but uninjured.

Somewhat predictably, the field jockeyed around in the top 20 and some familiar team cars found themselves running in the top 10 as the 4th hour of the race approached. Both of the Mitsubishi 3000GT models of Team Jacky Ickx were there as was the Team Infiniti J30 #19 (known throughout the garage as simply “the Shark Car), and the #223 KSK/Flatout Racing Nissan 300ZX. The Camaros of Precision Racing and Cage Gage Racing were among their victims as was the OMP/Condor and Rusty Nuts BMWs. Pancerz Racing had also fallen from the top 10.

Until the 6th hour approached the top 10 were content to trade places among themselves, Cone Crushers having taken the lead followed by the #802 Seven Foot Tommy 2 E34 and the #225 KSR/Flatout SC300. The sister E34 #801 from Seven Foot Tommy ran in 4th followed by Burningham Too’s winning SC300in 5th. No sooner had mandatory driver change pit stops begun than the field was brought down pit row under the red flag for lightning and teams scrambled to tarp their cars as a pelting rain drenched the “World Center of Racing”.

Once underway after an hour delay, KSR’s #225 held the lead over the Tommy 2 E34, Cone Crushers #917 having dropped to 3rd under pit stops. #801 and Burningham Too maintained their grip on 4th and 5th while the Martini-liveried #935 Team Jacky Ickx 3000GT led over the Renntech’s Mercedes 190E which had clawed its way up near the front having started near dead last in the field. The #223 300ZX had dropped to 8th while the Nine Four Motorsports Toyota Supra (basically an SC300 model with Toyota badging) which had run in the mid-top 10 group had dropped 4 positions to run in 9th with the sister SC300 #840 running in 10th position.

Some 3 hours later with 5 hours still to go only one meaningful change had happened in the top 10 with the Burningham Too Lexus dropping out of the top 10 with fuel issues to be replaced with the Nine Four Motorsports #840. Up at the front, the Seven Foot Tommy 2 E34 had led for the last hour over the Cone Crushers 944, the KSR/Flatout Racing SC300 having dropped to 3rd. The Nine Four #83 Supra now ran in 4th and the sister Seven Foot Tommy E34 rounded out the top 5.

The field stayed fairly bunched up over the next few hours with no team able to deliver a knockout punch to their competitors and the exchanging of positions fell largely to pit stops. The next blow landed to the field came once again courtesy of Mother Nature as a violent storm front rolled through, packing significant winds clocking almost 70mph. With lightning reported nearby ChampCar had no option but to bring the cars to pit row at 7:10 PM under a red flag.

When the cars rolled back onto the track at 8:20 PM, Cone Crushers pitted out of the lead with 2 hours to go, handing the #1 position to the #802 with KSR’s Lexus moving up to 2nd. The #917 944 rejoined the field in 3rd, as the KSR #225 had gotten past the #802 E34 to retake the lead. The Renntech Mercedes 190E #150 had also slipped past the Seven Foot Tommy 2 BMW. As the track dried out the lap times started dropping with the top 3 cars running in the high 2:20s, next 2 in the low 2:30s, and the final 5 cars in the top 10 running in the mid 2:30s. of note was the leader, KSR’s #225 running in the lead and the Renntech #150 had not pitted for the final time.

With the race winding down with just an hour to go the pace had picked up and all the top 10 cars were now running in the mid 2:20s and the overriding question was when the leading KSR Lexus would make their final stop. While the Cone Crushers had picked up some fortunate pit stops early in the race under FCYs, this time the fates picked to bestow some racing luck on the Lexus as an FCY flew with 54 minutes to go. The #225 dived into the pits for their final stop as the Marathon Coach pace car dutifully picked up the Cone Crushers 944 as the next leader in line and they gained the lead lap back. Needless to say, at 3.81 miles around, the Daytona Roval configuration takes a bit of time to get around and the Lexus reemerged as the leader, but with Cone Crushers ahead of them, essentially at the tail end of the lead lap. The 917 had a clear track in front of them when the race went green again with 38 minutes to go. The SC300 was mired in the middle of the pack.

The drama was not over.

With 30 minutes to go a car came sliding to a stop in the muddy trioval infield near pit in and the question on everyone’s minds was if this would create another FCY allowing the #917 944 to close further still on the big Lexus? The gap was down to 1:18 at this point. By no means was this the only battle brewing on-track. The #150 Renntech Mercedes was hounding the #83 Nine Four Motorsports Supra #83 for 4th place and the sister Nine Four Lexus #840 was also under a tremendous amount of pressure from the Team Jacky Ickx Mitsubishi #935 for 6th. The question was partially answered when a quickie yellow was thrown to retrieve the driver only from the infield as the car was left there. The Porsche could gain no ground… this time.

The race had hardly gone green when the next incident happened in T1, necessitating another FCY: The ZMW #26 campaigned by Rodney Earwood had been turned facing traffic and the #250 Rotary Rocketeers, battling for position in the top 10, came along with nowhere to go and hit the #26 head-on. The #250 was able to continue but the debris covered a significant area and anticlimactically the race would end under yellow for the cleanup.

The #917 had pulled within 49 seconds of the leading KSR Lexus under caution but had to settle for 2nd at the end. The KSR/Flatout Racing team had pulled off their 3rd overall win in a row at Daytona!!!

Finishing 3rd was the Seven Foot Tommy 2 E34 followed on the same lap by the #150 Renntech Mercedes which had overhauled the #83 Supra from the Nine Four Motorsports team. The other Nine Four Lexus had also lost 6th place to the Team Jacky Ickx #935 3000GT, both 4 laps down to the leaders. Rounding out the top 10 were the #223 KSR/Flatout Nissan 300ZX EC class car, the #250 Rotary Rocketeers B class RX-7 (having somewhat recovered from contact with the ZMW in T1), and the #20 Pancerz Racing BMW 325is. Agent Chrome’s #227 Miata claimed A class honors, finishing in 14th, while the Cage Gage Camaro #386 took home the D class win.

Considering how much stress the high sustained speeds at Daytona put on engines, over 70 cars finished the race and a few teams have elected to hit the high banks on the newly configured Roval at Charlotte in just 2 weeks. Most of the other competitors, certainly the front-runners, are content to wait out the schedule for the first National Championship for ChampCar in mid-June at the National Corvette Museum facility. Most of the teams leaving Daytona, no matter where their next race may be, just left wondering if anyone can dethrone the KSR/Flatout Racing dominance at the World Center of Racing.

Did you miss out on the best darn t-shirt money can buy at Daytona? That’s ok. We have more now!

Final results –

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