Once more, rain helped to shuffle the GTLM cars, and with the Corvette holding second, a trouble at the nearly flooded Kink resulted in BMW’s Edwards and Porsche’s Tandy flying off the circuit, which promoted Garcia to the lead and the sister Corvette of Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin to second. In an instant, BMW’s grasp on an out-of-nowhere win disappeared and Corvette Racing captured its third straight 1-2 finish. A frustrated Edwards was able to get the M8 GTE turned around and drive it across the finish line in third.
“Finally!” Garcia exclaimed. “It took me forever to win here. How wild was that? I don’t know how I got through the Kink there. From the Carousel, Tandy and I were navigating and we had to go around the GTD cars… their leaders probably. I was risking a lot and obviously Nick was risking a lot too, as I saw later on. I don’t know how I made it through and I saw the [BMW] spinning too. It was just amazing. We will take it. Another Corvette 1-2 today is just awesome!”
And for good measure, GT Daytona made sure every IMSA class was visited by drama on Sunday. AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Aaron Telitz took command from pole position with Lexus RC F GT3 teammate Frankie Montecalvo in tow. A traffic-challenged lap on the way to the pits and handing over the lead Lexus to Jack Hawksworth erased any advantage Telitz held, and with Montecalvo stopping one lap earlier to swap Lexus seats with Townsend Bell, the internecine battle of hot and cold tires would play out in Bell’s favor.
In hindsight, Hawksworth might lament his decision to leave an inside lane open on the long run down to Turn 5; had the door been closed, it’s unlikely Bell would have gotten by. With the pass made, Hawksworth struggled to match Bell’s pace as the stint continued, and when the rains arrived, the Lexus 1-2 was preserved until Meyer Shank Racing’s Mario Farnbacher went on a passing spree in the wet.
First it was Hawksworth, and then it was Bell, whose first GTD win in many years looked like it had been snatched away by the Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 driver with under three minutes remaining, thanks to a bold move exiting Canada Corner. Good fortune smiled on Bell, though, who reclaimed the lead when Farnbacher left the circuit seconds before the last yellow flag, and with the order reversed, Bell was elated to win, Farnbacher was deflated after the loss, and Hawksworth salvaged third.
“It was a lot going on in those last three laps,” Bell said. “The red flag came out and I thought there is no way we’re going back to green. We had to get back in and get out there. The first lap to be fair was OK. The Michelins were incredible in those conditions and then the skies just opened up. It was particularly bad in the carousel and the kink. Farnbacher, he was going big round the outside and got by us kind of easily.
“We kind of hung in there and I was coming out of the carousel looking up the road and there he was sliding out in the grass near the wall. I hit that standing water and thought I was going to lose it. For a split second I thought I was just going to lift and coast and I saw him off there. I just put my foot down and just started grabbing gears. The Lexus just barely hooked up and I got by him, that’s all it took and then the yellow came out.”
Where the Castroneves and Taylor Acura dominated the majority of the DPi contest, LMP2 was a tale of two races. Prior to the rain, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports’ Patrick Kelley opened the event from pole and proceeded to display his mastery, running more than two seconds per lap faster than his rivals. Kelly built a lead of more than 12 seconds after six laps, moved it out to 35 seconds after 15 laps, and took it up to a ridiculous 48 seconds after 23 tours.
Handing over to teammate Simon Trummer, Kelly’s margin was mostly preserved with DragonSpeed’s Ben Hanley unable to reduce the gap below 40 seconds. But rain would intervene when Trummer crashed, smashing the nose on his ORECA 07-Gibson. Trummer and Kelly finished last in LMP2 as Hanley and Henrik Hedman got to celebrate the win after their recent victory in Sebring was taken away for a minimum drive-time infraction. Both one-lap down to DragonSpeed, the ORECA 07-Gibson entries from Performance Tech Motorsports and Era Motorsport completed the LMP2 podium.
“The team made a crucial call and got Ben in early to get the wets on and that was probably what won the race today,” Hedman said. “We probably should have won the race at Sebring but we didn’t. And the [PR1 Mathiasen car] should probably have won this race today, but they didn’t. So we’re happy to take it. Today we were lucky but a win is a win, so I’m happy.“