NASCAR driver Harrison Burton edged out formidable sports car veteran Spencer Pompelli by 0.688 seconds to win Friday’s BMW M Endurance Challenge overall at the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway The season opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge held on the track.
Pumpelly, who co-drives with Jeroen Bleekemolen and Tom Collingwood, moved the No. 83 BGB Motorsports Porsche 718 GT4 RS Clubsport from fifth to second in the final 30 minutes of the four-hour race, putting pressure on Burton to take the lead every lap when he cut in. .
But the 22-year-old Burton – who drives the famed Wood Brothers Ford full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series – drove his own error-free high-voltage course in the No. 42 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 to ensure he and teammate Zane Smith — The 2022 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Champion makes his IMSA debut — becoming the first NASCAR regular to win the race.
2021 NASCAR Trucks Champion Ben Rhodes and NASCAR Truck Series driver Hailie Deegan completed the podium in the 32-car Grand Sport (GS) class by finishing third in the No. 41 PF Racing Mustang.
Smith, 23, finished an impressive third in qualifying and pushed forward immediately after the start to maintain a sizeable lead with less than three hours to go. However, a late-race pit stop strategy changed the lineup as the No. 41 Mustang pitted for a driver change—Smith out, Burton in—just past the halfway point.
Burton was third with just under 50 minutes to go, making steady progress. When leader Elliott Skeer of the Nolasport Porsche No. 47 retired with 22 minutes left, he was permanently ahead.
“I think I was a little frustrated early on because we backed off a little bit after the first pit stop,” said Burton, who was making his second start of the race. “It took me a little while to get back into the lead and I was like, ‘I don’t want to be the one to let the team down and not finish the race like we should.’
“But we had a couple of restarts and I kind of dragged my way through it. A lot of hard racing,” he added with a laugh. “Honestly, it’s very similar to a NASCAR race car. Lots of crashes and aggressive dive bombs and stuff—I feel like that’s kind of home. That’s fun.”
Smith, who will attempt his first Daytona 500 in February, gave his friend Burton the thumbs up for his work.
“Watching Harrison come in with Spencer at the end made my boots shake, but he made no mistakes,” said Smith, delighted with the victory at the famous track. “If you can win anything at Daytona, whether it’s a dirt bike, a kart or a regular car, and now it’s a GT4 Mustang, that’s pretty cool.
“Daytona brings a very different vibe than any other track. Not only is it a win at Daytona, but it’s also really cool to be in our first race.”
Road Shagger Sends Current No. 61 Audi to TCR Championship
Jon Morley and Gavin Ernstone took Friday’s Touring Car (TCR ) group.
However, victory did not come easily. Molly drove the car in the second half of the 4-hour race in a 45-minute battle with LA Honda World Racing’s No. 73 Honda Civic FK7 TCR and driver Mike LaMarra.
Morley took the lead from Ramallah with 12 minutes to go and held on to 73rd for the final eight laps.
“We made a pit stop, put on new tyres, and then there was yellow all over the place, erasing a big lead (13 seconds),” Morley said. “From there, it’s a battle.
“I couldn’t get rid of him (Ramallah),” Morley added. “Once I passed him, I still thought I’d drop him because the car was good early on. I couldn’t get him out of my mirror.”
This is the fifth career win for both drivers in the Michelin Pilot Challenge, having previously failed to win in 2022.
“It’s great to be out there and to win,” Enstone said. “Most races, we’ve been on the podium. Last year was just horrible. It’s great to go straight back out there and win.”
It also appears to be the last race for the cars they use. Audi plans to retire the car to make room for the new-generation RS3.
“We bought a new car about two weeks ago, but we haven’t had a chance to test the car yet,” Ernstone said. “It was always planned to be the last race for this car.
“If I could just slip it in, this car would go into my trophy cabinet,” he added.
The No. 61 Audi suffered a multi-car accident mid-race at Turn 6, but Ernstone somehow escaped unscathed.
“I was lucky to get through,” he said. “It was kind of like the Red Sea parted, and there was a space in the middle, and I threw it in there. Everything around me went crazy. It was just amazing. It was a huge team effort.”
The 73rd Honda was 0.427 seconds behind the winning Audi. In third place was the No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR shared by Mark Wilkins and Mason Filippi.
CNBC televises the game on Saturday, Feb. 4 at 9:00 a.m. ET. The next Michelin Pilot Challenge is the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring International Speedway on Thursday, March 16.