IMSA: Spencer Pumpelly displays great class, attitude after coming up short on fuel

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Occasionally in racing, you’ll hear the term a car “goes the length of a football field in about a second.”

On Sunday at the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship PC/GTD class race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the length of a football field – 100 yards – must have felt like a mile to Spencer Pumpelly and the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS car.

Pumpelly took over from co-driver Nelson Canache, who led the opening stint, on the team’s sole pit stop on Lap 25. But with a lack of frequent cautions – only two interrupted the two-hour race – Pumpelly ran out of fuel exiting the Corkscrew on the final lap while leading.

He had enough to carry the momentum down the hill and into Turn 11, but exiting the tight and final corner on the track, the car ran dry just within sight of the checkered flag.

What followed afterwards was a masterclass of class and attitude despite the crushing end result.

“We were trying to make an extra 10 minutes of gas out of our stint, which was an impossible task, but we got 9 minutes and 50 seconds out of it,” Pumpelly said.

“The thing we have to figure out is we got information out of the car that we should have been OK, from the first lap I turned we started saving fuel. Everything said we should have been good, and now that we missed it by that little I’m kicking myself for every little (one minute) 31 latpime could have been a 32. I’ll mull that over for a while.”

As it was, Pumpelly had done the business of putting Flying Lizard in position to score its first win with its new Audi, and the positives of the team’s first pole position with the car on Saturday and dialing the car in as well as they had were still good takeaways from the weekend.

“I’m so impressed with the effort they’ve given,” he said. “We got our first pole and we were 100 yards away from our first win.

“The good news is my flight’s not til later, there’s a concession stand up there on the hill and I can douse these flames with an ice cold beer and watch the P race.”

Perhaps the third time will be the charm for Pumpelly, Canache and Flying Lizard down the road after two soul-crushing losses in GTD this season.

The first came at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, when the pair plus co-drivers Markus Winkelhock and Tim Pappas were originally declared GTD class winners following a penalty issued to Level 5 Motorsports for an on-track incident. But that penalty was later rescinded and Level 5 reinstated as class winners.

Then this made two tough ones.

On the bright side, Pumpelly was already chuckling about it because he’d been on the other side of just making it home to the finish.

“I remember at Watkins Glen a couple years ago, I crossed start/finish, got halfway through my first donut and the engine died,” he said. “It was not only the worst donut attempt ever, but it also shows how close it can be 100 yards the other way. I can only smile at how well the guys did today. Boy, am I looking forward to getting to Detroit now.”

Pumpelly and Canache ultimately ended sixth, which Pumpelly appreciated in some respects because of how the PC leaders got through the GTD traffic and meant that from sixth on back was a lap down to the class lead. That saved the result from being much worse.

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, points

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

POINTS: Standings after Rolex 24 at Daytona l Michelin Endurance Cup standings l Daytona endurance points

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.