PF Racing’s Harrison Burton took the lead with 22 minutes to go Friday (Jan. 27) when NOLAsport’s Elliott Skeer suddenly pulled off-course with a mechanical failure. From there, Burton held to earn himself and Zane Smith the overall win in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge BMW M Endurance Challenge at Daytona.
Burton and Zane Smith’s margin of victory was .688 seconds over BGB Motorsports’ Spencer Pumpelly, Thomas Collingwood and Jeroen Bleekemolen. PF Racing’s second Mustang for Hailie Deegan and Ben Rhodes was third, then Murillo Racing’s Kenny Murillo and Christian Szymczak. Automatic Racing’s Jim Jonsin, Tom Long and Brett Sandberg were fifth.
Crucial Motorsports’ Michael de Quesada, Henry O’Hara and Aurora Straus were sixth in the debut race for the McLaren Artura GT4. JTR Motorsports Engineering’s Anthony McIntosh and Jared Thomas were seventh in their Mercedes, followed by Murillo Racing’s Eric Foss and Jeff Mosing. TeamTGM’s Hugh and Matt Plumb were ninth, while Accelerating Performance’s Michael Cooper, Justin Piscitell and Moisey Uretsky rounded out the top 10.
Rennsport One’s Stevan McAleer started from the pole in his Porsche and opened up a small gap on the field. Meanwhile, PF Racing’s Zane Smith passed Luca Mars for second in the opening laps. These three drivers proceeded to drive away from the rest of the pack.
The first yellow flew a little more than 15 minutes into the race when Deily Motorsports’ Cabot Bigham stalled his Hyundai Elantra N TCR. Shortly afterwards, Rebel Rock Racing’s Frank DePew crashed his Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R exiting turn 2 to bring out another yellow.
The second caution brought some of the leaders into the pits for the first of four or five pit stops. AutoTechnic Racing’s John Capestro-Dubets chose to stay out in his new BMW M4 GT4 to take the overall lead.
Deegan took the lead 52 minutes in with a swooping move to the outside of turn 4 of the tri-oval. That led was short-lived as McAlister took his turn up front. Deegan then helped McCumbee (driving without a rear bumper due to contact) get up the lead.
Eventually, Smith was able to get himself into the overall lead and pull a couple of seconds over the field. Eric Filguerias was eventually able to work his way up to second after the pit stop.
However, any chances of Filguerias and McAleer repeating their victory from last year ended 75 minutes into the race when Filguerias crashed at the fastest point of the track right before braking for the infield. A cut right rear tire appeared to be to blame.
Filguerias’ crash brought the race’s third yellow out, triggering another round of stops. BGB Motorsports chose not to put on tires, which put Jeroen Bleekemolen into the overall lead.
That lead did not last long as Smith was able to retake the advantage just after the restart. Once out front, Smith stretched the lead back out as Bleekemolen fell back on worn tires.
The CarBahn Motorsports with Peregrine Racing charge ended when Jeff Westphal suffered a right rear tire failure in turn 4 of the tri-oval. That resulted in his Porsche swapping ends and hitting the SAFER Barrier hard to bring out the yellow.
That set up a split pit strategy that put TeamTGM’s Owen Trinkler in the overall lead, but with less fuel onboard. Unfortunately, the worn tires allowed NOLAsport’s Elliott Skeer to take the lead in West Bend on the restart with 32 minutes to go.
Things were looking good for Skeer until his Porsche turned traitor a few laps later, forcing him to pull off. Skeer’s issues gave the overall lead to Burton with Rhodes right behind.
Rhodes was able to stick with Burton for a little while, but slowly and surely, Burton was able to pull away. Meanwhile, Pumpelly was on a charge. With 32 minutes remaining, he was in 19th. He quickly moved up the order into the top five and passed Rhodes for second with three laps to go.
Burton had burned the brakes in his Mustang up and couldn’t drive as hard. Pumpelly almost got up to Burton’s rear bumper on the final lap, but lost time exiting the infield. That was all Burton needed to hold on for the win.
In TCR, Honda dominated practice and qualifying leading up to the race. LA Honda World Racing’s Mat Pombo started from the pole and le the second yellow, when almost everyone pitted for their first stop.
Multiple strategies were instituted here as well. As a result, KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering’s Tim Lewis Jr. ended up in the lead. The Alfa Romeo has a top speed advantage of couple of mph on the other TCR cars, so he was able to open up a decent gap before pitting to put Roy Block in the car.
Technical issues ended the KMW Motorsports team’s day early, though. After a restart, Block appeared to suffer a brake failure on the backstretch. That pitched him into Rockwell Automotive Development’s Alex Rockwell, spinning both cars out. Block ended up hitting the wall as well. The crash ended the day for both Block and Rockwell.
Michael Lewis and Taylor Hagler were having a decent run in their Hyundai until the car quit just after halfway. Michael was forced to pull over just past pit out and back behind the wall to avoid drawing a caution.
It was a driveshaft that broke on the No. 1 Hyundai Elantra N TCR. The Bryan Herta Autosport crew was able to get the No. 1 back out, 22 laps down. They would eventually finish ninth in class.
Ultimately, the strong challenge of the Hondas fell apart in the race. VGRT’s Victor Gonzalez Jr. and Karl Wittmer were leading until they made a green flag pit stop. Shortly afterwards, Wittmer nearly wiped out on cold tires in the International Horseshoe.
Wittmer then was forced to pit with issues under the hood. The Honda Civic Type-R TCR ended up being retired.
Pombo and Ryan Eversley‘s Civic got caught out on pit strategy and ended up way down the order. Additional issues led to a stint behind the wall. They would get back out, but eventually finished eighth, 15 laps down.
Morley was able to get past LaMarra with 12 minutes to go exiting the International Horseshoe and just barely held on to take the TCR win for himself and Gavin Ernstone.
Morley and Ernstone won by .427 seconds over LaMarra and Dr. William Tally. Wilkins and Mason Filippi were third, followed by Deily Motorsports’ Tyler Maxson and Jacob Deily. JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Chris Miller and Mikey Taylor were fifth.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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