April 27, 2012  |   By Bruce Martin

Corvette Hopes To Keep Grand-Am Good Times Rolling In Miami

Chevrolet hopes to close the month of April the same way it began in GRAND-AM Road Racing competition – by placing the 2012 Corvette Daytona Prototype in Victory Lane.

Corvette scored a 1-2 finish on March 31 at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Ala., in just its second race in GRAND-AM competition. Richard Westbrook and Antonio Garcia took the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette Daytona Prototype to Victory Lane for Chevrolet’s first victory for the iconic Corvette. It was also team owner Troy Flis’ first Daytona Prototype class win, as well.

“It was very rewarding to celebrate the victory with the Spirit of Daytona - Corvette DP team at Barber Motorsports Park, in Alabama,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “The effort to bring the all-new Corvette Daytona Prototype to the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series was a collaboration of a talented group of partners. When a trip to Victory Lane comes so quickly after the introduction of a new race car, it is a tribute to those who worked to bring the vision to reality. We are all very proud of our teams and their continuing commitment to success.”

That next step comes this weekend on the 11-turn, 2.3-mile road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the next round of the GRAND-AM Road Racing – the series that will make its Indianapolis Motor Speedway debut July 27 in the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard. The two-hour, 45-minute race will be televised at 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday, April 29 on SPEED.

“This weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the Chevrolet GRAND-AM teams will face a unique challenge in the fact that they will be competing on a special Continental Race tire in both the Daytona Prototype (DP) and the Grand Touring (GT) classes,” said Jim Lutz, Chevrolet’s Grand-Am program manager. “That will be a unique challenge for the teams to dial their cars in for that tire and also learn its properties and characteristics over a stint. That is probably the number-one challenge everyone will be facing this weekend.

“Our Chevrolet teams are good at that, and they are well prepared. I know everybody is anxious to get back racing again after a several-week hiatus since competing at Barber Motorsports Park. We want to keep the momentum going from our win at Barber in DP as we placed the first Corvette in the winner’s circle. We will continue work hard to get a Camaro on the podium in the GT and Grand Sport (GS) classes. We look forward to the challenge this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.”

At Barber, Westbrook and Garcia won from the pole, leading 84 of the 103 laps.

“Talk about a weekend of firsts,” Westbrook said. “The first win for our team. The first win for the Corvette DP, which is just incredible if you think about how new the car is. We’ve come a long way since Daytona. It didn’t meet our standards; we expected a little bit better. But we’ve worked so hard since then. Everyone at Chevrolet, everyone on the team. I am just so proud to be part of this program to score the first victory for the Spirit of Daytona.

“I have said before: It is good to get the monkey off the back. The team hadn’t won before in DP. The whole crew, it is good for everyone. It is good for morale just to get the first victory out of the way. For me, it is especially pleasing. I watched this series back home (in England), and I know how tough it is. The standard that has been set by the Ganassi guys: to beat them at any time, you know you have done a very good job. I am just super proud.”

Said Garcia: “The Corvette was amazing. The Chevy team was perfect. So very, very glad to give Spirit of Daytona and Chevy team first victory.”

Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, drivers of the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP, finished second to give Chevrolet two podium positions for the second race of the season. They are hoping to be the Corvette team that makes it to victory lane at Homestead.

“We knew from last year that the No. 90 car had something magic for around Barber,” said Gurney, the youngest son of American racing legend and former Indy 500 driver and Indy 500 winning team owner Dan Gurney. “We wondered if it was going to transfer over to the Corvette, and it seemed like it did. We feel like we gained on them; at least compared to last year. Still, they obviously had the pace.

“My run, I spent a lot of the time, it seemed like, sitting behind (Joao) Barbosa; he was tough to get by even though he was a lap down. I didn’t help me much. Our car ran pretty good. The tires hung in there OK. We were definitely trying to take it easy on them because we knew that at the very end of a stint they have a pretty significant falloff. We hung in there.

“At the very end, with (Scott) Pruett getting that yellow and being on new tires, we knew that was going to be close. But I realized it was just enough laps to where he wouldn’t catch me, and it turned out just right. One more, and we would have been toast. Anyway, a good run for us and a good points day.”

Chevrolet has a deep history at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and will forge a new chapter when the Corvette competes on the Speedway road course. But while the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard is later this season, Chevy officials are focused on turning the Corvette into a dominant car in GRAND-AM.

“It is fantastic to finally see our new Corvette Daytona Prototype in the winner’s circle,” said Mark Kent, director of Chevrolet Racing. “It has been a big effort by a lot of people. A lot of hard work; it is good to see that hard work finally pay off with this win. I hope it is the first of many to come for this beautiful new car. It surely is a confidence builder as we go forward. Barber Motorsports Park is a unique track format that we have run very well on. Hopefully this momentum will carry us forward through the rest of the season, and we’ll have many wins to come.”