Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sport Going Extra Mile; Economy Shrinks the Field at 24-Hour Race; Those Left Are Pulling out the Stops

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sport Going Extra Mile; Economy Shrinks the Field at 24-Hour Race; Those Left Are Pulling out the Stops

Article excerpt


DAYTONA BEACH - The Daytona International Speedway arranged for a group of 40 international journalists to receive an up-close look Friday at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona from sports car icon Hurley Haywood.

For Haywood, a five-time Daytona winner, the tour was a way to put a positive spin on a sport affected by the slow economy.

While Haywood was talking with reporters, car owner Bob Stallings was at his hauler meeting with 70 independent insurance agents that sell insurance for his company, GAINSCO. He led a company cheer to spell out GAINSCO, followed by three quick chants of "Gainsco! Gainsco! Gainsco!"

Today's race, which starts at 3:30 p.m., will offer an important diversion from the economic strife facing the Grand-Am Road Racing Series. Once the race begins, the attention will shift from bottom lines to making the car survive 24 hours on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course.

Drivers and race teams are collectively doing new things to make the best of bad times. For some it means leading garage tours. For others it means leading a corporate pep rally. And for some, it means trying to find speed on a budget.

"A dollar here, a dollar there all adds up," Haywood said.

Haywood's team, Brumos Racing, receives its funding from the Brumos Automotive Group in Jacksonville. The company sells exotic sports cars from Porsche, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz, among others, but sales have stalled in the past few months as the nation struggles to make its way through a recession.

In the past, Haywood often calls the dealerships from the racetrack to check on sales. This week, however, it's all about racing.

"All of this helps sells cars," he said. "Hopefully a good run will help generate sales. I think that's true for everybody."

The Brumos team already is off to a good start. The No. 58 Porsche-powered Riley prototype won the pole position with a track record lap of 127.472 mph. David Donohue drove the car during time trials and will work the first shift today. After that, co-drivers Darren Law, Antonio Garcia and Buddy Rice will take their turns behind the wheel.

Haywood's car, the No. 59 Porsche-Riley with co-drivers J.C. France, Joao Barbosa and Terry Borcheller, will start seventh.

The Brumos effort has all the tools to win the race, Haywood said, despite its new emphasis on controlling costs. Purchases must follow a chain of command to make sure there's no waste.

"If we need it, we have it," he said. "We're just keeping a better eye on things."

The Porsche-Riley of Timo Bernhard, Ryan Briscoe and Romain Dumas will start second, followed by the Ford-Riley of Nic Jonsson, Darren Turner and Ricardo Zonta in third.

The defending race-winning Lexus-Riley for Scott Pruett, Juan Pablo Montoya, Memo Rojas and Scott Dixon will start fourth. …

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