The second round of the 2019 World Racing League SE championship took us to Daytona International Speedway for the Concorso Daytona 14 Hour race. Just like previous years, the race has no practice or qualifying so teams turn their first laps on the pace lap before the race. The race is ran on the classic 5.73km road course which is the same as the Rolex 24.
The driver lineup in our #213 Casey Carden Motorsports Mazda MX-5 was the same from Barber Motorsports Park in March. This included Hunter Cestoni, Jason Workman, Erick Melton, and me.
The green flag flew Saturday morning at 9:00AM EST and we had a good start. Hunter took the green flag for us and although he had never been to Daytona his lap times were quickly on par with what we needed to be competitive. Not long into his stint however he radioed in that the gearbox was moving in the car causing difficult shifts but also indicating an issue possibly with one of the gearbox mounts.
The team brought him into the garage to work on the mount which was found to have an issue and was replaced very quickly. We also opted to put Erick into the car during this time to get him seat time since we were already making an early stop and he had not driven Daytona either. Sadly though as our own issues were going on, our sister car, the #214, was crashed heavily in the bus stop chicane off of the back straight.
Our car left to head back on track and as it did the #214 car was towed back to the garage with heavy damage. The team being the team they are though decided to get the tools needed to start working on repairing the car to get back into the race.
Erick was quickly up to pace but not long into his stint we had shifting issues again. This time the car could not get into gear. He managed to finally get it into a gear and drove the car back to the garage where once again the team had to get our car back in the air for a potential gearbox change. This was also the first time that both Casey Carden Motorsports cars had been in the garage at the same time since I ever started racing with them. Not the best of days for the mechanics. We attempted a few things before deciding to pull the gearbox itself as the symptoms didn’t really indicate an actual gearbox failure but more clutch or hydraulic related.
The team eventually got the gearbox out and it was found the clutch disc itself was the culprit and one of the small holding brackets near the spring on the clutch simply sheared off causing the clutch not to work. The team replaced the clutch and went ahead and put a new gearbox in to be on the safe side. After it was all buttoned up off we went again.
I was in the car to restart it and immediately things felt good. The car was handling well and shifting smooth. We lost a lot of time in the garage, but it was time to put our heads back down and just race. Our sister car was also repaired enough to get back on track though sadly it didn’t last long. The crash in their car caused internal damage to the gearbox and they had to retire later in the race.
My stint went smooth and we ran the fuel load out before I came into the pits to do a driver change and have Jason Workman take over. Things were going like clockwork again and although we were very far down the order we still had a shot at a top three finish as the race was really turning into one of attrition and reliability. The temperatures were not too hot (mid 80°F or 29°C) but people were having issues left and right.
Eventually things calmed down and the race just continued. Our pace was very strong and we would have contended for the win if we had not have had gearbox issues early on. We cycled back through the drivers who all turned clean, fast, and consistent laps and eventually found ourselves in second after reliability bit another car.
The race was red flagged with about two hours and some change to go when severe thunderstorms rolled into the area. After an hour or so it became clear we weren’t going to be able to restart the race and the checkered flag was thrown early. This left us in second place in class and giving us valuable points for the championship that we continue to fight for.