DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.
The Bus Bros. of IndyCar were quickly knocked out of contention in their debut Rolex 24 at Daytona because of a very early issue with their Tower Motorsports entry.
John Farano, owner of the car, hired IndyCar stars Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, as well as rising talent Kyffin Simpson, for the twice-round-the-clock endurance race at Daytona International Speedway. The entry is in the second-level LMP2 class, but there’s been speculation that the overall race winner could come from that class if the new hybrid GTP top class suffers reliability problems.
Farano had stressed the Tower team was only chasing a class victory and not even considering the overall victory, but his two times on track doomed the entry. Farano crashed the car last weekend in qualifying and then stalled the car Saturday less than 10 minutes after the race began.
McLaughlin said that a water bottle leaked onto the electronic control issue to cause the stall. Farano took the car to the garage and Tower was down nine laps and running last, in 61st, when he got the car back on track.
“By the time we got the car back, we’d lost a few laps, and by the time they sorted the problem, we lost even more laps,” McLaughlin said.
He added that it’s been a disappointing first Rolex for he and Newgarden, Team Penske teammates who have developed a deep friendship and YouTube series called “The Bus Bros.” in which they showcase their racing lifestyle.
“I was really excited. I was like choked up at the race start, so many people walking up and down pit lane,” McLaughlin said. “So many people have come out to support us, especially IndyCar drivers, and for that to happen so early sucked.”
Fellow IndyCar driver Colton Herta also suffered a setback in his bid to finish first and second in the top GTP class.
Herta was scheduled to drive in both BMWs — giving him two chances to win the Rolex watch, as well as finish both first and second — when one of the BMWs had an issue less than an hour into the race. It happened before Herta’s scheduled stint in the car — he is required to drive a minimum of two hours in each of the cars — and the No. 25 BMW was in the garage attempting to fix a mechanical problem when Herta was supposed to be driving.
The race marks a new era for IMSA sports car racing with the debut of hybrid engines in the top GTP class. It makes IMSA the only North American series using hybrid technology and has drawn immense interest to the series.
The GTP class has four different manufacturers — double the number in last year’s race — with BMW and Porsche new to the class alongside stalwarts Acura and Cadillac. Lamborghini has announced plans to enter the series before the end of the year.
The hybrid debut turned Saturday into the largest crowd for the Rolex in its 61 years as the unofficial opener of the racing season. An official attendance figure was not provided.
“History is being written starting today,” said Bobby Rahal, co-owner of the two BMW GTP entries.
Rahal moved up to the top class for the new era, while Roger Penske returned to sports car racing and hopes to take his two Porsches to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Michael Andretti, meanwhile, partnered with Wayne Taylor Racing to join the grid and a Saturday morning news conference of the seven GTP team owners was comprised of five owners of IndyCar teams.
“I think the future’s really bright for sports car racing, and I think our timing is perfect to be involved,” said Andretti.
All the GTP team owners stressed the importance of IMSA, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) and the Federation International de l’Automobile (FIA) merging rules that has widened IMSA’s participation and given North American sports car teams a chance to race Le Mans.
“This seems to be a real platform for us to take sports car racing to the next level here in the United States,” said Penske, “and then to be able to compete on the international platform at Le Mans for our teams and our brands will be special. I look at competing with these folks as going to be terrific.”
Meyer Shank Racing is both the defending race winner and defending IMSA champion. It started from the pole and Tom Blomqvist had the No. 60 Acura out front every lap through the first 100 minutes.
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This story was originally published January 28, 2023 3:41 PM.
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