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BRAUN: Rolex 24 Debrief

CORE autosport’s Colin Braun files his first Sportscar365 column of the year…

Photo: IMSA

Photo: IMSA

Coming into the Rolex 24 at Daytona, I thought our chances of winning the race were really good. The guys were preparing really well over the offseason and everyone was gelling together with our new engineer Tom Brown.

We had good speed at the test and we knew that with our experience with the PC car, we’d already have a good handle on any reliability concerns. I was feeling pretty confident, but it is the 24 Hours of Daytona and crazy things happen in that race all the time.

It was nice having Mark Wilkins back with Jon Bennett and I, and adding James Gue to the lineup was a good pick. Veteran sportscar racers like James and Mark fit in easily with the team.

I think that’s one of the reasons we picked James to add to the lineup, because he’s very adaptable. He’s not looking to make a big splash and be selfish, he’s looking to come in and do a good job by making smart decisions and being a team player. That’s what made our lineup at Daytona so strong, we’re all focused on the big picture of trying to win the race.

One of the things I was a big advocate of was having good spotters. I knew that would be important in the race especially with the IMSA rules package and the speed across the categories: we’re the second-quickest car overall, but the slowest in a straight line. It’s helpful to have someone on the roof that can see the big picture.

We hired two really good guys from my NASCAR days in Mike Calinoff and Stevie Reeves, who are really well respected and did a great job for us.

We also brought in our favorite chiropractor and massage therapist Tony. I do acupuncture with him from time-to-time in Charlotte, so I thought it’d be a good idea to try some on Friday night before the race.

Tony had me sitting in a chair and he put a needle in just the right spot and I thought I was going to throw up and right as I told him, I fainted. I fell over, hit my head on the table in the motorcoach and hit the floor. I woke up pretty quick, but I had a big knot on my head the next morning!

The race couldn’t have been better. We worked really hard to have a good game plan and strategy laid out. We stuck to our plan and did what we set out to do. It worked out perfect. We never had to pit for anything but drivers, tires, fuel and to put some oil in the engine, like we planned to do. It was like clockwork.

Everything was very relaxed up until the final two hours when we realized we’d come so far and put such a strong effort it. We were at the point in the race where something totally out of our hands could have happened. We were all tired and didn’t want to make any mistakes.

I wouldn’t say we got nervous; we all just buckled down and got really focused because we were in a good spot to win the race and we didn’t want to fumble the ball on the last play of the game.

To be honest, there was one thing we didn’t plan for. I drank so much water before I got into the car and I really had to use the bathroom when the race was over! We won the race, so we immediately had to go to victory lane and do TV interviews and all that, but the whole time I was looking for a way to duck out and use the bathroom!

It wasn’t until about 30 minutes later I was able to sneak away before our press conference in the media center! But hey, if that’s what you have to do when you win the Rolex 24, I’ll take it!

Daytona is a special place for me. I had pole in the NASCAR Truck Series, I set a world speed record there, and I got my first professional sports car win in 2006 in the Paul Revere 250.

With my dad being an engineer and going with him to this race so many times as a kid, I have a strong understanding of what it takes to win this race. I know how many times good teams and good drivers have come up short, so it was an amazing feeling to be able to stand there and share it with all the guys at CORE. It was awesome.

Colin Braun (@colinbraun) is a sports car racing standout and former NASCAR Nationwide and Truck Series driver, currently racing with CORE autosport in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship

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