NASCAR driver Harrison Burton held off hard-charging sports car veteran Spencer Pumpelly by a slight 0.688 seconds to earn the overall victory in Friday’s BMW M Endurance Challenge, the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course.
Pumpelly, who co-drove with Jeroen Bleekemolen and Tom Collingwood, moved the No. 83 BGB Motorsports Porsche 718 GT4 RS Clubsport from fifth place to second in the final 30 minutes of the four-hour race, applying pressure on Burton as he cut into the lead with each lap.
But the 22-year-old Burton – who drives the famed Wood Brothers Ford full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series – steered mistake-free, high-pressure circuits of his own in the No. 42 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 to ensure he and teammate Zane Smith – the 2022 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion making his IMSA debut – became the first NASCAR regulars to take the victory in this race.
Ben Rhodes, the 2021 NASCAR trucks champion, and fellow NASCAR truck series driver Hailie Deegan finished third in the No. 41 PF Racing Mustang to complete the podium for the 32-car Grand Sport (GS) class.
Smith, 23, qualified an impressive third and moved forward immediately on the start, holding a sizable lead with just under three hours remaining. Late pit strategy by the competition, however, shifted the lineup as the No. 41 Mustang pitted to change drivers – Smith out and Burton in – just past the midpoint.
Burton ran third with just under 50 minutes to go, steadily making his way forward. He took the lead for good when leader Elliott Skeer in No. 47 Nolasport Porsche had to retire with 22 minutes remaining.
Road Shagger Sends Current No. 61 Audi out a Winner in TCR
Jon Morley and Gavin Ernstone took the No. 61 Road Shagger Racing Audi RS3 LMS SEQ for one last memorable ride, winning the TCR class.
The victory didn’t come easy, however. Morley, on the wheel for the last half of the four-hour race, had a gripping, 45-minute, bumper-to-bumper battle with the No. 73 LA Honda World Racing Honda Civic FK7 TCR and driver Mike LaMarra.
Morley wrestled the lead from LaMarra with just 12 minutes left and held off the No. 73 over the final eight laps.
It was the fifth career Michelin Pilot Challenge win for both drivers, after going winless in 2022.
It also appears to be the last race for the car they used. The Audi is scheduled to be retired to make room for a newer generation RS3.
The No. 61 Audi was caught in the middle of a multicar incident in Turn 6 midway through the race, but Ernstone somehow emerged unscathed.
The No. 73 Honda finished 0.427 seconds behind the winning Audi. Crossing the line in third was the No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR shared by Mark Wilkins and Mason Filippi.
RESULTS: BMW M Endurance Challenge