Pipo Derani said Action Express Racing had “a lot of confidence” in its alternative strategy that ultimately helped put the team back in victory lane for the first time in nearly a year in Friday’s WeatherTech 240 at The Glen.
Derani and co-driver Felipe Nasr scored their first victory since the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring in July 2020 with a decisive run in their Whelen Engineering-sponsored Cadillac DPi-V.R after electing to pit early on Lap 12 of the scheduled two-hour and 40-minute race.
The call would have put them on a potential four-stop strategy had the race not have been halted for a 45-minute red flag period due to lightning in the area.
While struggling for outright pace compared to the pole-sitting Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05 and with a strong chance of rain disrupting the run, Derani felt confident by the strategic move early on.
“From the beginning we knew that we needed to do something different to try and jump the Acuras,” Derani explained. “It was part of the strategy to possibly come in early.
“In those situations you never really know whether it’s going to play out your way.
“You’re gambling and you’re possibly adding another extra stop. But we said it was better to try and gamble and go for a win than finishing third or fourth.
“We did that with a tremendous amount of confidence in the team and strategy and the drivers. We had a lot of confidence in each other that it we were going to pull [it off].”
Nasr emerged as the leader after only needing to top off fuel during the final round of pit stops when the majority of the DPi runners took tires and underwent driver changes.
“I have to say the [No.] 31 Whelen Engineering Racing [team] pulled out a great strategy, great pit stops,” said Nasr.
“Pipo drove amazing in the beginning as well to give us the opportunity.
“It’s always hard to make those calls but I like it when it’s made with a pure decision so you can commit to it. I felt the team did the right call.
“It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been close every now and then, a couple of races knocking on the door but that victory never came.”
When asked if they would likely been in the same position had the red flag not come out, both Derani and Nasr felt confident in the strategy.
“Once the clock was still ticking, we never knew when the race was going to restart again,” said Nasr. “Would it be with an hour to go, an hour and 15 [minutes]?
“We had different calculations for those. But once we were committed for the alternative strategy we were hoping something was going to play into our hands in the end. I’m glad it did.”