Bryan Sellers admitted a GT Daytona class podium in the Rolex 24 seemed out of reach for Paul Miller Racing following an emergency drivetrain replacement for its Lamborghini Huracan GT3 on the eve of the season’s longest race.
The team discovered irregularities following final practice, prompting the team to change engine, gearbox and electric components mere hours before the car was set to take the green flag.
The team was not permitted to run a hardship lap and opted to rent the nearby New Smyrna Speedway and ran its system checks there before returning to Daytona in the early morning hours on Saturday.
Sellers, who was behind the wheel of the car during the shakedown at the half-mile high-banked oval, said the team’s recovery to finish third in class surpassed his expectations.
“The reason we were there is because we were unsure what we had going into this weekend,” Sellers told Sportscar365.
“We had an engine that basically failed, and electronic system that failed, and we needed to be able to confirm that those things worked and that it was OK.
“Our guys stayed up late on Friday night. We drove over there and checked everything out. That was the plan is that it worked out something like this, but no, I didn’t really see it going this way.
“We had a long way to go from the start of the race. Everyone did a good job. And the guys for me are the impressive part.
“They were up basically since Friday night until tonight, and we all know how important it is to operate at 100 percent in these deals. They just kept going and working and fighting.”
Sellers said the belief that the car could not merely finish but contend for a class win as the sun went down Saturday night.
“I think once it started to go to darkness everybody started believing we could actually win the thing,” he said. “People started going down laps, we were able to stay in contention.
“There weren’t yellow flags and we were thinking: man, if we can just keep running up front we could have a chance. For me I started believing around 11 o’clock that we might actually get this done. I think everyone internally felt the same thing too.
“That makes finishing third a little bit of a disappointment. It’s just a hard race, and the older I get the more you appreciate that because you see things a little bit differently.”
With three podium finishes to his name in the Florida endurance classic, Sellers remains in search of his first class win in the race.
He admitted that coming close to adding a coveted Rolex to his trophy collection was frustrating but was comforted by the fact that he and full-season co-driver Madison Snow find themselves in a solid position in the championship leaving Daytona.
“You hate to sound anything but appreciative when you get situations like this but this is a really hard place to finish on the podium on because you come here for a watch, then you see everybody take what you want,” he said.
“As soon as you cross the finish line you get this big sense of jubilation and happiness, then pretty quickly you start to realize that another year has gone by and you’re close again but didn’t quite get it done.
“I think for us we have to look at the positive. It’s not about the battle, it’s about the war.
“We took home some really good points, and if you look at the cars that finished in front of us it was not full-season entries at this stage, unless they decide to do differently.
“This puts us as the first full-season entry right now. We still have a lot of races left, but we’ve never started in this position before.”