Richard Westbrook said the red flag that brought the 57th Rolex 24 at Daytona to a premature end was a “kick in the nuts” for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.
Westbrook had just pitted from the GT Le Mans class lead moments before the race was red-flagged in treacherous conditions, handing the win to the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE driven by Augusto Farfus.
He ultimately finished third on the road in the No. 67 car also driven by Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon, but the crew was demoted to fourth post-race with 1 minute and 48-second added to its final time.
This was because Westbrook took an emergency pit stop for the splash of fuel without taking a mandatory full service afterwards.
Westbrook told reporters after the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opener that the conditions were “ridiculous” and that the race should have been brought to a stop earlier.
“We were out of gas, so we had to pit whatever, but I just don’t know why they were waiting to throw the red flag,” he said.
“The conditions weren’t getting worse, they were just incredibly bad through that last green period.
“It didn’t matter what speed you were driving at, 30 or 130. You just couldn’t keep the car on the track. It was a lottery.”
Westbrook felt that the FCGR squad made the right strategy call to leave him out during the 16th full-course caution of the race with two and a half hours remaining.
This set the No. 67 Ford on a 40-plus lap stint which lasted until the final caution period, which turned into the race-deciding yellow, with just over two hours to go.
“We were looking at the radar and we knew that the weather was going to get worse and worse,” he said.
“You can’t even bank on throwing a red and then calling a race like they did at Petit Le Mans in 2015, but that is in the back of your mind.
“The best place to be is in the lead. At that point [before the red flag] we were controlling the race and leading the way.
“Obviously we had to pit and everyone else was going to have to pit a few laps later, but we were the unlucky ones today, that they threw the red just after we pitted.”
The 43-year-old Englishman described the weather in the second half of the race as like nothing he had ever experienced before.
Rain started falling over the Daytona International Speedway at around 4:40 a.m local time and continued beyond the checkered flag.
“I’ve driven in many conditions in my life, in the Nürburgring in the fog and the rain,” said Westbrook.
“But nothing like that. It was ridiculous. But then to throw the red when they did is like a real kick in the nuts.”