Daytona Beach, Fla. (24 January 2014) – Since the very first day the team debuted at the track with a victory, Rum Bum Racing has been setting records at Daytona International Speedway.
Friday was no different as the team once again made history when the No. 03 Rum Bum Racing BMW M3 of Hugh Plumb and Kaz Grala finished fourth in the BMW Performance 200 as young Grala set a record as the youngest-ever racer in IMSA history at just over 15 years old.
The race, which marked the opening round of the 2014 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season, also saw the sister No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche of Nick Longhi and Matt Plumb finish 14th. The result came as a disappointment after the car was leading the race with less than 10 minutes to go. An unfortunate momentary mechanical issue slowed Plumb from the lead with just a few laps to go in the race before he was able to recover and take the checkered flag.
Longhi opened the race from the front row, with the pole-winning BMW surging to the lead. But it was not even one lap before Longhi moved to the point. 22 laps later, Longhi pitted to turn the car over to Plumb and take on fuel and a new set of Continental Tires. A textbook Rum Bum Racing pit stop helped to grow the advantage, and when the full field cycled through the pit stops, Plumb was in a familiar position—leading.
While the BMW machines—which ended up taking the top-six finishing positions, seemed to have the upper hand with outright pace, Plumb fought hard to keep the lead and was successful as the race wound down to the final 10 minutes. A dream day at Daytona came to an agonizing halt as the Porsche stalled for moment, slowing to a crawl as the other cars sped by. Plumb stayed calm and cycled through the fuel reserve to get the car back going. But the lost ground—and a final yellow flag to keep him from fighting to gain the track position back—was costly as he finished the race 14th.
“Under green, all of a sudden, it just died coming out of turn two,” offered Plumb, who has scored 14 IMSA wins with Rum Bum Racing. “It just cut out entirely. I immediately went to the reserve (fuel pump) but it was so starved out that it took a bit to get it going. I don’t know what happened. The car up to that point was perfect. We’d conserved fuel in the first half of my stint to keep the stop shorter. We had to be quick in the pits because we didn’t have the pace of the BMW guys. I couldn’t shake them today. So it is a shame not to be able to take home the win but we’ve got a lot of racing ahead of us and the best team in the business behind us.”
“The team strategy, was, again, perfect,” said Longhi. “The car was great, exactly what it needed to be. I was fighting with the BMW’s, and we knew they’d be strong here. Joe (Varde) made the strategy calls and we were able to stay out front. These things happen and it shows how incredibly competitive this series is to be leading with 10 minutes to go and have a two second stutter and end up 15th. This is a long championship—longer than ever. We had the team to win and the car to win and we were going to win, but that just didn’t happen today. It’s a long season and we’ll just pick it up in Sebring.”
The day was a little more straightforward for Grala and Hugh Plumb, with Grala moving up from 13th on the grid to run in second place just some 20 laps into the race. The young NASCAR racer set the fastest lap of the race at that point for good measure before turning he car over to Hugh Plumb to take to the finish. Returning to the track in 19th, the elder Plumb moved steadily forward, but his progress was halted after moving up to fifth as a balky gear exchange was keeping him from being able to carry crucial momentum through the bus stop chicane.
“Kaz did a great job and brought it in, right where he should,” said Plumb. “We caught some bad breaks with where we came out after the pit stop. We were hoping we’d be able to have helped the 13 guys more but we had an issue with third gear so we were getting hammered through the bus stop and couldn’t make up more ground. But the Rum Bum guys did a great job and the car handled great. It was a great experience to run for this team and Kaz just did a great job.”
“It was a blast, I had a lot of fun driving the car,” said an enthused Grala. “The yellow came at a great time for us to do the pit stop, and Hugh went out and just wheeled it. The most difficult thing for me was maneuvering in the traffic-with the GS cars and the ST cars. I wasn’t used to it at first, but I kept learning as the race went on. It was a great weekend and I learned a lot. A really big, big thanks to Rum Bum Racing for this opportunity. I’m really thankful to get to do this and they are clearly a great team.”
The next chapter in the 12-race championship story will unfold at Sebring International Speedway on March 14.