Kansas City, Kan. (7 June 2014) – In a race that provided for a rollercoaster of highs and lows for the team at Kansas Speedway Saturday night, Luis Bacardi’s Rum Bum Racing fought to a fourth place finish in the 2.5-hour Grand Prix of Kansas after leading 37 laps in the fifth round of 2014 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge competition. It was a difficult day for the Florida-based team, but despite having no radio communications through most of the race and needing to make a late-race splash for fuel in the waning laps, Rum Bum Racing powered to a fourth place finish at the checkered flag.
The result sees Rum Bum Racing maintain its position of third in the provisional championship standings as the team chases an unprecedented third consecutive IMSA championship.
Nick Longhi opened the 2.5-hour race from the front row after posting the second quickest time in Friday night’s qualifying session. As the field of GS cars all looked to move forward early on, some early maneuvers behind the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche saw a car from further back in the field jump the start as Longhi settled into third.
“We were careful on the start,” said Longhi. “Kris (Wilson, polesitter) braked very early, but one car came from way, way back and came between us. I figured that was optimistic on their part. And sure enough he got a jump start penalty. So then, knowing that he was going to have a penalty, I just cruised around behind him not to risk anything. From there it was just standard operating procedure. The car was good and I could creep up a little on the leader.”
The first of two cautions was displayed just 10 laps into the race and Joe Varde called the No. 13 Porsche to pit lane for fuel, tires and a driver change. Longhi handed the car over to co-driver Matt Plumb who returned to the track 16th in line.
When the field went back to green with two hours remaining in the race, Plumb began a charge through the field as the team determined that the in-car radio was not working. Plumb worked his way into the top-10 within three laps and up into the top-five with an hour and 30 minutes to go as he ran fourth. He passed several cars that still had yet to make a first pit stop and when all cars had made their first stops, Plumb took over the race lead.
Plumb developed a significant advantage over the entire field, and utilzing communication from the team via pit lane signs, he pitted under green flag conditions for fuel and tires. Quick work by the Rum Bum crew combined with the healthy gap Plumb had created saw the No. 13 Porsche emerge from pit lane still holding on to the lead with a 1.191-second margin over the second place car of James Davison.
A second full course caution period was displayed shortly thereafter and when the race went back to green flag running with 48 minutes remaining, a thrilling battle ensued between Plumb and Davison. The two swapped positions each lap as the two encountered the slower ST traffic through the tight confines of the infield road course section and the banked oval portion of the circuit.
As the race reached its closing stages, Rum Bum Racing looked poised for its second consecutive Kansas podium. But it was not meant to be, as Plumb was forced to bring the No. 13 machine to pit lane with just two laps to go for a splash of fuel. Fortunately, Plumb had enough of a gap that he was still able to salvage fourth at the checkered flag which completed a tough but good championship points day for the team.
“As soon as I pitted, about five minutes into the stint, the radio went out,” said Plumb. “I could see that I was in the lead but I wasn’t sure what the pace car was doing. Then the team showed me the sign to “save” so I was just doing as much as I could to save fuel. At one point I realized that if I didn’t save more by drafting the leader or getting behind a lapped car, I was never going to make it. So I did that, we did that for a couple of laps. And then the next sign was ,”Go!” so I did my best to make up some ground. Had we had one more lap under yellow, we’d have been fine. These guys get it right so many times, but you are going to have one not go exactly your way. We want to win every race, but this was good for the championship points. I saw what had happened to the 46 car (championship leader, out of the race early) and I knew we just needed to finish.”
The Rum Bum Racing squad will target a third consecutive podium result in the next round of IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge action at Watkins Glen International on June 28.