Lake Norman & Mooresville

Action Express salvages top-10 finishes in Rolex 24 at Daytona

Despite problems with both Action Express Racing entries in the Rolex 24-hour race at Daytona, the two-car team rebounded for a pair of top-10 finishes, and team manager Gary Nelson said only a few tweaks should be necessary before the March 21 Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

“We’ve already made a list of things we need to do to improve our program,” Nelson said of the Denver-based operation. “We just have a few little tweaks we’re going to do to the car. I think we were 1.3 seconds behind the winner of the race at the checkered flag after 24 hours, so we don’t need to overhaul the whole program. The track went a little different direction than we had anticipated.”

In the Tudor United SportsCar Championship season-opener in late January, the No. 5 Action Express Corvette, the race’s defending champion, placed second to Chip Ganassi Racing after fighting back from a three-lap deficit. The No. 31 Whelen Corvette DP had problems early but rebounded for a seventh-place finish overall and fifth in class.

With drivers Christian Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa and Sebastien Bourdais, the No. 5 entry experienced problems nine hours into the race. Nelson said the engine quit while the car was on the track, but they were able to pinpoint the problem fairly quickly using the car’s telemetry system.

The issue was between the switch for the fuel pump and the pump. Once the wire was reconnected to the fuel pump, the problem was solved, but the team was three laps down because the car had to be towed in.

Drivers Max Papis, Phil Keen, Dane Cameron and Eric Curran encountered issues in their No. 31 entry when the power-steering unit failed.

“It took us a while to diagnose that one,” Nelson said. “We made a couple of pit stops early in the race, but none of us anticipated it would be the power-steering unit because we’d never had any trouble with them.

“We were losing laps pretty quick by the time we got into the garage and started trying to find the problem. Once we replaced it, our (No.) 31 car matched lap times with any other car out there.”

The No. 31 Corvette was 17 to 18 laps down throughout the remainder of the race.

Nelson said the No. 5 Corvette wasn’t as competitive this year as it was in 2014.

“Our car was certainly strong and we were in the right position at the end,” Nelson said. “On that last restart (with less than 10 minutes remaining in the race) there was a little bit of traffic between us and the leaders, so we had to get by that traffic. In that least amount of time, Scott Dixon was able to get a little bit of a jump on us and we couldn’t close the gap in just a couple of laps that were remaining.

“Even if our car was equal to Scott Dixon’s we gave them a little bit of a head start on that restart, and we weren’t going to be able to close the gap unless we had a much faster car, and we just weren’t there.”

Still, Nelson believes Action Express, the series defending champion, will contend for the title again, with the Ganassi and Wayne Taylor teams emerging as their primary competitors.

“I don’t have a crystal ball, but I would say it’s going to be a dogfight,” Nelson said. “At the end it will be two or three of us. I’m really expecting us to be among them fighting for the championship.”

Suarez driving for Venturini

Daniel Suarez will join Concord-based Venturini Motorsports for four ARCA races this year, starting with the Feb. 14 season-opener at Daytona. His other three races will be in Chicago, Kentucky and Kansas.

The 23-year-old Monterrey, Mexico, native made his ARCA debut last year at Kentucky. In addition to the ARCA events, Suarez will compete full-time in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series for Joe Gibbs Racing and in 13 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

LFR names drivers

Mooresville-based LFR Driver Development Group has announced Joey “Mooch” Mucciacciaro, Quin Houff and Denver Foran as members of its 2015 team.

Foran, from Edmonton, Alberta, will compete in the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing in February at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway and the Southern Super Series. Houff, a native of Weyers Cave, Va., will race in the Mooresville-based CARS Super Late Model Tour. Mucciacciaro, from Wolocott, Conn., will join Foran in the New Smyrna event.