With almost non-stop racing and a record-setting pace, the 58th annual Rolex 24 At Daytona did not disappoint. The No. 57 Heinricher Racing with Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 fought to the finish—without issue—to earn eighth place on Sunday.
Team principal Jackie Heinricher brought together a strong team of drivers for the 24-hour event. Alvaro Parente, Misha Goikhberg, Trent Hindman and AJ Allmendinger brought the No. 57 Acura NSX GT3 home after 805 laps of competition that featured a record-breaking green flag run of 280 laps.
The Heinricher-led effort kicked off the race weekend with an exciting announcement welcoming ExxonMobil to the team as a major sponsor of the No. 57 Acura NSX GT3—continuing their support from 2019 of the only female-owned race in the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship. This started the weekend on a positive note and Heinricher Racing carried that momentum into qualifying and the race.
Considering the unfavorable GTD class regulations that were handed to the Acura following the team’s strong performance at the Roar Before the 24, Hindman made an impressive qualifying run to third for the start of the 58th annual event.
The race saw a green flag run for the first five and a half hours before the team pitted under yellow for a full-service stop. Sticking to strategy calls made by 2019 championship winning engineer Ryan McCarthy, the No. 57 Acura moved up the order within the top ten.
Making his first GT start at Daytona International Speedway, Goikhberg took the controls early and found a rhythm allowing him to hand over a clean car to Parente. Parente drove the Acura to a high of second during the first quarter of the race before settling into the top five.
The midnight hour saw Hindman bring the No. 57 Acura in for a routine front brake change while the field packed up under yellow. A second stop on the following lap brought Hindman back into pit lane to conduct a rear brake change but a small hiccup halted the Acura at the end of a closed pit lane while the rest of the field went to green.
Playing catch up and maintaining a good balance in the car was a challenge for the drivers and crew—especially being regulated down on power compared to other class competitors. The team fought hard to regain the lead lap for a majority of the latter part of the race.
Making his 14th Rolex 24 At Daytona start, Allmendinger took over the controls for several early morning hours for a double stint. The NBCSN announcer, who also won the 2012 Rolex 24 with MSR, gave it everything he had, but a lack of top-end speed prevented him and the other drivers from making a competitive move back through the field.
Jackie Heinricher, Team Principal:
“I have to thank the entire crew, all the drivers and of course ExxonMobil for all of their support and hard work this weekend. We had really great strategy calls and we were always in a good position to be in the top five. Unfortunately, we battled with a BoP that really hindered our ability to have a chance at a podium. Even with that challenge, this team did an amazing job and I’m looking forward to having another shot at a top three finish in Sebring.”
“We stayed out of trouble and didn’t make any mistakes, so I’m really happy about that. As the level of competition goes up—which it does every year—and as equipment gets better, there will be fewer and fewer yellows. It sounds like a cliché, but this is really a sprint race, all out. I still have a lot of work to do in terms of the performance I want. It’s more challenging than I thought it would be—adapting to a different car and a different style of racing. If I make another good step at Sebring, I think I’ll be in good shape when the sprint season starts. This is a great organization, Mike (Shank) and Jackie (Heinricher) run a great team and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
“That was quite a strange race. Looking at the averages, we struggled to be competitive. I think the reduction in power was way too much. That means as drivers, we have to try and hope for a miracle. Things don’t go smoothly, you’re extra tired, you’re defending all the time. My first stint was a long one and the last 30 minutes were on old tires which killed me on track position straightaway. Due to things out of our control, we didn’t have much of a chance this weekend. But a big thanks to Heinricher Racing, MSR, and Acura. Congratulations to the team, they really executed this week.”
“There are a couple of main take-aways from this weekend. I was incredibly happy with how we have been running here at Daytona through the Roar as well as through practice. The team executed in pit stops, driver changes and brake changes very well and when it came to race time, we did not have any significant mistake that came from pit lane. This is as perfectly executed a race as I think we have had since I joined Heinricher Racing with Meyer Shank Racing. It is a shame that there were variables outside of our control that caused the Acura NSX GT3 to not perform as well as we know it could. We will make those necessary changes going into Sebring but we need to be proud of our execution today and carry that focus forward with us.”
“Today we just didn’t have the speed in the car to get the finish that we wanted, but I’m so proud and thankful to be on the Heinricher Racing – MSR team. We maximized our finish for what we had. Everyone on the team gave everything they had and we left it all out on the track. I’m honored to be a part of the team and I will be ready to go again next year with my brother Shank.”
Source. Sunday Group