DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – An untimely final caution sent the finish of the 55th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona into a tailspin and nearly left the No. 5 Mustang Sampling/Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R as the beneficiary on Sunday afternoon.
But instead, thanks to a controversial bump-and-run and a subsequent no-call by the officials, Wayne Taylor Racing got their Cinderella story at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
With Filipe Albuquerque at the helm, Action Express looked to have gained control of the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic with one hour, six minutes remaining when the 20th full-course caution of the event flew for debris from the No. 93 Acura GT Daytona entry of Andy Lally.
Albuquerque had already made his penultimate pit stop for service just before the yellow came out, while Ricky Taylor and the No. 10 Konica Minolta/WTR Cadillac DPi-V.R had not.
The yellow forced Taylor into the pits with exactly one hour to go and handed the overall and Prototype lead to Albuquerque, a position that Albuquerque held all the way through a final caution with 29 minutes to go for more trouble out of the Lally entry.
Albuquerque held off a frenzied drive from the elder Taylor brother on the restart, but Ricky would not be denied. He stayed patient and waited to strike, finally forcing his way up the inside with seven minutes to go when Albuquerque backed off to get a clean entry into turn one of the road course.
However, Taylor was there. The two made contact and Albuquerque spun into the runoff area, while Taylor charged on and was able to breathe easily after IMSA officials elected to take no action against the No. 10 team.
Though Albuquerque charged back to within six car lengths of Taylor coming off the final corner of the superspeedway, it wasn’t enough – as the Taylor brothers, Ricky and Jordan, plus the retiring Max Angelelli and four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, collected the spoils of winning in Gatorade Victory Lane.
Ricky Taylor was especially emotional in victory lane, having driven the final two hours in the car and making the move for the win with such little time left.
“I am not gonna be able to speak,” he said, emotion thick in his voice. “It’s unbelievable. … What more can we say? I embraced my inner Max the Axe. He never gives up. He’ll stick his nose in anywhere. I didn’t know if I was going to get another chance (to make the pass). I’m just so happy.”
“I was devastated after that yellow (where the No. 10 lost the lead). I didn’t know if we’d get another shot at it … but if I’ve learned anything from Max, it’s to never give up. He’s done that so many times … and I knew what I had to do today. For Cadillac on debut and our entire team … this is truly incredible.”
For Angelelli, he goes out a winner in his final sports car event, scoring his 28th career North American sports car victory and second in the Rolex 24.
“Unbelievable,” Angelelli exclaimed. “I’m speechless. What a drive for Ricky. I don’t even know how to thank him for this.”
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