DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Matt Plumb and the No. 13 RumBum.com BMW M3 team opened the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season in Victory Lane on Friday at Daytona International Speedway for the second consecutive year.
Plumb combined with co-driver Nick Longhi to win the GRAND-AM 200 under caution ahead of the No. 15 Ford Racing/Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang Boss 302 co-driven by Scott Maxwell and Joe Foster.
Longhi started the race from the pole and led the opening nine laps before pitting under caution and turning over the controls to Plumb for the remainder of the event. Plumb led twice for 18 laps and staved off a hard-charging Maxwell over the closing laps before a full-course caution coming to the white flag preserved the victory. Plumb won last year's race with Gian Bacardi as his co-driver in the first race for the Orlando, Fla.-based team.
"We had a pretty high goal in matching last year's effort," Plumb said. "Last year, it was a new team and a new co-driver. This year, we had the benefit of my friend Nick here in the car - who obviously is a veteran of the series - so it put us in a very good position and we felt good going into the race.
"However, everybody seems to have stepped up their game," Plumb added. "I'm not sure what's going on, but I was hoping to catch them sleeping. It's incredible. The competition is so tight. Everybody brought their best game and it gave me anxiety the entire time. It was stressful but it was a great race. Thank God for the yellow. I think the Mustang was very strong there towards the end and I was lucky to hold him off at just the right time."
It was the sixth CTSCC career victory for Plumb - who won a total of three races last season - and it was also the sixth victory for Longhi. It was also the third consecutive CTSCC victory for both drivers, who won the final two rounds of the 2010 season at Miller Motorsports Park and Trois-Rivieres.
Foster and Maxwell were followed across the stripe by Paul Dalla Lana and Bill Auberlen in third place in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3.
Just as the pole-winning car took the GS victory, the polesitting No. 171 APR/VW Driver Gear Volkswagen GTI for Ryan Ellis and Ian Baas won in Street Tuner (ST).
Ellis led fairly comfortably throughout his driving stint, but Baas clearly had his hands full throughout the closing minutes of the two-and-a-half hour race with an aggressive Adam Pecorari in the No. 24 Columbus Truck BMW 330i, with whom he swapped the lead a handful of times before Pecorari crashed while trying to take the lead once again.
It was the first career CTSCC victory for Ellis and the third for Baas, who also took the ST win in the 2010 finale at Miller. It was Baas' second GRAND-AM victory at Daytona, as he was a GT-class winner in the 2006 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
"The last few laps were absolutely crazy," Baas said. "I was definitely driving a little bit in my mirrors waiting for some passing, but all this crazy stuff was happening in front of us and people were crashing.
"Luckily, the double yellows were flying and I could breathe a little bit at the end. I'm a little thankful for those, but mostly to be with this team and to have great support with Volkswagen this year and last year. We're going to have a great season together and we're looking for more."
Andy Lally and Nic Jonsson gave Kia its first CTSCC podium with a second-place run in the No. 10 Kia Motors America Kia Forte Koup, and John Capestro-Dubets and Gregory Liefooghe completed the ST top three in the No. 81 BimmerWorld Racing BMW 328i.
Country music superstar and actor Reba McEntire was in attendance for the GRAND-AM 200 as her son, Shelby Blackstock, made his series debut in the No. 51 Roush Performance Products Ford Mustang. Blackstock led two laps and finished 18th in the GS class alongside co-driver Roly Falgueras.
Tickets for the 2011 Rolex 24 At Daytona are available online are available for calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
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