DAYTONA, Fla. – Doran Racing had a new Nissan 370Z NISMO entered alongside their dependable #14. Drivers David Empringham and John Farano are series champions, so optimism was high in the Doran garage.
The first race of the Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge (CTSC) Championship season opened with a lot of contact and few results. Farano started the #41 car near the back of the field due to a crash-shortened qualifying session left the car with no posted time. On his second race lap after passing numerous slower cars, Farano took a blind side hit from a car that had gone off course and careened back into his path.
"The car just missed the Bus Stop (Daytona's back straight chicane), came straight across and ran into him," said a frustrated team owner Kevin Doran. "We'll have to check out the car's frame and get it put together again for the next race."
The other Doran car driven by Brad Jaeger had a solid start, starting in 15th in the GS class and working into 11th near the race's halfway point. Just before co-driver BJ Zacharias was poised to take over the car for the remainder, the clutch failed and the car was pushed behind the wall.
"We've never had a clutch fail that I can remember," said CTSC veteran Zacharias. "Although Daytona is not the ideal track for the 370Z NISMO's strong points, but we probably would have had a top 10 car today."
Time Bell Racing qualified 11th, and after being spun out early on charged back through the field, running as high as second position during pit stops. Late in the race, Bell's co-driver Dane Cameron was struck from behind, damaging the right rear of the car badly. The car limped home 23rd in class – but with high hopes for the season after showing solid potential in its first race.
GT Academy 2011 Champion Bryan Heitkotter had the Skullcandy Nissan Altima up to third in Street Tuner (ST) class during the first hour of the 150-minute race. Heitkotter brought the car in at the driver change and turned it over to 2013 Daytona class winner Vesko Kozarov in sixth. Several long caution periods followed the driver change, and Kozarov found himself down about 20 track positions and not being allowed a "pass around" given cars on the end of the lead lap.
The car finished 23rd after the second half of the race was run under numerous caution periods. Kozarov was unable to make up track position. The second Skullcandy Altima finished 35th after receiving damage to its front end with about an hour to go.
"It was a challenging weekend for the Nissan CTSC teams," said Rick Kulach of Nissan Motorsports. "But the cars ran well when they had the chance and we've got great crews and drivers. Sebring will give the teams a new start and I know we'll have a better result there."
The Nissan teams move on to the Sebring 12 Hours March 13-14, then Laguna Seca in Monterey, California May 2-3.
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