DATYONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 2, 2017) – Spencer Pumpelly and teammate Nick Galante stood on the podium at Daytona International Speedway for the first round of the 2017 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge (CTSC). The teammates and Rennsport One kicked off their Street Tuner (ST) Championship defense with a third-place finish in the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona.
Pumpelly started the 2017 season with an exciting format change in the CTSC; instead of the usual two-hour races, IMSA announced that both the opening round at Daytona and the penultimate round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca would be four-hour events.
“We debated strategy a lot before the race because it was a new format,” Pumpelly said. “We ultimately decided—since Nick had been showing really good pace—to do what we had been doing in the short races, just each of us do a little more of it.”
This meant Galante took on qualifying duties in the No. 17 Legistics/RickieFowler.com/Friction-One Porsche Cayman. Galante qualified a CTSC career-high seventh on the ST grid and proceeded to keep the car near the front throughout his stint. With approximately two and a half hours remaining in the race, a full-course caution was issued; Galante hit pit lane and Pumpelly jumped behind the wheel.
Pumpelly was able to lead some laps, but a rocky restart from yellow dropped him back to 10th.
“That forced me to fight my way back through,” Pumpelly recalled. “[Murillo Racing driver] Eric Foss and I seem to work pretty well together, so when I found Eric we both came through the field together. I used a lot of his help to get us from deep in the back to striking position.”
While advancing through the field with Foss, Pumpelly encountered a slow car from the GS class.
“I’m a veteran,” Pumpelly said. “I should have known better and given the slow GS car the room. I was coming off of Turn Three and I was surprised by something he did and I got into the back of him coming off the corner.”
The contact did significant damage to the left front of the Cayman, but thankfully spared the radiator. Pumpelly was able to catch back up to Foss, but the front-end damage obstructed the car’s aero on Daytona’s massive banking and long straights. This made any passing a tricky proposition and Pumpelly opted to use Foss’ car to deflect as much air as possible. The strategy eventually led Pumpelly to third at the finish line behind Foss.
“The finish bodes well for the 2017 season and I think we’re in a good championship position,” Pumpelly summarized. “You always want to finish toward the front and if it’s not a win, I’ll take a podium. Nick’s driving has really improved too, and that will be even handier when we get to the shorter races.”
The ST class continues to be as competitive as ever, with nearly all of 2016’s major players returning for 2017. Pumpelly predicts fans will see another nose-to-tail train of ST cars at each race this season, but believes RS1 has a special dynamic in their favor.
“It’s great to have Phil with Legistics back on board and basically everyone from the team last year back to perform the same role,” he said. “When you win a championship, it’s about people more than anything else. To be back with the same group to defend the championship is going to give us an advantage throughout the season.”
The BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona will air on FS1, Sunday, February 12, at 1:30pm ET. Pumpelly and RS1 will hit the track next at Sebring International Raceway, March 15 – 18.