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IMSA - International Motor Sports Association LLC

01/26/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 01/25/2020 21:50

Rolex 24 At Daytona: Saturday Notebook

Busch Encouraged by First Laps in Rolex 24

Reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch turned his first race laps in the world-renowned Rolex 24 At Daytona IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opener Saturday evening. And while conditions dictated an abbreviated initial stint, Busch emerged from his car enthusiastic. And optimistic.

His No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 sat 14th in the 18-car GT Daytona (GTD) class, but after a rough start - the car qualified 16th in class - it had improved its position when Busch pitted following a 43-minute shift. On the lead lap.

'Put me in the car and there's excitement all around,'' Busch said after getting out of the car during a full course caution Saturday.

'I drove all the way back to the lead lap and everything. With all the strategy and stuff and wave-bys here, it's quite different than what we're accustomed to on our [NASCAR] side of things. And to get ourselves back on the lead lap so we could start scrapping again for the lead, that's not bad.''

Busch conceded the traffic - four classes of cars with varying speeds competing simultaneously - was certainly something to get used to. But Busch was smiling and overall pleased with the new experience.

'Certainly interesting with that wave-by and re-strategizing. Obviously, you put Kyle in the race and the excitement seems to pick up. Everybody's welcome,' he said with a smile.

Busch was slated to run a double-stint from 2-4 a.m. and then again from 7-9 a.m.

Wayne Taylor Racing, Taylor Brothers Move On at Daytona

For much of their adult lives, second-generation racers Ricky and Jordan Taylor have competed together and raced for family. Their father, Wayne Taylor, fields a perennial championship favorite team in the WeatherTech Championship Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class and is a two-time Rolex 24 winner as a driver and a two-time winner as a team owner.

And for the last decade at least one of his talented sons has driven his famed No. 10 prototype winning races and championships.

Taylor's older son Ricky, 30, left the family business in 2017 after receiving a wonderful opportunity from Acura Team Penske to drive its prototypes. Jordan, 28, who spent the last seven seasons driving his father's prototype, has moved to the Corvette Racing factory team this season to drive the famed No. 3 Corvette C8.R in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class.

The brothers assured with warm smiles, all was okay with dad and his team.

'Obviously, it was hard both times one of us left the team,'' Ricky Taylor said. 'Everyone thinks when we leave, my dad's going to lose his motivation and just want to support us and it's the end of Wayne Taylor Racing.

'But he's motivated,'' Taylor said of his father. 'He's got [Scott] Dixon, [Ryan] Briscoe, [Kamui] Kobayashi and Renger [Van der Zande] this week and he's like all of us, he's a fan. He watches us closely and wants the best for us. It's nice he has the quality team - drivers, engineers that he has because he's still very motivated to win.''

The Taylor family has done plenty of winning together. Ricky and Jordan won 12 races together for their father's team from 2014-17, including the 2017 Rolex 24 and that year's prototype-class championship.

Before Saturday's Rolex 24 green flag flew, the two brothers met up on the grid to wish one another good luck then sought out their father down pit lane to wish him a good race as well.

'It was a hard decision to leave Wayne Taylor Racing - obviously I was there for seven years and we won a lot of races and championships together, so you're leaving a program that's successful and it was my family and I was comfortable there,'' Jordan Taylor said. 'My family is close, so it's tough to make the split.

'At the same time, Ricky had gone to Penske, which is a huge opportunity you can't turn down. And when I was offered to go to Corvette, that's an opportunity you can't really turn down either.

'So my dad can be proud of the fact he basically groomed us as drivers through this team and we were hired away by great teams and manufacturers. He's proud of it. Obviously, we're all a little sad we're not together anymore. But I think it's a good thing we're being hired as professionals, and dad doesn't have to look after us.

'It's all been good so far.''

Strong NASCAR Presence at IMSA Opener

From executives at the driver's meeting to drivers on pit road to competitors handing television duty, there was a broad NASCAR presence at the Rolex 24 Saturday morning as teams awaited the green flag.

Four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon was pit side checking in with the Wayne Taylor Racing team, with whom he won the 2017 Rolex 24 race. Former NASCAR Cup driver and Xfinity Series champion Brian Vickers was on pit road catching up with friends as was driver David Ragan, who said this was the first Rolex 24 he ever attended and that he would be open to competing in a future race.

Reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch is entered in the GTD Class No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Acura and former Cup driver A.J. Allmendinger, who is driving the No. 57 Acura NSX for Michael Shank Racing.

NASCAR on NBC's Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Letarte manned the NBC broadcast.

'I'll drive with Junior and maybe we could get Jimmie Johnson or Tony Stewart,'' Gordon told Earnhardt and Letarte on the NBC Sports broadcast, joking about coming back to the Rolex 24 and running the race again with a NASCAR lineup.

'My number one goal when I was here, whether it was testing, whether back at shop doing pit practice or here in the race, don't be the weak link,'' Gordon said of his experience a couple seasons ago.

'Unfortunately, first time I got in the car, I was the weak link.

'I had to restart the car and we were leading under caution. I went into Turn 2 in the horseshoe and hit a guy and I hadn't even been in the car five minutes. Luckily, I made up for that and the rest of my race went really well and I wasn't the weak link.''