The four-driver lineup of Rob Kauffman, Michael Waltrip, Rui Aguas and Clint Bowyer completed 677 laps during the 24-hour race finishing just one lap behind the GT winner. The No. 56 team never fell out of contention in the highly competitive GT class battling with Porsche, Audi, Mazda and BMW throughout the race.
“I’m very happy with our performance,” said Kauffman. “We made it through the full 24 hours with encountering any major problems, clean pit stops, and were competitive. That’s a credit to car preparation, the crew and maybe a little credit to us drivers! Last year we just wanted to run the full 24 hours which we did. This year were targeting a top 10, and maybe battle for a podium. We were only a safety car period away from doing that. We are getting better each race and that’s our goal.”
The weekend marked the first sports car race and first 24-hour race for NASCAR star Bowyer.
“I had a blast,” said the runner-up in NASCAR’s 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup. “The biggest thing is just getting used to the car and getting to know the car. Man, it’s hard to be consistent out there. It’s like you can’t ever get a clean lap. Thank God we have spotters out there. We were here at the test and didn’t have spotters, but they’re lifesavers with the DP cars coming on. That was my biggest worry being here is just staying out of the way, not ruining one of those DP cars and especially cost us a good finish.”
Bowyer admitted he felt the excitement.
“I was really happy to be there. My two bosses (Rob Kauffman and Michael Waltrip) were able to share a cool experience and help me kick the year off right. I don’t follow sports car racing that much, but this is their Daytona 500 or Super Bowl. I could feel the hype, the buzz down there in the pits. It was certainly like the Daytona 500. Our 500-mile races are nothing compared to racing 24 hours.”
In 2012, the AF Waltrip team finished 22nd in the GT class and 35th overall. Waltrip said Sunday’s race was much more enjoyable.
“Our car has more speed than it did a year ago. A year ago, it wasn’t a whole lot of fun. That’s all race car drivers worry about. If you’re passing people, it’s fun and we were able to catch and drive around some guys,” Waltrip said. “This is a new world for me. I’m not very well accustomed to taking a left on the backstretch unless something bad is going to happen,” said the two-time Daytona 500 champion. “I always admired and appreciated this race as a kid growing up and watching my brother and a lot of the NASCAR guys running in it. I wanted a turn to do it and I’m having a good time. The car was flawless.”
The No. 56 team ran a relative incident-free race alternating drivers about every 90 minutes. Aguas started the race before turning the Ferrari over to Bowyer who gave way to Kauffman then Waltrip. The team repeated that rotation four times in 24 hours. Drivers did media work or returned to infield motorhomes for rest when they weren’t behind the wheel.
The Ferrari carried the logos of RK Motors Charlotte, NAPA AUTO PARTS, PEAK, Aaron’s., 5-hour ENERGY and AAA on its hood and an American flag on each side.