While much of the spotlight went to the highly funded, factory supported Prototype teams this past weekend at Daytona, one should call to mind the independent teams and the blood sweat and tears that make the 24 Hours such a formidable, but challenging task.
While I watched several hours of Speed Channel’s coverage–which by the way is outstanding–the broadcast was largely dedicated to the front running Prototypes. You will catch a peek occasionally of a GT class car getting lapped for the hundred and something-eth time. For most drivers out there, one can commiserate with the thrill, anxiety, expense and demands of the driver clawing his way into the show–and fighting to stay there.
One such driver, who I am proud to call a friend, is Nick Jones of Brentwood, California-by way of Wales, UK. He is a creative and happy-go-lucky guy and when prompted, can drive the wheels off a car. In his ten year racing career, he has several Skip Barber series wins and a year of British F3 under his belt–He finished seventh in the series on a bunch of tracks he had never seen before. Then he came back to the States where he sought a ChampCar ride–and ended up driving a short stint for Jensen Motorsport in the Toyota Atlantic Series. Sadly this was ruined by a wanna-be club racer who owns a bunch of furniture stores in the Southwest–getting tangled on the final lap of the test, causing Jones to barrel-roll though several corners of the Homestead road course. He was OK, save a broken foot, but the car was written off.
Last year, he did six races in the Porsche Cup Challenge, a support series for the Patron IMSA/ALMS show. He managed top 10 in the standings before funding ran out.
2011, started off with a bang for the 28-year-old. He was given a ride in a GT Class Ferrari 430 Challenge entered by DragonSpeed out of the Los Angeles area in the 24 Hours of Daytona. Teamed with the Cali-Welshman was teamed with last years GT-class winner Cort Wagner and teammates Fred Poordad and Doug Baron. The group survived the 24 hours handily and were classified 15th in GT class and 29th over all.
Former manager Johnathan Bartlett, who is currently doing computer based timing and scoring for DTM teams overseas said, “Well that has to date been the best performance I have ever seen from Nick, he was lapping close to the factory driver on tripple stinted tyres. When the engine was dying at the end he and the factory driver were the only guys that kept the car in the race by doing under 2min lap times! truly one of the great drives! Proud very proud!”
We are all proud of you Nick and look forward to more great moments!