Muscle Milk Pickett Racing put in an impressive performance in their first appearance at the Rolex 24 at Daytona by taking the checkered flag fifth overall and completing all 24 hours of the famed event.
Pickett Racing showed their strength by being the top placed 'P2' car in the Prototype class. The team knew they didn't have the top speed to compete with the Daytona Prototype cars on the banking of Daytona International Speedway so they had this alternative goal to work towards.
With the team only taking possession of their new Nissan-powered ORECA less than a month and a half ago, the team was entering what is the biggest race of the year with very little testing and practice miles under their belt.
However, as they've been known to do, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing always puts up a fight and never gives up. That attitude was once again on display during the twice around the clock race.
The team encountered a problem in the first hour of the race when Klaus Graf had to pit because of a right front puncture shortly after having completed his first pit stop of the race.
The additional stop cost him a couple of laps to the leaders, laps that the team would never really have the chance of getting back throughout the next 23 hours.
However about 10 hours into the event, the Muscle Milk squad did make their way back onto the lead lap only to see it taken away due to a drive through penalty they had to serve for a pit lane speed violation.
Despite a few issues throughout, such as the penalty, slow punctures and a small cockpit fire, the team pushed on and persevered and drivers Graf, Lucas Luhr and Alex Brundle drove their hardest and made their way up from the bottom half of the field to finish fifth overall.
Considering the team's small amount of experience with their ORECA/Nissan, their speed deficit with the Daytona Prototypes and their few misfortunes, Pickett Racing came out satisfied with their position and the reliability of their new race car throughout this first round of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
Next up for the Pickett Racing team will be a very familiar hunting ground, as the team will be heading to Sebring International Raceway in March for the second round of the TUDOR Championship.
Muscle Milk Pickett Racing Quotes:
Greg Pickett, Team Owner Muscle Milk Pickett Racing
"We were out-paced here, everybody could see that, it was very evident. We knew going in this that it was going to be a tough place for P2 cars. So, we're very, very pleased that we were the top P2 car by quite a margin.
"Our guys worked really, really hard and we couldn't have done it without the people at Nissan Nismo and our great new friends at ORECA, who worked hand in hand and side by side with us. We frankly think that we got everything we could this weekend at Daytona and our congratulations to our competitors at Wayne Taylor Racing and Action Express.
"We're going to go back and keep working. All we're going to do is hope that they keep what they promised and said to us in regards to making this a competitive environment for the two cars to compete equally together. And I don't think that means by a deficit of 10 miles per hour every time we get on a straight line.
"This is not sour grapes, I'm very positive, I came here, I haven't bemoaned anything. We went to work, we got what we got and we're glad we got through it in one piece, it was very close to not happening a couple of times, but we fell more than half way down through the field and came back to place in the top five in this prestigious event, I'm tickled to death honestly.
"There's no moaning, we're going to go home and get to work, we're hoping the sanctioning body does the same and let's make all of our fans and all of the competitors happy. This is off to a great start. It has a lot of promise and that promise is on its way to being fulfilled and let's complete that promise for everybody."
Klaus Graf, driver Muscle Milk Pickett Racing
"I'm really happy with the result. I've said since the beginning, if we can get a top five it would be a very good day. The way the TUDOR Championship is you won't be able to win all the races, it's not going to happen. So Lucas and I spoke about it and how we need to get the results and just collect points. In a 24-hour race, the way the points structure is, you get the same points for every race and this is a big deal and we go away from here with good points.
"I'm very happy with the partnership with ORECA and Nissan. In a very short period of time, we built a reliable car and the Muscle Milk boys prepared the car very well. There was a lot going on this weekend and you can't have everything 100% right with such a short preparation time but Daryl (Fox) our crew chief told us that him and the guys always prepare the car 100% and that's what they did.
"For me, I'm happy, we pushed like hell, like always, maybe we pushed a little too hard but it doesn't matter we had a good result."
Lucas Luhr, driver Muscle Milk Pickett Racing
"I have to say that I'm very proud of our guys. It's a brand new package, brand new car, it was the first 24-hour race for this team and to finish it, it was a good thing.
"On the other hand, I think we still have a lot of work to do and also the sanctioning body needs to work on the balance of performance, I hope they are going to change that. You can't fight when you are 12 miles per hour slower than the other guys.
"However, you can't just see it negatively, you have to also see the brightside. The car ran mostly trouble free and we finished only three laps down to the leaders after 24 hours, that's impressive.
"Thanks to the boys for the preparation of the car and let's keep pushing!"
Alex Brundle, driver Muscle Milk Pickett Racing
"Coming in fifth in the Rolex 24 at Daytona is pretty good. We finished first of the P2 cars which I think, to be honest, was a realistic aim coming into the weekend.
"It's been a real pleasure working with Muscle Milk Pickett Racing. I've learned from the professionalism on this team. They have some great guys and I've taken a lot from the experience, so thanks to them and specifically to Greg and Penny Pickett and Nissan for giving me the opportunity to come and race here.
"It's been great and to get to the end of the race with no major glitches and to take fifth place was not too bad at all."