Teams Adjust Rolex 24 Strategy

With Eye On Points-Paying Patrón Endurance Cup Segments

Season-Opening Race To Award Points At Six-Hour Intervals

While racing teams have the goal of the overall victory in this weekend’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season-opening 53rd Rolex 24 At Daytona, they also will be planning strategy to win three additional “races within the race” segments that award points towards the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.

The Patrón Endurance Cup recognizes competitors in the four endurance races on the TUDOR Championship schedule, with points scored at strategic intervals within the events. At the Rolex 24, points are awarded at the six-hour, 12-hour and 18-hour marks in addition to the finish. Five points go to the winner of each segment, with four for second, three for third, and two for all other competitors.

Action Express Racing won both the TUDOR Championship and Patrón Endurance Cup in 2014, and will be looking to defend both titles this year.

“The way it’s set up, you can’t get comfortable,” said team manager Gary Nelson. “It’s imperative to earn every point you can. We’re looking at the Rolex 24 as four races – while not sacrificing the goal of winning overall – because the points are so hard to get. We scored every point we could last year, and I’m sure our competition was watching and will be taking that strategy this year.”

Nelson pointed to last year’s race at Watkins Glen, where the team pitted 45 minutes shy of the midway point despite having a half-tank of fuel.

“When we were the only ones pitting, we were excited,” Nelson said. “Then all of a sudden, just before halfway, everyone else was pitting and we were leading the race – scoring those valuable points.”

Points are scored in three segments at both the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida on March 21 and the season-ending Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta on Oct. 3. The Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International on June 28 will award points at the midway point and finish.

CORE autosport doubled up in the Patrón Endurance Cup last year, winning in both Prototype Challenge (PC) and GT Le Mans (GTLM). Team manager Morgan Brady feels Daytona (where his team won both classes in 2014) is important to get off to a strong start in defense of their crowns.

“We certainly have our eye on the big prize at the end of the race, but as we go through the event we’re very cognizant of those six, 12 and 18 hour increments, and really try to maximize our position in regards to our position at those individual times,” Brady said. “There are certainly a lot of points to scoop up here, and we will try to do a better job than everybody else. It certainly worked out for us last year.”

The Patrón Endurance Cup also is important from the driver’s point of view.

“The Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup is an awesome honor; combining prestige, grit, endurance and a storied history that marks each one of the four races comprising the championship,” said Bill Sweedler, driver of the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia and part of last year’s winning team in GT Daytona (GTD). “To win, drivers, pit crew and engineers have to think conservatively, act aggressively, but race like it is a sprint over a combined 52 hours. As champions last year, we will bring that same strategy as Scuderia Corsa endeavors to win in 2015.”

More than 15 hours of the Rolex 24 will be telecast live on FOX Sports in the United States beginning with a two-hour FOX network broadcast at 2 p.m. ET on Jan. 24.

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