Playing the fuel strategy game to perfection, 17-year-old Colin Braun became the youngest winner in Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series history and his #76 Krohn Racing co-driver Jörg Bergmeister extended his Daytona Prototype points lead with their victory in the Brumos Porsche 250 under the lights of Daytona International Speedway.
After starting second, Braun drove the race's opening stint and took the lead from polesitter Luis Diaz in the #01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley when Diaz pitted on lap 34 of the 70-lap event to turn the car over to co-driver Scott Pruett. One lap later—at the halfway point in the race—Braun came onto pit lane to turn the #76 machine over to Bergmeister.
The extra lap coupled with excellent fuel mileage from the Ford powerplant would enable Bergmeister to drive the rest of the race without making another pit stop. The other front-runners would not have the same luxury, and on lap 66 race leader Patrick Long in the #23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford and second-place Pruett pulled onto pit lane for 'splash and go' stops. That opened the door for Bergmeister to take the lead and the German would not be challenged over the remaining five laps en-route to a 16.498-second victory over Long in the #23 machine.
It was Bergmeister's second victory in the past three races—he co-drove to the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen win with road racing star Boris Said — and was his third-consecutive top-two result. With four races remaining in the 2006 Rolex Series season, Bergmeister leads Pruett and Diaz by 31 points, 358-327.
"It was really difficult," Bergmeister said. "I felt I was a little quicker, so I had to be really patient (to conserve fuel). I was lifting a lot to save a lot of fuel. On the last lap, I ran out of fuel, so it was just perfect."
In addition to becoming the youngest winner in Rolex Series history at the age of 17 years, nine months and seven days, Braun is also believed to be the youngest winner of a major league auto race in North America. Braun shattered the previous record for a youngest Rolex Series winner, held by Michael McDowell, who won the 2005 season finale in Mexico City at 20 years, 10 months and 15 days. It was Braun's second-straight Rolex Series podium, as he finished second alongside Bergmeister in the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course five days ago, and was his fourth podium result of the season. Despite missing two of the first 10 races, Braun currently ranks sixth in the Daytona Prototype championship standings.
"This is really nice to have this," Braun said. "I have to thank the Roush/Yates guys for building a great engine—that won us the race right there. Having a great team like this behind me is just fantastic and I can't ask for anything better than that."
Long and Rockenfeller combined to lead 37 laps and both drivers battled their counterparts in the #01 Lexus Riley virtually throughout the event before the late pit stop. The second-place result marked a return to the podium for the Ruby Tuesday team-mates, as the duo earned its first top-three result since their victory in April's VIR 400. Rockenfeller and Long opened the season with four-consecutive podiums, but had not finished better than 15th in their last four races. They missed round two in Mexico City.
"I don't know what's more snake-bit, running out of mileage or not finishing the race," Long said. "I had to really push. Scott was running me really hard and I had to run the defensive line. (The #76) did good on fuel mileage. We had the speed, so we'll get them at Barber."