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Homestead, Fla. (28 April 2012) - Racing at team owner Luis Bacardi’s home track with scores of Rum Bum Racing fans, guests, and VIPs on hand, Rum Bum Racing scored a dramatic and convincing win in the Kia 200 on Saturday. The triumph marked the second win in as many races for Rum Bum Racing and grew the team’s lead in the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Championship standings with drivers Matt Plumb and Nick Longhi.
The result was all the more remarkable after the No. 13 Porsche machine was forced to start from the back of the GS class pack following qualifying on Friday. Longhi had scored his second consecutive Homestead pole and set a new track record, but the team faced its first new car gremlin as a non-performance enhancing measurement was found to be out of spec after the session.
But the same deep talent pool that saw the Joe Varde-led group win in the team’s very first time out in GRAND-AM competition, and then matching that with a win in its Porsche debut in the most recent round, once again was put on display with outstanding race pace and remarkably fast, track position-earning pit stops.
With rain falling on an already-wet track, Longhi started the 2.5-hour race from 27th on the grid. But that number would not last long, with the No. 13 scored in 16th on the second lap, then racing up to the top-five just 10 laps later before moving up to third. All this forward progress played out on a track that was changing every lap as the rain stopped and a dry line emerged.
The challenging conditions favored the skilled, as Longhi was shining in the mixed conditions.
“It was a good day, a really really good day,” said Longhi. “Mostly, this is just a great team. We had a fantastic pit stop that got us out in the lead. Starting in the back could have been a problem, but this is such a fantastic race track with so many places to pass. It was bad to start that far back but we knew that we had a very good car, a very good crew and as I always say it’s not the hardware - it’s the group of people. This is that kind of a team. It’s a very good team.
"We were ready, and I was mad so I had to catch up! Starting in the rain could not have been a better scenario for us, because we could take advantage of mistakes to pick up a lot of places. Nobody has figured out this concept in terms of this kind of racetrack, the oval, the banking, the roval – these kinds of cars like Joe Varde. He is unbelievable. What he gets out of this car is just fantastic. It was just great to drive. It’s our home race so it’s fantastic.”
Taking the opportunity to pit under caution, Longhi pitted and turned the car over to Plumb.The stop was a fast one, with Plumb set ahead of all the machines that also pitted as he rejoined in fourth. Fighting his way to the front on Lap 23, Plumb held the point until one last pit stop on Lap 43. But the time away from the point was short lived as the No. 13 returned to the lead on Lap 46 and held off all comers for the final 37 laps of the race.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy no matter who was behind me,” said Plumb. “The conditions were changing the entire time. I can’t say enough about this car and this Rum Bum Team. Every time I drive this car, I feel so lucky to be here. To Luis Bacardi--thanks for having us here. I’m so glad that we got to do this in front of his home fans. Thanks to all the sponsors - Continental Tire, AST shocks and HRE Wheels. Joe (Varde) called a perfect race, as usual, and Nick was outstanding in really tough conditions and it all added up to a great day for everyone here at Rum Bum Racing.”
The Kia 200 will be televised May 12 at 12:00 PM (ET) on SPEED.
Photos: Wes Duenkel Photography