DAYTONA DOMINANCE: Wayne Taylor Racing wins qualifying race, will start on Rolex 24 pole

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DAYTONA BEACH — The Wayne Taylor Racing No. 10 Acura will start this year's Rolex 24 in the same place it finished last year's race: at the front.

Ricky Taylor held off a late charge, and push, by Richard Westbrook on the final lap to win Sunday's Rolex 24 qualifying race. Westbrook, driving the No. 5 Cadillac, dove to Taylor's inside on the first turn of the final lap, but he couldn't make the pass stick.

The two made contact and Westbrook went spinning off the track. Taylor managed to keep his Acura in one piece and cruised the rest of the way to prevail in the 100-minute Rolex qualifier.

"Westbrook was pushing really hard but Ricky kept him off and won the race. That's all I care about," said team owner Wayne Taylor. "I'm really excited … it was a tough weekend and the race certainly wasn't easy."

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The Wayne Taylor Racing No. 10 Acura will lead the Rolex 24 field to green on Saturday.
The Wayne Taylor Racing No. 10 Acura will lead the Rolex 24 field to green on Saturday.

It never is when you start last in the DPi field, which is what happened to the No. 10 Acura after it failed inspection following Saturday's qualifying session.

However, Taylor inherited the lead following a round of pit-stops with 30 minutes left, and held off Westbrook for much of the final stint to put the defending champion Acura on the pole.

"We started the day from the back and were strategizing some risky calls to get some track position," Taylor said. "The team got me into the lead with the other cars gambling on yellows. It was really fun racing. If that's a glimpse of what the Rolex 24 is like, I don't think people are going to sleep much."

Westbrook managed to still finish second, seven seconds behind Taylor, followed by the No. 48 Ally Racing Cadillac. The Meyer Shank Racing machine finished fourth, followed by Chip Ganassi's No. 01 Cadillac.

Don't look now, but the Wayne Taylor Acura is fast once again ahead of Saturday's Rolex 24.
Don't look now, but the Wayne Taylor Acura is fast once again ahead of Saturday's Rolex 24.

"That was really fun to watch, for sure," said Ben Keating, co-driver of the No. 52 ORECA, which won the race and will start on the pole in the LMP2 field.

"Luckily, our race was a little less exciting," Keating continued. "We had enough of a gap that I wasn't too concerned about it. Golly, Richard drove his tail off, though."

Andretti team first in LMP3, Lamborghini tops GTD pro

The No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier finished first in the LMP3 class. In the loaded 35-car GTD field, the No. 63 Lamborghini won the race for GTD Pro while the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes paced the GT Daytona cars.

"The performance is really close, it doesn't matter if it's GTD pro or GTD," said Mirko Bortolotti, who's late pass helped get the No. 63 Lamborghini to Victory Lane. "The traffic played a big role, so you (need to) know how to position yourself to be in the right spot at the right time."

The story of the day, however, was back up front, where the Wayne Taylor crew capped the Roar weekend with another Daytona victory as they attempt to win their fourth straight Rolex 24.

It won't be easy, though, especially with those pesky Cadillac's showing impressive speed late in Sunday's race.

"They looked strong at the end," admitted Filipe Albuquerque, who started the race for the No. 10 Acura. "We need to analyze that to be better."

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Rolex 24: Wayne Taylor Racing wins qualifying race, will start on pole

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