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Nathan Byrd ran the NP01 prototype car with Racer Motors in the GTU class at Daytona Int'l Speedway. (Byrd Racing photo)

BYRD: A Weekend At Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — One of the great things about racing all over the country is getting a chance to race at some of the greatest race tracks in the world.

Last weekend, it was Daytona Int’l Speedway.

It was a pretty cool weekend getting to race at the historic speedway on the road course.

We ran double duty during the June 11 14-hour World Racing League race. I ran the BMW M4 GT4 car with Hammer Motorsports in the GTO class and the NP01 prototype car with Racer Motors in the GTU class.

Two different cars, two different classes, one 14-hour race.

Friday was a full day of practice in both classes. I needed that time to get acclimated to the track and the NP01. We started third in class.

In the M4, we qualified 21st out of 31 cars in the GTO class, which wasn’t bad considering I was new to Daytona and this was my first session in the car.

Later in the day, I got the opportunity to run some laps in the wet, which was very fun. I had the seventh-fastest speed on the time sheets during the wet practice.

I started as the first driver in the NP01 and was the third driver in the BMW, so that driver lineups wouldn’t conflict.

Nathan Byrd takes the wheel of the NP01. (Byrd Racing photo)

I wasn’t too nervous at the start of the race. I felt comfortable in the NP01 and knew we had a good car. We had straight-line speed and didn’t find it necessary to add additional downforce. We decided to maximize the most crucial part of the track, the long straightaways.

It paid off, because on the first lap I moved into the lead, passing the two cars ahead of me in such unremarkable fashion I can’t even remember where it happened on track.

From there it was pretty much smooth sailing, as I pulled away pretty quickly over the next few laps and began slowing my pace to save fuel, preserve the tires and brakes while, hopefully, running more laps on a single tank of fuel than the competition.

I basically cruised for the rest of my first fuel stint, running lap times faster than the competition while saving fuel and running the car at about 70 percent in terms of tire degradation and brake wear.

We pitted for fuel and continued on the same strategy for the next fuel stint. However, on the lap I was supposed to pit, another car collided with mine, causing significant damage.

I left plenty of room for him on the inside of the corner, giving him the racing room. However, he did not return the favor on the corner exit as he proceeded to ram into my left rear pretty hard, breaking multiple parts and skewing my tire. 

The car became nearly undriveable. I slowed down significantly and hobbled it back to the pits where the team could work on it and, hopefully, send me back out.

It wasn’t until later that I learned the other driver was ejected from the race.

Thanks to some speedy work by the team, they were able to replace the left-rear components that had broken and sent me back out, only a few laps down.

This was somewhat demoralizing considering the fact we were about eight seconds away from lapping the second-place car in our class prior to the accident.

Our straight-line speed was off because of the rear diffuser being skewed and scraping the ground. That impacted our fuel-saving pace by about four seconds.

We abandoned the fuel-saving in exchange for more pace, so that’s what I did for the rest of my stint.

Unfortunately, we were dealt another blow when the fuel indicator came on 16 laps into the stint to let me know we were low on fuel. The very same lap when I was already planning on coming to the pits, the car’s electrical relay to the fuel pump failed and the car stopped on the track.

When I got out of the car, I had to sit down to keep from passing out from the heat.

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Byrd handles the BMW M4 GT4 car with Hammer Motorsports in the GTO class. (Byrd Racing photo)

I rehydrated as quickly as possible to ensure I was in tip-top shape to tackle the BMW when needed.

About 90 minutes later, it was time to get into the M4 to relieve Cliff Brown. But the lap he was coming in to make the change, the red flag stopped the race because of lightning within five miles of Daytona Int’l Speedway. 

That put a pause to the race but unfortunately not the race clock, which meant every minute under red flag was one less minute racing on track.

When the race finally restarted, I was put in the car in 11th place.

We had moved up quite a few positions thanks to my teammates’ driving and the team’s pit strategy. During my two fuel stints, I made one pass for position on track and was given another position because of a competitor’s mistake.

At the end of my run, I was up to ninth when another red flag waved.

During the red flag, it started to rain pretty hard and I was hoping I’d be sent back out for my final stint of the race and be able to experience wet conditions during the race. Unfortunately, I wasn’t chosen to go back into the car for the restart.

With only about two-and-a-half to three hours left in the race, I thought my chances of getting back in either car were pretty slim.

The NP01 dropped out of the race because of a loss of oil pressure and the BMW went to the end with a driver change to my other co-driver Alex Welch.

We finished fourth in the GTU class for the NP01 and eighth in the GTO class with the BMW.

I raced well and was a good team player and that’s really all that I can ask for out of myself during a race weekend. The experience gained from this weekend will benefit me in my future racing adventures.

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