Whelen Engineering drivers Tristan Nunez (Boynton Beach, Fla.) and Pipo Derani (Brazil) finished seventh in Sunday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Roar Before the 24 100-minute qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway. Today’s finish will put the 2021 championship-winning No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R seventh on the DPi grid for next weekend’s 60th-running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Nunez qualified fourth for Sunday’s qualifying race with a time of 1:34.440. However, following post-qualifying tech inspection, the No. 10 Acura was moved to the back of the DPi field. This allowed the No. 31 Cadillac to start third. Nunez had a great start and had the car up to second early on. However, the team had Nunez make a pit stop about 23 minutes into the race on lap 14.
From there, Derani took the reins. The decision to make an early pit stop likely meant the team would need to make three pit stops, unless the race had a caution, while other teams only had to make two stops. Derani ran in the top three for the majority of his 77-minute stint. In fact, he was running third with about 10 minutes remaining. Unfortunately, he had to make a pit stop for fuel with four minutes to go and finished seventh.
“It was definitely scrappy, to say the least,” Nunez said of this stint. “It was good to get this first race out of the way. It was a good dress rehearsal, to do some live-race pit stops, and to get some laps under my belt at race pace. I feel comfortable going into the 24 and that’s what really counts. A lot can happen in 24 hours. I’m looking forward to next week and the win.”
“We had a good race,” Derani said. “But unfortunately, a call made early on prevented us from making it to the end on fuel. We gambled. We tried to go for the win. Unfortunately, a yellow [flag] never came and we had to pit one last time. It was good prep for the 24. It’s good to get the season going and, in a few days, we’ll be back here for the big one.”
Derani and Nunez will be joined by WEC champion teammate Mike Conway (Great Britain) for next weekend’s 60th-running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Whelen Engineering will try for its third Rolex 24 At Daytona overall win, having won the race in 2010 and 2014.
Source. Kyle Chura Associates/Photo. Cadillac/Brian Cleary