Reigning Truck Series champion Zane Smith, alongside Harrison Burton, secured the win in the GS Class, with Thorsport drivers Hailie Deegan and Ben Rhodes bringing home third.
The BMW M Endurance Challenge at Daytona is the season opener for the Michelin Pilot Challenge. The series run sports cars divided between two classes, Grand Sport and Touring Car, both on track at the same time. Teams have a mandatory driver change during the race. NASCAR Truck Series drivers put on a great display at the event.
Driving for PF Racing, a team out of Harrisonville, Missouri which fields Ford Mustang GT4s, numbers #42 and #41, which Ford Performance regularly places NASCAR talent in these cars to bolster road-course experience. In 2022, Hailie Deegan teamed up with Chase Briscoe in the same race, teammates with Austin Cindric and Harrison Burton. This year, Ford Performance enlisted Burton and Deegan again, with help from 2021 champion Ben Rhodes and reigning champ Zane Smith to pilot the Mustangs.
In a series of videos posted to Deegan’s YouTube, she captures practicing the week beforehand, at the ROAR Before the 24. The PF Racing drivers also received coaching from Joey Hand, a factory Ford driver and experienced road racer himself.
Zane Smith took third on the starting grid in the #42. Deegan qualified the #41 car 8th overall, a true testament that stock car drivers can hang with the best of the best.
Starting 3rd and 8th overall, the PF Racing Mustang’s using Roush-Yates engines made their presence known. Deegan made an aggressive pass for second at 3:09 into the race. Using her experience with drafting at Daytona, she took the lead on the banks between NASCAR 3 and 4. Utilizing Roush Yates horsepower, she rocketed to the lead, but she would face the best in the Michelin Pilot series, including her teammate at PF Racing.
At around the three-hour mark, Smith in the #42 Car was in leading the race and Deegan in the #41 was fourth. With two hours to go, Smith had a lead of 0.7 seconds over second place, but Deegan was dropping back, sitting ninth. At 1:26, both PF Racing Mustangs pitted for new tires and a driver change, the #42 Mustang had a 1.4-second lead in the Grand Sport class, and Deegan in the #41 fought back up to fifth.
With Burton and Rhodes taking over, the Mustangs rejoined the race 2nd and 6th. At just under an hour remaining, the PF Racing Mustangs were running 4th and 5th in class, but a caution coming out at just under 52 minutes remaining stacked the field for a run to the checkered.
After pitting, Ben Rhodes was running in the 4th position and Harrison Burton in 8th. Racing would resume with 33 minutes remaining. The Mustangs would reach 2nd and 3rd by the 25th minute, and Burton would take 2nd away from his teammate with 23 minutes remaining. Burton would take the lead of the grand sport class at 22 minutes and never look back. Rhodes on the other hand was being worn down by Spencer Pumpelly, and at 4:05 minutes remaining lost 2nd place. The PF Racing Mustangs crossed the line 1st and 3rd, with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith being the first NASCAR drivers to win the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.
Double pony podium! 🥇🐎🥉@ZaneSmith & @HBurtonRacing win their 4-hour race at Daytona, with @pf_racing teammates @HailieDeegan & @benrhodes P3 🏁#FordMustang pic.twitter.com/fvUp3tgNgf
— Ford Performance (@FordPerformance) January 27, 2023
Expectations for Burton, Deegan, Rhodes, and Smith in 2023:
It was exciting to see Truck Series stars tackle a new car and series. Good to see Hailie Deegan and Ben Rhodes working as a team before the season, as her new teammates can be a great resource to her. For Zane Smith, I see this win as a confidence boost going into the 2023 season. He won the truck race at Daytona last year, can he repeat in 2023? Harrison Burton, who piloted the #21 Wood Brother’s Mustang to a 3rd place finish at Indianapolis last season, is building up his road course experience, and this win is a big step. This was a great race and win, good momentum for all going into their 2023 seasons.
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series returns Friday, February 17th, at 7:30 ET on Fox Sports 1 with the NextEra Energy 250 at Daytona International Speedway.
The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge will race at Sebring International Raceway, during the 12 Hours of Sebring Race Weekend, March 15th through 18th.