Rum Bum Scores Third Place, But Rues What Might Have Been

Rum Bum Scores Third Place, But Rues What Might Have Been

ELKHART LAKE, Wis., 24 June – Rum Bum Racing scored a third place finish at the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Road America 200, but if the yellows had gone another way, they may have been celebrating their third win of the season instead.

Nick Longhi started the race from pole, but following some unintended contact with his fellow front row starter, Robert Stout, dropped down to second position after lap one. Briefly sliding as low as fifth place, Longhi soon began retaking track position, rising to third place when the first full course caution interrupted his progress 23 minutes into the race.

Despite being under the 30-minute limit to gain driver points, Longhi, ever the consummate team player, pitted early for fuel, tires and a handover to co-driver Matt Plumb.

“I jump on hand grenades. I do what needs to be done to get this team into a winning position and if that means driving for one lap then it’s one lap, if is 100 laps it’s 100 laps,” said Longhi. “At the start I felt a little nudge on my left and in hoping to hold my position I edged to the left a little more than I intended. When I realized what was happening, I backed off and that really spoiled my momentum not just for the start but for the next few laps. The Rum Bum BMW M3 is super fast over the course of a lap, but we lack the torque of the Mustangs and Camaros who can pull away in short bursts. We can catch them over distance, but in the short term we lose position whenever we lose momentum.”

When Plumb took over he emerged in 16th place at the restart and soon began to carve his way to the front of the field. The Rum Bum Racing squad was now in the position of having the race come to them if the contest ran caution free for the next hour. Within 10 laps, Plumb had clawed back to the third place.

Road America is not traditionally a circuit prone to caution periods, but with this being the first time the Continental Series has competed here, the pattern of the race would be an unknown.

Alas, a second caution period ensued on lap 22, far short of the time duration the team had hoped for. With crew chief, Joe Varde, heading the strategy, the team needed to make a quick and potentially game changing call to pit and lose track position or hold on to current, leading track position and risk having to stop again under green flag racing. They opted to stop, and Plumb took on new tires and topped up fuel.

The racing resumed on lap 26, but was slowed under yellow twice more over the following six laps. Keeping in mind that a lap behind the pace car over Road America’s four mile distance lasts well over five minutes, a significant span of racing passed by under caution.

With a shade over 30 minutes to go, the race was running in earnest once more. It would be a straight up battle of speed to the finish, and Plumb was flying. From sixth place, he was quickly up to third place and sitting pretty watching the battle for the lead rage on in front of him. The brakes of the Ford and Camaro were showing signs of fading while the M3’s brakes were working well. It was only a matter of time before Plumb would slip by and into the lead.

And then, the race was slowed yet again following a massive wreck in turn 2. The driver of the No. 18, Nico Rondet emerged unharmed, but the clean up forced the race to end behind the pace car. Plumb’s challenge was thwarted.

“With 25 minutes left I was smiling,” said Plumb. “I knew the two cars ahead couldn’t keep the same level of pace if they hoped to have brakes to the end. Then the yellow flew and it was game over. We knew we were good to run full throttle on the fuel load we had and doubtful that some of the other fast cars could. It all would have come right to us, but it wasn’t to be. I’m sorry that Nico had such a big crash and relieved that he’s okay, but if it wouldn’t of been for that caution I feel like we could have won this race. Nevertheless, it’s another podium for the Rum Bum Racing team and a well deserved one. The crew gave Nick and I the perfect car, so a big thanks to them. I’d also like to thank the Bacardi family for coming to the race today and their continued support.”

The GRAND-AM Continental Tire Challenge Sports Car Series moves west to the shores of the Pacific and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the next race on July 9. The Road America 200 airs on the SPEED network, July 3 at 1:00 PM EDT.

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