Jones, Clay and BimmerWorld Team Fight to 4th Place Finish in Daytona
Championship-winning athletes stick to their game plan despite what the competition is doing, think independently when necessary, keep persevering, and pounce when opportunity knocks. BimmerWorld Racing’s James Clay and Devin Jones showed all of those attributes in Friday’s season opener for the IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge series and came away with a solid fourth in the BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona International Raceway. The finish was a thriller, as their car advanced three positions in the last three minutes of the four-hour race.
James Clay, of Blacksburg, Va., started ninth. He stayed at the controls of his Dublin, Va.-based team’s No. 82 OPTIMA Batteries/Veristor BMW M4 GT4 for the entire first half of the race, despite watching his main rivals peel into the pits during three of the race’s nine caution flags in an attempt to gain an advantage with their teams’ strategies. He stuck to his guns and didn’t let them affect his team’s master plan, and he also dealt with an unusual power problem with the No. 82.
Clay made two pit stops under yellow flags on lap 18 and 30, had a tremendous battle with Austin Cindric, stayed out of trouble even when Fred Poordad spun in front of him, and was eighth when he pitted for Jones to take over under the fifth yellow with 2:01.40 remaining.
Devin Jones, of Mooresville, N.C., was unable to get a good rhythm going initially due to more caution flags. He also had to deal with the major disadvantage of no radio contact with the pits and its spotters through his entire stint. But the series’ 2018 Street Tuner co-champion responded like the champ he is, setting the car’s fastest lap of the race on lap 77 with a time of 1:53.792. Jones led laps 78 and 79 before the team requested a black flag be displayed to signal him to come in for his final pit stop for fuel and a set of fresh Michelin tires on lap 80.
The stop put Jones back in 19th place, and at one point he was a lap down, but once again the team stuck to its plans and kept digging. Jones was 15th with 30 minutes remaining, and he was 12th when the final full-course caution flew with 15:29 left. He had a great car under him, but with three minutes left, Jones was still in seventh place. He wasn’t done passing cars, though. In 6th with just 1:19 to go, Jones took advantage of the two cars battling ahead which gave him the massive Daytona two-car draft in the last turn of the last lap before taking the checker about a nose ahead of the other two, nailing 4th-place when the checkered flew on lap 101 for the thrilling finish.
“This was a really wild race! James did a good job managing the car at the beginning and keeping it right where we needed to be. Our pit strategy worked out well, but I had no radio communication the whole time, so I was out there by myself. That made it kind of difficult to judge when I needed to come in.
“I was thinking I needed to come in at the same time they threw the black flag for me because I was watching the gauges. I barely knew it was the white flag [last lap], and I tried to time it right to get around those last two cars at the end and it worked out. - Devin Jones