NEWPORT BEACH, CA. — (National Distribution) January 29th, 2007.
O’Connell Racing (OConnellRacing.com), a southern California based Grand American Rolex Series and NASCAR road racing team announced today it completed the Rolex 24 at Daytona with a top10 finish of 42 entries in the GT class and a 23rd overall finish with a record breaking 78 entries total for the historic race. Team drivers Kevin O’Connell and Michael Speakman were joined by Flying Lizard ALMS GT2 driver Lonnie Pechnik, IMSA winning driver Kevin Roush and NASCAR driver Jason Bowles. Kevin O’Connell commented, “our goal was to achieve a top ten finish in our first Rolex 24 and to accomplish that we elected to run our 996 GT-3 in lieu of the new 997 due to what we thought would be durability issues for the 997’s. To some degree we were right and the consistency of the 996 captured a great finish. Much of this success is credited to Barry and Roy and the rest of the crew in their efforts to get the car out of the pits as quick as possible. The crew was up for 36 hours and was executing pit stops every 90 minutes or so through the heat, cold, rain, and several unexpected situations.”
After qualifying, the team started the race 20th. Within the first few laps of the race driver Lonnie Pechnik radioed in that the car had picked up a vibration and was forced to pit for a new set of tires. That dropped the team to 37th position in GT and the team battled throughout the night and various bouts of rain to break into the top ten. Driver Michael Speakman stated, “early Sunday morning it rained hard and even the cars at low speeds with rain tires on were sliding off the track. Track officials went to a full course yellow and it wasn’t until I handed the car off to Lonnie that the track started to dry out and we went back to slicks.”
Kevin Roush completed the final two stints of the race and moved into the top 10 with 45 minutes to go in the race after the German favorite #85 Recaro Porsche 997 fell out of the contention with fatal engine failure.
Regarding television coverage, ratings for the opening broadcast on FOX Sports still to come, the audience tuning in for the anchor live portions of telecast on SPEED alone were enough to make this year’s Rolex 24 the most watched Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve race in SPEED history.
According to Nielsen Media Research, overall household viewership rose 26 percent (.43 to .54) from year-over-year totals while the network also enjoyed a three-day average increase of 28 percent over last year, as 458,000 viewers tuned into the telecast versus 359,000 in 2006.
Numbers also increased significantly within certain demographic areas, as Men 18-49 grew 72 percent and Men 18-34 rose 19 percent.