Felipe Nasr hailed Penske’s call on the final pit stop that elevated him to lead on the last restart en route to his first overall victory in the Daytona 24 Hours, which ended rather abruptly.
The 31-year-old Brazilian lost the lead to Cadillac Racing’s Tom Blomqvist with 72 minutes remaining in the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic, but a late caution ultimately set up the race-deciding pit stop.
Both drivers short filled, but it was Nasr’s No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports 963 that managed to pull ahead off pit lane to reclaim the lead.
The restart with 30 minutes to go set up a frantic fight to the finish, which saw Nasr defending on a knife’s edge while navigating through traffic around Daytona International Speedway’s 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course.
In the end, Nasr was able to hold steady and take the victory by 2.112s over Blomqvist, who came in as a defending two-time winner of the event.
“The race really came down to the wire at the final stop,” Nasr said.
“It was pretty much all about the fuel and energy numbers we were reaching. I just have to say that was a great call from the team, just to give me the opportunity to lead again in that final part of the race and then it was just down to me to hit the numbers and keep the No. 31 behind.
“Man, 24 hours of racing to go that way, it gives you a lot of emotions at the end. I just knew it wasn’t over, so I kept my focus until the finish line. I had traffic and the No. 31 was keeping up the pressure.
“But I’m glad it went our way after all the hard work and the difficult times we had in 2023, especially here. This the best gift we could give to ourselves.”
While the outing marked Nasr’s 10th career win in the IMSA SportsCar Championship, this one came against his former team Action Express Racing, which prepared Blomqvist’s Cadillac V-Series.R. Additionally, the final stint by Nasr helped deliver team owner Roger Penske his first Daytona 24 win since 1969.
However, Nasr wasn’t completely sure when the checkered flag would fall as Race Control called the race after 23h58m24.723s. Even the ticker on the broadcast went from two to go to the checkered when he crossed the finish line.
“You gotta keep on the throttle until you know it’s over, right,” Nasr said.
“That’s what Tim Cindric (President, Team Penske) said on the radio. I was confused, too. I don’t know if there was two white flags, because I was focused on each corner, each braking point, and on the traffic. I was making sure there was no mistakes until the end.
“Happy we did it with these guys, tremendous effort for everybody here.”