Story By: MATT CLEARY / WHELEN ENGINEERING RACING – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – Momentum is critical, and Whelen Engineering Racing driver Eric Curran is hoping to put his to good use next weekend. The 2019 Rolex 24 At Daytona will be the first opportunity for two-time IMSA champion Curran to defend his 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship title.
After a Roar test that saw Curran have a busy weekend with on-track testing as well as extensive media activities, Curran left the test with a lot of excitement about his 2019 season.
“I felt the best I could feel in a car right now, which is interesting, considering what’s in store for the season,” said Curran. “I feel really, really good going into the Rolex 24 At Daytona in the Whelen Cadillac. The Roar was a very productive test for us and I’m in love with the Michelin tires, they performed so well. Track conditions were good earlier this month, and I was pretty quick in the next to last session so I’m excited to move on to the race this weekend.”
Having the championship-winning experience that he does, Curran knows that it takes a lot more than just a fast race car to win.
“Sometimes a lot of the focus goes just to the drivers, but this is absolutely a team sport, and every part of the team has to deliver if you want to win—especially with how competitive the field is now,” said Curran. “With Felipe (Nasr) and Pipo (Derani), we have one of the strongest lineups, one of the strongest cars and one of the strongest teams out here, so we have all the ingredients to win this thing – we just have to be smart, not make any mistakes, and bring the car home.”
While Derani marks a new ingredient for the winning recipe, the continuity of having so many key positions on the team is something that has Curran feeling confident.
“To carry through the championship run from 2018 and firing on all cylinders, with Tim (Keene, performance coordinator and race engineer) on the box and Billy (Keuler, crew chief) and the crew behind the scenes, everybody is just nailing it,” said Curran. “We’re continuing right where we left off in 2018 and it would be very special to get to that top step of the podium here.”
2018 not only generated Team and Driver IMSA championship titles, but the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing entry also took its first-ever Michelin Endurance Cup title with a 2018 campaign that started with a run to second place in the Rolex 24. While Curran enjoyed the view from the podium, he is hoping for a small change in perspective at the end of the 2019 event.
“Looking back, to have had a one-two finish in the 24 Hours At Daytona last year, it just doesn’t get any better than that,” said Curran. “It proves how strong this Action Express team is, to have two cars finish 1-2, it’s a testament to the whole program. We just want to reverse the roles! We’ve never won this race, so it would be a big deal to get that done. We are also defending endurance champions so that’s a big deal as well.”
The 2019 Rolex 24 At Daytona will open with practice on Thursday, January 24, with the event taking the green flag at 2:35 PM on January 26. Live race coverage on NBC Sports.