IMSA • January 28, 2016
DENVER, N.C. (January 25, 2016) - With the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship set to begin Saturday on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway, Dane Cameron and Eric Curran are feeling right at home in the confines of the red and white Whelen Engineering Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype.
For the two drivers, the 2015 season marked new beginnings. Both drivers had to adjust to their new team at Action Express Racing, and for Cameron, the move to the Whelen Corvette DP marked his return to the prototype class after a dominant season winning the GTD title in 2014. Although the season didn't get off to the start the two drivers desired, the chemistry of the No. 31 Whelen team had propelled the duo to championship contention by the mid-point of the season.
After storming to victory in the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic on Detroit's Belle Isle park at the end of May, Cameron and Curran began to silence doubters who viewed them as underdogs. The two drivers and their crew were demonstrating team manager Gary Nelson's "Expect to Win" motto.
"Dane and Eric were both accomplished racers when they came to our team," said Nelson. "We were confident from the first day that they were going to compete for wins and championships. The way they competed throughout 2015 supported our belief with two wins and being in championship contention throughout the final race."
The expansion to two full-time entries for Action Express Racing in 2015 also supported the team's development strategy. Within the walls of the team's Denver, North Carolina headquarters, team members are hired at entry-level positions and mentored by some of racing's most accomplished and veteran personnel. Chad Gordon's promotion to Crew Chief of the Whelen Corvette DP was a perfect illustration of that development process.
Gordon, a graduate of the NASCAR Technical Institute demonstrated from his first day at Action Express Racing that he had the "Expect to Win" mindset and approached every situation giving maximum effort. For Nelson, it was an easy decision to tab Gordon to lead the newly formed Whelen crew.
"Chad was one of those young people who had a passion to learn everything that he could when he walked into the shop," said Nelson. "He leads by example and he'll never ask his guys to do anything that he wouldn't personally do. Chad has gone from the entry level role to crew chief and now he's mentoring other team members who hopefully will aspire to follow the same path."
The development process geared to training and retaining the best possible crew members has provided Dane Cameron with great anticipation for the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
"This is the first year of my professional racing career where everything has been the same as it was the year before," said Cameron. "I've got the same race team, the same engineer, same crew chief and largely the same crew as last year. As a racecar driver you strive to find that cohesiveness and consistency from year to year, particularly with a 10-race championship. Last year we had a learning curve and getting to know each other, I feel like this year, we're entering the season primed to compete for wins and the championship. I've got tremendous confidence in the car that Chad and the guys put together and I'm looking forward to having Simon Dowson calling the race again from the engineering stand."
Cameron's two overall wins in the Whelen Engineering Corvette DP last season, combined with his class win at Lime Rock Park with Turner Motorsports propelled him to being the winningest driver in IMSA competition (2014-2015) with seven total victories.
The only noticeable change with the No. 31 Whelen Engineering team will be the addition of Simon Pagenaud for Daytona and Road Atlanta, Scott Pruett for Sebring and Sunoco Whelen Challenge winner Jonny Adam for Daytona. However, all three endurance drivers have spent time testing with Action Express Racing, and Cameron and Pagenaud previously competed in the Rolex 24 as co-drivers with Team Sahlen's in 2013.
"Overall we've got a ton of confidence coming into 2016 with our Whelen Engineering Corvette," said Eric Curran. "Dane and I learned a lot about each other and where we can compromise with the car to be the best for both of us and we've got some phenomenal guys joining us for the endurance events this year. The consistency that we had through the second half of 2015, the two wins, all of those things really give you confidence entering a new season. Hopefully we can start the year out with a win in the Rolex 24 and then carry the momentum through the rest of the season and win a championship for everyone at Whelen Engineering who really make this possible, not to mention our guys on the 31 team."
The on-track action begins Thursday, January 28 at 9:25 a.m. ET with the first of two practice sessions leading into Total Pole qualifying. Teams will be back on the high banks and under the bright lights for night practice at 6:30 p.m. Teams will have a final practice on Friday, and then the 54th annual Rolex 24 begins Saturday, January 30 at 2:40 p.m.
Copyright Whelen Engineering Co, Inc 2017