No. 67 Ford GT Co-Drivers Westbrook, Briscoe Relive ‘Signature Win’ in Rolex 24

No. 67 Ford GT Co-Drivers Westbrook, Briscoe Relive ‘Signature Win’ in Rolex 24

If you’re a sports fan, you’ve certainly heard the phrase, “A win is a win.”

And while any victory is sweet, sometimes, certain wins are a bit sweeter. So it was 10 days ago when the checkered flag fell on the 56th Rolex 24 At Daytona and the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT co-driven by Richard Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon.

Briscoe and Westbrook have earned significant victories together before, most notably capturing the first-ever victory for the Ford GT program in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2016. However, it was their teammates in the No. 66 entry – Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais – who delivered the first victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016. The No. 66 trio also scored the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class victory in last year’s Rolex 24.

And for at least 625 laps of what would be a record 783 laps completed by the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class winner, it looked like it was going to be a second consecutive Daytona win for the No. 66 team. That is, until the No. 67 team finally got the lead.

“It was kind of nice at the end that we were able to get the track position through strategy and on the exchange in the pits,” Briscoe recalls. “So, once we had the lead, it was just all about really putting our heads down and trying to extend the lead over the 66 car, which we were able to do.

“There were never any team orders or anything. I’d say there were never team orders, but there are always team orders. It’s just don’t take each other out. But we were racing each other hard. We were pushing hard the whole race from start to finish, because if we let up a little, we didn’t want them to pull away. If they let up a little, they didn’t want us to get around and pull away. We really were pushing each other hard the whole race. It was really exciting.”

The No. 67 went on to lead a 1-2 sweep for the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team, finishing 11.180 seconds ahead of the No. 66 Ford GT. And with it came – finally – a “signature win” for Briscoe and Westbrook.

“Obviously, we’ve had some success on the 67 side,” Westbrook said. “We very proudly scored the first Ford GT win worldwide at Laguna, and we followed that up with two further wins in Watkins Glen and Mosport, but I think what was lacking on our side – definitely if you compare us to the 66 – was the big win. One of the trophy races, if you’d like.

“They’d won Le Mans and Daytona, but I guess it was our turn and we were due one of those trophy wins. It was, in some ways, a relief to get it. But also, just an amazing feeling to win it that way, to be worked so hard by our teammates and score that memorable, 1-2 victory.”

“To get this win at Daytona is huge,” added Briscoe. “It’s just a really proud moment for me, and to get the win with Dixon, because he’s been on our car the whole time. It’s his first win in the Ford GT with us, and I was really proud to be a part of that with Scott.”

The victory also was historic for the Chip Ganassi Racing organization. It was the team’s 200th victory across sports car, NASCAR, IndyCar and Global Rallycross competition, and came in a race where the team owner also served as the event’s grand marshal.

“It’s always nice when, on Monday morning, you scroll through Twitter and Chip’s doing his #ILikeWinners Tweet and your name’s attached to it,” Westbrook said. “That’s always nice. It was a special moment for Chip to get his 200th win, and me, Ryan and Scott were delighted to give that to him.”

Briscoe, who was behind the wheel of the No. 67 at the checkered flag, also was pleased to deliver the Daytona victory to Westbrook. Whereas Briscoe had one Rolex 24 victory already under his belt and Dixon had two previous wins, this was the first time Westbrook would stand atop the podium in Daytona.

“He’s got a bunch of second-place finishes here, which I think makes you want to win the race even more,” Briscoe said. “He was almost my first thought when I crossed the line. I was just so happy to finally get that win with Richard. I knew he’d just be over the moon, as we all were, but it just seems like he’d been extra, extra wanting this one, in particular.”

He did.

“I think this was the 12th year for me,” Westbrook said. “It was just like, going into it, ‘What will it take to win this?’ I love racing in America and the Daytona 24 Hours is the biggest race in America, full stop, for what we do, sports car racing, if not for any motorsport in North America.

“It’s a real special one for me. It’s different to any other win I’ve had, certainly. I’m definitely going to enjoy it and smile and think about those last few hours for a long, long time.”

And now, it’s on to Sebring for the next grueling endurance battle, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. The No. 67 team goes into the race as the points leaders in the GTLM season standings and carrying plenty of momentum. But they’re taking nothing for granted.

“It has given everyone on our side a massive lift,” said Westbrook. “We had a challenging year last year, particularly on the 67 side. Things didn’t go for us. We didn’t get a win last year, despite really challenging for the championship in our first year, so that was a big disappointment.

“We came back stronger and got the perfect result in Round 1, but it’s way too early to start talking about championships. Obviously, we are leading the championship, but that doesn’t mean anything yet. We’ve got a long, hard slog ahead of us to try and keep there. We well know how strong the competition is.”