HISTORY OF ACTION EXPRESS RACING
|Action Express Racing announced their arrival to the sports car world in 2010 by winning North America’s most prestigious endurance event, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, on the team’s maiden voyage. However, as team owner Bob Johnson soon discovered, racing was going to be much more difficult than it seemed after the debut triumph.
“I remember thinking on my drive home from Daytona International Speedway that this racing thing was going to be pretty easy,” said Johnson. “It didn’t take long before I realized that we were in for an uphill battle and that it was going to take a monumental effort to get to the top and stay there.”
The team would find their path to the top guided by Gary Nelson, who was predominantly known for his time spent in NASCAR as a championship winning crew chief and later the director of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (then Winston Cup). Nelson would also oversee the development of the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, NC.
On a large white sign in the back of the Action Express Racing shop visitors can find the words “Expect to Win” etched in black. The three-word phrase has been Nelson’s motto since becoming team manager of the team in 2010. While the outsider might view the phrase as arrogant, the veteran racer is quick to dispel any misnomer about what he means.
“Expecting to win doesn’t mean we’re going to win every time we go to the track,” said Nelson. “If you were going to win every time, they wouldn’t call this racing. Expect to win simply means that if everyone does his or her job to the best of their ability, we make the right calls on strategy and avoid any misfortune outside of our control; we shouldn’t be surprised that we ended up in victory lane.
From that first leased Riley Chassis that the team from Denver, NC shocked the sports car world with came the temporary expansion to two cars, the switch to Coyote Chassis, and then running one-full time and one-part time entry in the newly formed IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. Action Express Racing won six races from 2010 through the 2013 season. However, with the dawning of a new sports car sanctioning body the team was set to usher in a new era of their own.
Winning the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona would be the catalyst to propel João Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi into championship form. The duo would claim victory in the final Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and then at Road America in the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase. Together, the duo would claim inaugural IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.
Throughout the 2014 season Barbosa and Fittipaldi would complete every mile of competition, a streak that would continue deep into the 2015 season.
The 2015 IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship would mark the return of a second full-time entry from Action Express Racing, and also usher in a new era for the team with two primary sponsors.
The historically red, white and blue No. 5 Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype would be transformed to a white, black and yellow machine with the arrival of new sponsor Mustang Sampling. Barbosa and Fittipaldi would also be joined by new teammates Dane Cameron and Eric Curran as the team welcomed the iconic colors of the No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Team Fox Corvette DP.
While many had the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Corvette DP picked as an early favorite to win the TUDOR Championship, few anticipated the team would be able to field two equal cars capable of competing for the title.
With Barbosa, Fittipaldi and Bourdais claiming victory in the second event of the season in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, snapping a 50-year drought for Chevrolet in the oldest endurance race in North America, it seemed as though they were well on their way to repeating the championship sweep of 2014. However, Cameron and Curran turned in an impressive summer run winning two races and closing the points gap entering the season finale Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
The two Action Express Corvette DPs entered the championship race tied for second place in the standings and by the three hour mark of the race, the Mustang Sampling Corvette DP and the Whelen/Team Fox Corvette DP were trading the points lead and race lead amidst the most treacherous wet weather conditions the series had faced all season.
When the race was called near the eight-hour mark, the João Barbosa would find himself in the lead and on his way to victory lane and a second consecutive championship sweep.
After winning first two IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championships, Action Express Racing will look to win the inaugural WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2016.
While expectations may have changed within the industry for Action Express Racing, Gary Nelson and his team will enter the 2016 season with the same motto that they surprised everyone with in 2010.
“Expect to Win”
Action Express Racing Championships
Action Express Race Wins