What Was It Like to Set Daytona Oval Speed Record? Colin Braun Knows

By Mark Robinson

IMSA Wire Service

As NASCAR takes over Daytona International Speedway this week for the Daytona 500, it’s as good a time as any to remind the world that the fastest lap ever on the 2.5-mile tri-oval was turned by one of IMSA’s great drivers in a Daytona Prototype sports car.

In this latest installment of “What Was It Like?,” Colin Braun recalls that memorable day in October 2013 when he toured the DIS tri-oval at 222.917 mph in a Riley-Ford prototype prepared by Michael Shank Racing. Braun also set a pair of world closed-course records for 10 miles (210.018 mph) and 10 kilometers (202.438 mph) from a standing start.

Braun is not only a 25-time IMSA race winner, he also made 84 starts in NASCAR’s Xfinity and Craftsman Truck series. The combination of experience made him the ideal candidate to make the record attempt in an IMSA car on an oval track.

“I had driven previously for Mike Shank at Daytona in the 24-hour race,” Braun says. “And obviously through my time in NASCAR always with Ford, I had a relationship with the folks at Ford. So, when I think they were talking about a list of drivers that could potentially do this program, I think they wanted someone that had experience in the sports car side of things in a Daytona Prototype and also had some oval experience on the NASCAR side. I think I kind of checked both those boxes and knew the players involved, so they reached out to me and I, of course, jumped at the chance to do it.

“It was a really cool opportunity and certainly one that I thought was going to be exciting and a challenge. I don’t think I quite understood how challenging it was going to be in the end, but yeah, man, it was something I certainly jumped at.”

And what were those challenges?

“Those Daytona Prototype cars obviously were made for fast, high-speed corners, good downforce, really big downforce for efficient braking and doing that style of racing. So, to take a car that makes so much downforce and makes so much grip, and (then) trying to force it to go just super-fast, trimmed out, flat out around the high banks of Daytona was definitely challenging. Getting the downforce out of the car and getting it to a point where it was trimmed out enough to reach those speeds was definitely a challenge and pushed the engineering guys.

“We ended up doing things like cutting the mirrors off the car just to take some drag out of it and raising the ride heights up just to take drag out, and obviously simple things like trimming the rear wing and those kind of things. We definitely explored some new territory, right?

“We’ve never had a Daytona Prototype car at 220-plus miles an hour before so it was a lot of, ‘Hey, this is what we think is going to happen with this change, but you know you’re the first guy doing it. We don’t have any experience, so let’s see what happens.’ It felt a little bit more like an old-school fighter pilot, kind of doing new challenges, new things than it did like a sort of a test plan or a run plan like you would normally have, where you have some experience to draw on. It was definitely into new uncharted territory.”

An initial attempt in January 2013 uncovered issues that had to be resolved before making another attempt at the records, which didn’t happen for nine months until after the season had finished. Oct. 9, 2013, was the fateful day.

“We did a handful of runs just kind of creeping up on it, creeping up on it,” Braun recalls. “That was the Ford EcoBoost engine in the car and luckily those guys just could keep adding more power and adding more power and adding more power, and we got it done. We did the one-lap Daytona speed record and then I think we did two world records that we were able to accomplish. We got a lot done in kind of short order. It was pretty impressive.

“I remember we had to do a four-lap run on one of those and we had to stay a certain distance off the inside of the track because that was going to be too short (of the correct distance), so we had to stay up high enough to do whatever it was.

“There were definitely times in the car I was glad I had all the experience I did in the NASCAR side. We pumped the tires way up so we had less rolling resistance, but that made the made the car really darty, really precise. So definitely had to be really smooth and it took everyone doing their jobs to get it done.”

It was that cooperative team effort that got it done.

“It’s one thing for me to be in the car steering it around and driving it,” Braun says, “but the guys on the outside – from the engine side on Ford and from the engineering side on Mike Shank’s team – those guys put a lot of work into that project to make it happen. And obviously Jim France putting the whole thing together, it was just cool to get that done for the entire group. It was a really fun project and one I think that everyone involved will remember for a long time going forward.

“It’s neat to hold the record around Daytona, but for me the coolest thing is we did it in such a different kind of car, a car that really wasn’t made to go oval racing with. I think that’s a pretty big accomplishment and definitely one that certainly something that hopefully stands for quite a long time. Every time I see Jim (France), I’m always like, ‘I hope that stands, I don’t wanna have to go do that again.’ That was pretty on the limit.”