DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.-Richard Golinello's 2012 racing season started a lot earlier than expected. He got an invitation last Wednesday to co-drive the No. 52 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT with Dean Martin in GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge at Daytona International Speedway. Two days later, the duo took 13th in the season-opening race.
The opportunity for Golinello to make his second start in the series came at the last minute, when Martin's regular co-driver was unable to make the race. Since Golinello lives in Tampa, Florida, he was able to drive to Daytona the next morning for practice and qualifying.
Golinello handled qualifying, but the session was cut short by two black flags, and Golinello had to contend with the 28th spot on the starting grid. He joined over 80 cars in the rainy start of Friday's 2.5-hour race.
"That was only my second rain race, so I was nervous. We put rain tires on the Mustang following the recon laps and re-gridded before the start," says Golinello. "Twenty minutes in, it started to dry, so we took advantage of an early caution to pit for slicks."
As for the crowded track, Golinello says, "The traffic kept it interesting! There was always somebody out there to chase. It really helped me keep my head in the game."
Daytona marked Golinello's first professional race at the historic 3.56-mile track, and only his second in GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. "My first GRAND-AM race last year at Mid-Ohio was kind of a flop: I got beat up and it kind of turned me off. This weekend, though, re-energized me. It was really cool coming in for a pit stop, and having that whole team effort to be a part of. It was exciting to watch, even when Dean was in the car, because you're a part of something so big. Thanks to Rehagen Racing for a great race, and to Ford for building such a great car," Golinello says.
Golinello temporarily parted ways with his own racecar, the No. 55 R&C Motorsports Mustang Boss 302S, at Daytona. The Rehagen Racing crew took the car to their shop to prep it for the World Challenge season opener at St. Petersburg in March. Golinello plans to race the entire World Challenge season, though he hopes to return for more GRAND-AM races, too.