Last year, the Nissan Smyrna plant had a special visitor in sports car racer Lara Tallman and her race-ready Altima for all of the employees to see.
One year later, the same car visited victory lane at one of the world’s greatest race venues, Daytona International Speedway.
The Utah native and her co-driver Vesko Kozarov opened up the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge with a win Jan. 25 in the BMW Performance 200 held in Daytona, Fla.
For Tallman, who said she was very happy with the outcome, said it is the team’s first-ever career victory in the series.
“The win was epic,” Tallman said. “When you arrive in Daytona and see the huge “Welcome to Daytona” sign, it’s pretty humbling because it reminds you of all the motor sports legends that have driven here in the past. Any win is sweet, but a win in Daytona is just that much better.”
Tallman and Kozarov were sandwiched in a field of 69 cars, which made up two different classes, grand sport and street tuner that race on the track at the same time. Tallman’s winning Nissan was in the ST class.
The ST class is made up of import and compact cars with the Honda Civic Si, Mazdaspeed 3, Mazda RX-8, Mazda MX-5, Chevrolet Cobalt SS, Dodge SRT4, Mini Cooper S, BMW 328i, BMW 330i and other eligible models.
The cars have undergone minor changes to make them race ready, but for the most part, they are just like the versions on the showroom floor.
As for the action on the track, the car count for each event is usually high, so the track becomes very crowded with traffic. Tallman said she believes that is one of the reasons why she enjoys racing in the series.
“It’s never easy working your way through some of the biggest names in motor sports,” Tallman said. “The series is one of the most competitive touring car series in the world. We needed the right combination of long green runs and cautions to make our strategy work, and the race played out to our advantage.”
The race distance was 2 hours and 30 minutes, and the course was 12 turns and 3.56 miles long, which included an infield road course and parts of the oval that is used for events like the Daytona 500.
Before the race, the Skullcandy Nissan Altima team picked up additional sponsorship. The extra support will allow Tallman, who is also the team owner, to run the entire season and go for the season-long championship.
“We plan to run the full season, and we are here to win,” Tallman said.
The next race is slated for Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2, in Austin, Texas, at the brand new Circuit of the Americans. It will aired at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 9, on Speed.