- Sweedler and Bell win NAEC Driver’s Title
- AIM Autosport wins NAEC Team championship
October 5, 2014 (Braselton, GA) – Fifty-two hours of racing in the Patron North American Endurance Cup’s GT-Daytona class were dominated by the no. 555 AIM Autosport Ferrari 458 Italia of Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell, as they were crowned the NAEC’s driver champions during Saturday’s Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
At the drop of the green flag, AIM Autosport earned enough points to secure the NAEC’s team championship. The opening portions of the race were promising for the team as they moved up through the field with Bell and Sweedler taking turns at the head of the GT-Daytona field. After leading during the race’s fifth hour, Sweedler was hit by an Audi R8 forcing him to an unscheduled pit stop which put the AIM Autosport Ferrari down one lap.
The team, who was joined for Petit Le Mans by Formula Drift star Conrad Grunewald, was unable to make up the lap after its’ unscheduled pit stop. Ultimately, the Ferrari saw the checkered flag in seventh position. The result meant that Sweedler and Bell would finish the season in fourth position in the GT-Daytona driver’s championship after leading for most of the season.
“We are feeling some mixed emotions tonight,” said Sweedler. “We are really proud to have won the NAEC title. It’s been a very exciting season and I am proud that we could win at Daytona and stand on the podium at Sebring and Watkins Glen. But we are a bit disappointed to have lost out on the regular season championship after leading it for most of the year. We lost a lap when I was hit by one of the Audi’s and it put us in a position where we couldn’t attack for the championship. But, it’s still been a great season and I’m very proud of what we have done in the Ferrari.”
Sweedler and Bell secured their NAEC driver’s championship after meeting their minimum drive times by opening the race with a pair of double-stints.
“We were expecting a challenge for Petit Le Mans, and that is what we got,” said Bell. “GT-Daytona is really competitive and once we had lost that lap we knew it was going to be a big challenge to get back on the lead lap. Despite the issues we have had with Balance of Performance, I thought we may be able to battle with the 94 and the 22, and we were able to beat the 22 on the track. I’m proud to have won the NAEC with my friend Bill and with the great guys at AIM Autosport.”
The NAEC championship was the second one in three years for AIM Autosport, as the team won the 2012 Rolex Sports Car Series championship. After beginning the season with Level 5 Motorsports, Sweedler and Bell moved to AIM Autosport and continued their relationship with Ian Willis who had engineered their Daytona-winning Ferrari 458 Italia. The partnership nearly produced a GT-Daytona driver’s championship.
“We are a bit disappointed to have missed out on the TUDOR Championship, but winning the NAEC title is very exciting and a true testament to the reliability of our car and the work by our crew,” said Willis. “We drafted Conrad in for this race and he did a phenomenal job. He was right on pace and never put a wheel wrong and did everything we asked of him. A part of this championship belongs to Level 5 Motorsports, who I engineered for at Daytona with Bill and Townsend as part of the driver lineup. I am glad that once again that we have proven that AIM is a championship caliber team and that Bill and Townsend gave us this opportunity this year.”