But just before midnight the unpredictable Vic Elford, in one of the Martini & Rossi Porsches, blew his right rear tire as he swept through the banked corner at the east end of the speedway. "I hit the wall, spun down onto the grass, bounced back up the wall, then hit grass again," Elford said later. "I must have stirred up a touch of dust, because when Donohue came into it he slowed." A smaller Porsche 911, driven by Charles Perry of Jacksonville, Fla., didn't slow. It smashed into Donohue's swerving Ferrari, ripping up the left front and squirreling the suspension. Then Perry's 911 rolled—eight times—and ended up a gnarl of bent metal.
Neither Perry nor Elford was hurt, though both went to the field hospital for a checkup. "All I got was a cut on one finger," marveled Vic.
Donohue got a 70-minute pit stop as his suspension was doctored fore and aft, while Rodriguez got the biggest single break of the race. As the night wore along toward dawn and campfires guttered in the infield, Pedro and Oliver stroked it, wisely putting as little pressure as possible on their car. Penske ordered both of his drivers to bore ahead.
A spit of rain came with the sunrise, laying the dust and freshening the air. The 25-odd cars remaining of the 48-car field dragged rooster tails of oily mist behind them around the high banks. With the rain, the hairpin turn at the east end of the infield became spinsville and Donohue spun out twice before switching to rain tires. Still, he was gaining. From fourth he edged past the three-liter Ferrari driven by Luigi (Coco) Chinetti Jr. and Nestor Garcia Veiga (not the cigar, but a smoky driver nonetheless).
Next target for Donohue: the NART Ferrari 512 driven by Ronnie Bucknum and Tony Adamowicz. Tony is becoming known around the circuit as Tony-from-A-to-Z—a solid, all-purpose driver—and he was not easily overhauled.
Nor, of course, was the Rodriguez-Oliver car, which held a lead of 200 miles over the Ferraris. Though a broken exhaust and an oil leak caused a little worrisome smoke during the night, the fracture sealed itself later.
But there was no self-cure possible for the gearbox Jackie Oliver shattered at midmorning on the backstretch. For an hour and a half the Porsche sat in the pits, its lead slowly eroding under the thrust of the two Ferraris, while Wyer's mechanics rebuilt the transmission. Since the rules of the race forbid replacement of the entire gearbox, each gear had to be transplanted individually. By the time Rodriguez whipped back into the race Adamowicz had taken the lead and the Donohue car was only a few laps back of Pedro.
But now, due to faulty ignition, Adamowicz was spurting flame every time he downshifted, and the red Ferrari could not be revved above 7,500 rpm. It seemed that blue might be a lucky color even now, after all the weekend's vicissitudes, but the Penske Ferrari pitted—for just a shade under 10 minutes—to replace a fuel pump belt, and in the end finished third.
Pedro stood on it—�ay chihuahua! how he stood on it—and when the checkered flag fell at 3 o'clock Sunday he was a back-to-back winner of Daytona, as was the Wyer Gulf Porsche team. But it had not been the easy one-two sweep it proved to be last year. Thanks to the science of Roger Penske and the grit of Adamowicz & Co., it had been a compelling, nerve-racking race. Nothing to feel blue about at all.