Despite Mechanical Difficulties, Leilani Münter and TMR Spread Awareness for “The Cove” and Dolphins at Daytona
Mooresville, NC (February 22, 2012) Leilani Münter had one thing in mind when she pulled into the infield at Daytona International Speedway, to get her No. 12 “The Cove” Dolphin Awareness Dodge Charger into the 43 car field to help create more public awareness for theOscar winning documentary “The Cove.” This film, which won 70 awards globally, exposes the connection between dolphin captivity and dolphin parks, and the largest slaughter of dolphins in the world in a small cove in Taiji, Japan. Leilani has been dedicated to this cause since she saw the film two years ago, making three trips to Japan to be on the front lines of the fight for the lives of the dolphins.
During Thursday’s practice session, the TMR crew – led by crew chief Wayne Carroll – discovered a bad ignition box during the session which reduced their time on track. With other teams drafting later in the session, the No. 12 “The Cove” Dolphin Awareness Dodge Charger ended up 25th ov
erall on the speed charts for the day with a speed of 181.873 mph. With a new ignition box in place for Friday’s qualifying round, the team was pleased when Leilani locked the team into the 26th starting position for the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200. Saturday morning the team decided not to participate in the 45 minute Happy Hour final practice, which is mainly used by the teams for drafting. Carroll commented, “There have been too many incidents in the past of last minute damage during final practice and we did not want to take the chance at getting caught up in anything out of our control.”
The autograph session on Saturday afternoon was welcomed by a large gathering of fans outside of the team hauler. Leilani, dolphin activist Ric O’Barry, director of “The Cove” Louis Psihoyos and key crew from the movie were on hand to give away 1000 autographed copies of the movie to the enthusiastic crowd. There were fans who had made their own version of t-shirts in support of the cause, fans who had never attended a race and made a point of coming to Daytona in support of Leilani and the plight of the dolphins and die hard race fans here to see their driver. Münter comments, “It was a very overwhelming experience to hear all the well wishes from the fans and the support pouring in from around the world was amazing, it really feels like we have helped make a difference for the dolphins here today.”
Come race time, with one to go to the green flag, crew chief Carroll made the call to come down pit road and drop to the rear of the field as strategy to avoid any early pileups. On lap 6 the first caution came out when a car spun coming out of turn four. Leilani pitted as a part of the fuel strategy plan the team devised, topping off with fuel and heading back out on the track. The restart of the race came on lap 13 and shortly after the green flag dropped, Leilani’s left rear tire’s inner liner blew out coming out of turn two. Leilani did a great job of keeping the car off the wall, with SPEED’s television commentators complimenting her driving skills as the No. 12 “The Cove” Dolphin Awareness race car was shown blowing a tire. Leilani returned to the pits, got four fresh Hoosier tires and a splash of fuel and headed back out on the track. Her troubles seemed behind her when she received the Lucky Dog on lap 19; however Leilani and TMR’s hopes for a good finish were dashed when Leilani discovered she was down on power, her engine turning only 6300 rpm instead of 7100 rpm. She switched to the back-up ignition box but unfortunately, it did no good and their race was effectively over. Leilani completed as many laps as she could with her struggling motor, keeping her composure and at one point Leilani commented, “Jeez, it sure is boring out here when you riding around b
y yourself!” But by lap 74, her engine began to smoke and the No. 12 “The Cove” Dolphin Awareness Dodge Charger pulled into the garage in 36th position
“It’s not what we were hoping for when we came to Daytona, but the one positive thing I can take away from the weekend is that we raised awareness for “The Cove.” Because of my left rear tire blowing, we got TV coverage for the dolphins, thanks to Rick Allen who had watched “The Cove” prior to the race. And the race car came back in one piece, not always the case at places like Daytona. I have to thank all the fans who donated to the cause to help us get the “The Cove” dolphin awareness race car on the track, and also to Pair Networks who made a large contribution. I also need to thank all the guys at TMR for giving me this opportunity. I will be working hard to get back on track with TMR on May 4th at Talladega.”