Road & Track (USA)

My Best Day

When a Nissan Z dominated at Daytona.


Brock Racing Enterprise­s, Bob Sharp, Paul Newman, East African Safari Rally—nissan’s Z-car has seen plenty of racing glory. Yet the 1994 24 Hours of Daytona was the greatest Z-car day of all.

Cunningham Racing’s 300ZX Turbos were five years into their competitiv­e lives as the ’94 season began. That year was also the first for IMSA’S new top class, the World Sports Car prototypes, but the GTS cars like the Nissans were fully developed. So Kiwi driver Steve Millen qualified the No. 75 300ZX on the pole, with its sister 300ZX Turbo, No. 76, alongside it.

No. 75 sped to the lead and held it with No. 76 comfortabl­y in second. “The 75 gave us the best chance of winning, but we had also set up the 76 for me to drive if necessary,” Millen says.

Around 1 a.m., about nine hours into the race, No. 75 cracked its crankshaft. Millen and co-drivers John Morton and Johnny O’connell were done. Apparently.

As dawn broke, rain started falling, and Plan B went into effect. Millen hopped into the No. 76 car and pulled ever farther ahead of the field, a dominating, astonishin­g show of superiorit­y. With codrivers Paul Gentilozzi, Butch Leitzinger, and Scott Pruett, Millen took the overall and class wins, 24 laps ahead of the secondplac­e Porsche 964 Turbo. It was the biggest win in Z-car history.

Millen, then 41, also won at Sebring, Road Atlanta, and Portland to earn the 1994 championsh­ip. The rules changed for ’95, the turbo engine was effectivel­y banished, and Nissan’s Z has never achieved such glory again.

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