In another nail-biting twice-around-the-clock finish, Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 01 BMW Riley and co-drivers Scott Pruett, Juan Pablo Montoya, Memo Rojas and Charlie Kimball captured the 51st anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona on Sunday, Jan. 27, at Daytona International Speedway.
The victory was Pruett’s fifth overall in the Rolex 24 and puts him alongside sports car great Hurley Haywood on the top of the Rolex 24 all-time wins list. In addition, Pruett increases his all-time Rolex 24 class victory mark to 10.
Pruett received his winning Rolex watch from Haywood, who served as the race’s Grand Marshal.
“It’s just an incredible day all the way around,” Pruett said. “Winning with these guys and winning with Chip and then at the end of it, I’ve gotten to know Hurley real well over the years by racing with him and as a friend. Having him there at the end is pretty special.”
“I can’t say enough about Hurley Haywood being there in Victory Lane,” said Chip Ganassi. “We were at the Rolex dinner the other night, and when you look at Hurley’s career and the cars he’s driven and the co-drivers he’s been with, to have a name like Scott Pruett up there tying his record is quite a feat.”
For Rojas and Montoya, it was their third overall Rolex 24 victory while it was the first for IZOD IndyCar Series driver Charlie Kimball.
“We won the championship last year and the expectations are high,” Rojas said. “We set ourselves a high goal (in the offseason) and we were going to try to win the 24 hours first, and hopefully we can go for another championship.”
“Having these guys as teammates takes a heck of a lot off my shoulders because I knew that I could settle in, and as long as I was smart and didn’t make too many big mistakes and kept us in the race they’d put us in a position to win at the end,” stated driver Charlie Kimball. “Overall what an incredible race, though. It’s unbelievable, and with about four hours to go, I looked up and thought, we have the whole Indy 500 left to run as far as time, and my second thought was, why do they only do this once a year, because what an incredible event. It’s hard on everybody, mechanics, team, drivers, but it’s such an awesome event and such a great race.”
Owner Chip Ganassi is now batting 50 percent in the Rolex 24 by capturing his fifth Rolex 24 triumph in 10 attempts.
The No. 01 team was labeled as the car to beat entering this weekend’s Rolex 24. The team lived up to those expectations by leading a race-high 421 of 709 laps to capture North America’s most prestigious sports car race.
In the final hours, Montoya was locked in a tight four-car battle with defending champion No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley, the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Chevrolet Corvette and the No. 9 Action Express Chevrolet Corvette.
Montoya slipped past AJ Allmendinger’s No. 60 entry in the final hour and completed a late gas-and-go pit stop to secure a 21.922-second victory.
The winning No. 01 car had an average speed of 105.22 mph during its 709 laps and 2,524 miles, nearly equivalent of a one-way trip from Daytona Beach, Fla., to downtown Los Angeles.
“One of the cool things about doing the Rolex 24 with Chip is that you’re a favorite every time you come here. You always have a chance of winning. Everybody that comes here with Chip finds that out. It’s fun and it’s exciting,” stated Juan Pablo Montoya. “I think personally it’s a boost getting the job done. The last few years we finished second, we finished fourth, we finished third, we’ve been there all the time, and it’s been painful. I feel bad for the guys in our No. 02 because they had a ton of speed and they could have easily won, too.”
The No. 02 Target/TELMEX Dinan-Prepared BMW with drivers Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Jamie McMurray and Joey Hand were a fixture among the lead pack and were running in second 15 hours into the marathon race before they encountered problems. McMurray brushed the wall while exiting pit road following a green flag pit stop, costing the No.02 seven laps in the garage for repairs. The No .02 returned to the track and gained five laps back when the car lost drive with less than three hours remaining, ending their chance for redemption. The Target/TELMEX team would finish out the race in 37th position overall.
There were 77 car lead changes during the race, a new record for the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
As far as which victory will rank as his favorite, Pruett said that’s too difficult to answer.
“Every event that I’ve come here is significantly different,” Pruett said. “Sometimes you are faced with rain, sometimes you are faced with incredibly hot temperatures and sometimes you are faced with a car that is down from where you hoped it would be. They are all very special.”
Audi swept the top two spots in the GT class with the No. 24 Audi Sport Customer Racing/Alex Job Racing team (Filipe Albuquerque, Oliver Jarvis, Edoardo Mortara, Dion von Moltke) taking home the class victory by 1.476 seconds over the No. 52 Audi Sport Customer Racing/APR Motorsport Ltd.UK.
Albuquerque, competing in his first race at Daytona, was struggling to get the No. 24 car to the finish line as the car was having gear box problems.
“I started to have gear problems,” Albuquerque said. “I had to use the clutch, upshifting, downshifting, but I was just getting slow and took some risks.”
Another notable from the GT class: The eighth-place finish (16th overall) by AF-Waltrip Ferrari 458, which was co-driven by NASCAR drivers Michael Waltrip and Clint Bowyer as well as Rob Kauffman and Rui Aguas.
In the inaugural race for the newly formed GX class, three GX cars battled a few laps apart, but as the clock ticked down to zero, the No. 16 Napleton Racing Porsche Cayman (Jim Norman, Shane Lewis, David Donohue and Nelson Canache) took top honors.
“For us, it was a race of preparation, and our guys did a superior job when this program was conceived in early November of building a car and making it reliable and keeping the stock parts where they needed to be and the proof is in the pudding,” added driver David Donohue.
Bullet Racing in the No. 22 Porsche Cayman GX.R took second, while the No. 38 Ormond Beach-based BGB Motorsports Porsche Cayman GX.R team finished third.
The next GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race will be at Circuit of the Americas at the new course in Austin, Texas on Mar. 3. The GRAND-AM of The Americas presented by GAINSCO and TOTAL will air on SPEED at 5:30 pm ET.
Fans can follow sports cars on Twitter at GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and the Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge . Fans can also stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest for the latest news all season long.
Stay tuned to the West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner for expanded coverage from the Rolex 24 at Daytona, including an interview with the owner of Scuderia Corsa, and more!
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