Chip Ganassi continued to make magic, and history at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday. It was a huge change from last year when both of its cars failed to make the podium, Chip Ganassi Racing returned to the Rolex 24 at Daytona determined to pick up another victory.
Juan Pablo Montoya held off Max Angelelli to deliver Ganassi a record-breaking fifth Rolex 24 at Daytona victory. The Chip Ganassi Racing team’s accomplishment also enabled Scott Pruett to secure his fifth overall Rolex win and to tie the record held by Hurley Haywood. The victory is also Pruett’s fifth in the Daytona Prototype (DP) Class, his fourth with Ganassi and his 10th career victory among all classes this ties Hurley Haywood’s record for wins in the twice-around-the-clock race at Daytona International Speedway.
The winning team of three-time defending Grand-Am drivers Pruett and Memo Rojas, along with Montoya and IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball, making his Rolex debut, beat the Max Angelelli-led VelocityWW team by almost 22 seconds.
“We wanted to give those guys every opportunity to win, as well, and we thought the 02 car was obviously very strong . . . so we thought we had two good shots at it here, and we did until earlier today.”
It was Montoya who closed out the win, driving the final stint and waging a strong battle in the final hour with defending champion AJ Allmendinger. Ganassi’s No. 01 BMW Riley had a clear horsepower advantage, and once Montoya got past Allmendinger, the win was his for the taking.
But the Ganassi team figured it was four laps short on fuel, and Montoya needed to build a lead of at least 40 seconds to hold off Angelelli and Allmendinger when he was forced to stop for gas. The Colombian did it by turning laps close to qualifying pace, and breezed to his third Rolex victory.
“It was a lot of pressure,” Montoya said. “I thought we have a decent lead, we’re just going to go out there and ride for two-and-a-half hours or whatever is left, and then you realize there’s a caution and another caution and another caution, and with the way the rules are and the speed the car had, it’s like you didn’t want to get into a pissing contest with anybody. You had to be smart about when you passed them and everything, so I was always careful on the restarts, and I took my time to pass people.
“We were kind of concerned about the (Shank) car, what they were going to do with fuel because they told me they could make it until the end and that we were going to have to push, and we pushed like crazy and opened up a hell of a gap. It was fun.”
The No. 02 car, driven by Indy 500 winners Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon, Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray and sports car ace Joey Hand, was strong until McMurray hit the wall exiting pit road following an early morning driver change. The damage to the steering may have contributed to the mechanical failure that knocked the car out of the race with four hours remaining.
“It’s hard. This is different than crashing in a regular event,” McMurray said. “When it’s just you, it’s not the same as having three other teammates and the amount of people we’ve had down here for testing. It is very embarrassing, very humbling, very heartbreaking to be the guy that does that. You don’t want to be that guy.”
In all, Ganassi’s two cars combined to lead an overwhelming majority of the 709 laps. The No. 01 team led 421 laps in a race that had 24 drivers combine for a record 77 lead changes.
But the attention was on Montoya, who is clearly under pressure to perform this year, the final year of his contract with Ganassi.
“I think you always race for your job. It’s normal,” Montoya shrugged.
The Chevrolet team of Angelelli, defending IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay and Jordan Taylor finished second for team owner Wayne Taylor — redemption after an engine failure 22 minutes in last year’s event ended the team’s day. But Angelelli was bothered by engine restrictions to their Chevy that gave the Ganassi BMW’s a clear power advantage.
Defending race winner Michael Shank Racing twice came back from seven laps down to finish third in a Ford. It was a disappointing finish for team owner Shank, but a moral victory considering the hole the team clawed out of to make it to the podium.
Allmendinger, racing at Daytona for the first time since NASCAR suspended him for failing a random drug test hours before the July race here, teamed with fellow NASCAR driver Marcos Ambrose, IndyCar driver Justin Wilson and Grand-Am regulars John Pew and Ozz Negri for the finish.
Ambrose was added to last year’s winning lineup after Negri broke his leg a month ago during offseason training, but Negri was able to return to the car this weekend for limited driving duties a mere six days after his cast was removed.
While hoping to defend his title, Allmendinger acknowledged he wasn’t going to lay down for Montoya on the final run and described his intention as the driver sat in the room.
“I knew he was going to get by. I was just going to make him work for it. I wasn’t going to make it easy on him. Juan and I have a lot of respect for each other — a little bit of respect. I hate his face,” Allmendinger said to much laughter.
“We knew Montoya would be tough to beat. On that last restart, I got around Juan on the outside into turn one, and I knew I had to go. I went side-by-side with Joao but got pushed off, and that filled the radiator with dirt and we had to pit. That was disappointing, but it was ‘go time,’ no hard feelings there. I felt we weren’t going to beat Montoya, but thought we might get second. Ganassi Racing did its homework like we did last year. When it’s your year, you’ve got to capitalize on it.”
Meanwhile, Audi got its first GrandAm win in the GT Class with No. 24 Alex Job Racing with drivers Filipe Albuquergue, Oliver Jarvis, Edoardo Mortara and Dion von Moltke.
“I knew that I had to do a splash and dash, but I didn’t know if I had to push. I started to have problems with my gears. I had to use the clutch to upshift, which was not good, I was losing time. Then when I saw ‘Winkie’ (Markus Winkelhock) and Rene (Rast) behind me, they were really fast and I knew I would not last long with me having these problems. When I saw the white flag, I had a moment in corner one. I had been doing this for 24 hours, but the last corners were so hard to do, it felt like I could miss it. Unbelievable. First time at Daytona, first win.” said Filipe Albuquerque in the number 24 Audi Sport Customer Racing/Alex Job Racing Audi R8.
Dion von Moltke added “This is unbelievable. That drive by Felipe (Albuquerque) over the last two and half hours was the best drive I’ve ever seen in a race car driver by far. We thought we were down and out. We were down by a lap and we thought we had no chance. But Felipe put us here, with great support by Alex Job and Audi.”
The prospect of racing with a first-time All-Brazilian team in the Rolex 24 appealed to former Formula 1 veteran Rubens Barrichello.
The Rolex rookie joined countrymen Tony Kanaan, Felipe Giaffone, Nono Figueiredo and Ricardo Mauricio in driving the No. 21 Porsche in the GT Class for Dener Motorsports. But the engine blew just past the halfway point.
“We were suffering since the beginning of the race with the motor,” said Barrichello, who finished 46th among 57 entries. “Basically, we were struggling but we were still trying to enjoy ourselves. It was tough.
“We were competitive in the corners but not on the straight. It’s a shame, but it’s something that was going to happen.”
After one season in IndyCar, Barrichello will turn his sights to stock cars in Brazil. Chances are, if he ever returns to Daytona, it will be with a more experienced team.
In the debut of the GX Class, first place went to the No. 15 Napleton Racing Porsche Cayman.
“This is unbelievable. Two 24-hour wins in one month (he earlier won at the Dubai event), and there’s nothing sweeter than winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Awesome!” — Shane Lewis in the number 16 Napleton Racing Porsche Cayman and GX class winner.
The 51st Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona included a record 77 lead changes in the Daytona Prototype class, six GT cars finishing on the lead lap, 2,524 miles completed by the winning team and a blistering lap of 126.669 mph turned in by Scott Dixon. 246 drivers took part in the race from 30 different nations.
Click the link below for results of the 2013 Rolex 24 At Daytona.