Chip Slams Them, Wins Rolex 24 At Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates completed the "Chip Slam," winning the 49th Rolex 24 At Daytona to give the team consecutive victories in the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400 and America's premier endurance race, cheered by the biggest GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 crowd at Daytona International Speedway.
Aiding by a lightning-fast final pit stop, Scott Pruett went from third to first on the final round of pit stops with 48 minutes remaining and held on to give the team its fourth Rolex 24 victory.
Pruett and fellow Daytona Prototype champion Memo Rojas joined team newcomers Joey Hand and Graham Rahal in the No. 01 TELMEX/Target BMW/Riley. Pruett beat Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon to the checkered flag by 2.46 seconds to score his fourth overall and record-extending ninth class victory in the Rolex 24.
The victory gave the team consecutive triumphs in the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400 and America's greatest endurance race from February 2010 to January 2011.
"It is truly awesome," Pruett said. "To have a 1-2 finish is just incredible. Our No. 01 car has finished every lap here the last five years and won it three times. That in itself is a true testament to what the Ganassi organization does and the preparation on getting this car on the track. They've been busting their butts getting our cars ready for this race since October."
Pruett's pit stop atoned for a miscue when Hand bumped a tire exiting the pits and was called back for a 20-second penalty with two hours, 45 minutes remaining. Pruett took over with one hour, 45 minutes remaining, running in fourth position.
Hand led a race-high 116 laps, while Rahal won on the 30th anniversary of his father's breakthrough victory at Daytona in 1981.
"I don't drive the cars, I don't change the tires and I don't work on the engines," Ganassi said. "There are lots of people, lots of great competitors, who make up this team. I just get to stand up here and talk about it."
Dixon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti and Jamie McMurray finished second in the No. 02 Target/TELMEX BMW/Riley. Defending Rolex 24 champion team Action Express Racing finished third with Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, Max Papis and JC France in the No. 9 Porsche/Riley, followed by Formula One veterans Martin Brundle and Mark Blundell, who were joined by Zak Brown and Mark Patterson in the No. 23 Johnny Walker/FXI/UBS Ford Riley. The top four cars were separated by 3.752 seconds after 2,566.76 miles of racing, completing 721 laps.
Andy Lally, Spencer Pumpelly, Wolf Henzler, Brendan Gaughan and Steven Bertheau came from last to first in the No. 67 Sergent & Lundy/South Point Hotel & Casino Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, giving TRG car owner Kevin Buckler his fourth Rolex 24 class victory. It was the third Daytona class triumph for Lally, and second for Pumpelly and Henzler.
Bryce Miller, Tim Sugden, Bryan Sellers and Rob Bell took second in the Marquis Jet/Total/IPC Porsche, followed by Patrick Dempsey, Joe Foster, Charles Espenlaub and Tom Long, who gave the Dempsey Racing's No. 40 Visit Florida/ModSpace/Charles Espenlaub Mazda RX-8 its first Rolex Series podium with a third-place finish.
"It was pretty emotional," said Dempsey, who joined his teammates in scoring their best Rolex Series finish. The team led 197 laps with Dempsey out front for 28 of them. "To be on the wall and hear everybody's journey with each stint was an incredibly joyous, magic, fun moment. It's validation for all of their hard work, and this is a team sport."
Attrition took its toll among many of the contenders. Jorg Bergmeister won the pole in the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche/Riley and led the opening 27 laps, but an off-track excursion to avoid an incident damaged the front end of the car and sent the team to the garage, losing 19 laps.
Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson joined two-time DP champs Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Chevrolet/Riley, but the trio fell out of contention late Saturday evening with brake problems. They finished 15th overall and 12th in DP.
The highly competitive race featured 52 lead changes among 27 drivers. Twelve of the 18 Daytona Prototypes in the field led at some point.
The race was slowed 23 times for 141 laps. While there were no major incidents, early morning fog led to two hours and 47 minutes, resulting in 57 laps of caution.
The next action for the Rolex Series will be another series traditiona - the Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway, on March 5.