Chip Ganassi wins Rolex 24 at Daytona - FOX 35 News Orlando

Chip Ganassi wins Rolex 24 at Daytona

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(AP)-- Humbled a year ago when both its cars failed to make the podium, Chip Ganassi Racing returned to the Rolex 24 at Daytona determined to pick up another victory watch.
   An eyebrow-raising lineup change that involved Juan Pablo Montoya showed just how serious the team was about winning, and it delivered Sunday with its fifth win in 10 appearances in the prestigious sports car race. The victory was the fifth for lead driver Scott Pruett, tying Hurley Haywood's record for wins in the twice-around-the-clock race at Daytona International Speedway.
   "Having gotten to know Hurley real well over the years by racing with him and just as a friend, and to have him there at the end was pretty special," Pruett said.
   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.
   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; I thought we have a decent lead, we're just going to go out there and ride for two and a half hours," Montoya said. "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 ... contest with anybody. You had to be smart about when you passed them.
   "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."
   Montoya's other two wins were with Pruett on the No. 01 car in 2007 and 2008, but he spent the last three years driving for the No. 02 Ganassi "star car" and came away empty-handed each time. When the Ganassi cars were left off the Rolex podium last season for the first time since 2005, team management went to work on the cars and setting up a lineup that gave them two chances to win.
   Montoya admitted he thought the switch was "a weird move," but owner Chip Ganassi and team manager Mike Hull insisted it wasn't a demotion for the driver who has been stuck in a lengthy slump in his full-time NASCAR job.
   Ganassi said the Montoya move was Hull's call, but he also questioned it when the decision was made.
   "I read that as you did, and I asked him about it, and he said it was to balance the thing out," Ganassi said. "We needed to balance it out. We also had Charlie Kimball in that car, and we wanted to give those guys every opportunity to win, as well, and we thought the 02 car was obviously very strong, and so we thought we had two good shots at it here."
   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.
   He stepped up Saturday and Sunday as the No. 01 team had to balance out Kimball's inexperience. It was the first time racing in a car with a roof on it for Kimball, who has diabetes and uses his fight with the disease as his platform.
   "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," said Kimball, who had one turn in the car for two late-night stints.
   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.
   "We have something restricted, OK? Just like driving with handcuffs; you can't do it, can't drive," he said. "Montoya and the 01 car is another league, is an A class. We are B class."
   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.
   "We were saying that on the way over, John and I, how if you'd have told us after the first hour we could have a chance of finishing third, we would have been over the moon," Wilson said. "As we were on the podium, we were thinking, well, there's nothing quite like being first, but we just have to be grateful for the chance we had."
   Audi Sport Customer Racing won the GT class in an Audi R8 with drivers Filipe Albuquergue, Oliver Jarvis, Edoardo Mortara and Dion von Moltke.

Grand-Am Rolex Results
Lap length: 3.56 miles
(Starting position in parentheses)
   1. (1) Scott Pruett/Memo Rojas/Juan Pablo Montoya/Charlie Kimball, BMW-Riley, 709 laps complete
   2. (12) Max Angelelli/Jordan Taylor/Ryan Hunter-Reay, Corvette DP, 709
   3. (6) John Pew/Ozz Negri/AJ Allmendinger/Justin Wilson/Marcos Ambrose, Ford-Riley, 709
   4. (13) Mike Rockenfeller/Burt Frisselle/Joao Barbosa, Corvette DP, 708
   5. (5) Antonio Garcia/Richard Westbrook/Ricky Taylor/Oliver Gavin, Corvette DP, 697
   6. (7) Ryan Dalziel/Alex Popow/Sebastien Bourdais/Allan McNish, Ford-Riley, 696
   7. (8) Jon Fogarty/Alex Gurney/Memo Gidley/Darren Law, Corvette DP, 695
   8. (11) Brian Frisselle/Nelson Piquet Jr./Felipe Nasr/Christian Fittipaldi, Corvette DP, 688
   9. (22) Filipe Albuquergue/Oliver Jarvis/Edoardo Mortara/Dion von Moltke, Audi R8, 678
   10. (27) Frank Stippler/Rene Rast/Ian Baas/Marc Basseng, Audi R8, 678
   11. (26) Emil Assentato/Nick Longhi/Anthony Lazzaro/Mark Wilkins, Ferrari 458, 678
   12. (21) Alessandro Balzan/Alessandro Pier Guidi/Marco Frezza/Olivier Beretta, Ferrari 458, 678
   13. (19) John Potter/Andy Lally/Richard Lietz/Nicolas Armindo, Porsche GT3, 678
   14. (31) Cooper MacNeil/Jeroen Bleekemolen/Marco Holzer/Damien Faulkner, Porsche GT3, 678
   15. (32) Matt Plumb/Frank Biela/Christopher Haase/Markus Winkelhock, Audi R8, 677
   16. (33) Robert Kauffman/Rui Aguas/Michael Waltrip/Clint Bowyer, Ferrari 458, 677
   17. (42) Scott Sharp/Johannes van Overbeek/Ed Brown/Mike Hedlund, Ferrari 458, 673
   18. (48) Claudio Burtin/Martin Ragginger/Jack Baldwin/Mario Farnbacher/Robert Renauer, Porsche GT3, 672
   19. (23) Madison Snow/Melanie Snow/Sascha Maassen/Marco Seefried/Klaus Bachler, Porsche GT3, 668
   20. (43) Dave Lacey/Alex Figge/Matt Bell/John Farano/David Empringham, Audi R8, 667
   21. (3) Simon Pagenaud/Dane Cameron/Wayne Nonnamaker, BMW-Riley, 664
   22. (30) Leh Keen/Andrew Davis/Marc Lieb/Bryan Sellers/ , Porsche GT3, 663
   23. (46) Mike Vess/JF Dumoulin/Grant Phipps/Chuck Cole/Mike Skeen, Porsche GT3, 657
   24. (35) Al Carter/Mark Boden/Charles Putman/Charles Espenlaub/Hugh Plumb, Porsche GT3, 656
   25. (20) Patrick Lindsey/Patrick Long/Jason Hart/Spencer Pumpelly/Daniel Graeff, Porsche GT3, 653
   26. (52) Jim Norman/Shane Lewis/David Donohue/Nelson Canache, Porsche Cayman, 635
   27. (50) Martin Fuentes/Ricardo Perez de Lara/Rudy Camarillo/Carlos Peralta, Mazda RX-8, 634
   28. (38) Bill Auberlen/Paul Dalla Lana/Billy Johnson/Boris Said/Maxime Martin, BMW M3, 631
   29. (44) Tom Haacker/Kelly Collins/Phil Fogg Jr/Jim Walsh/ , Porsche GT3, 627
   30. (56) Darryl O'Young/Daniel Rogers/James Clay/Seth Thomas/Karl Thomson, Porsche Cayman, 625
   31. (29) Ben Keating/Dominik Farnbacher/Kuno Wittmer/Jorg Bergmeister, Porsche GT3, 622
   32. (28) Max Papis/Jeff Segal/Toni Vilander/Giancarlo Fisichella, Ferrari 458, 614.
   33. (53) Lee Davis/Ryan Eversley/Jeff Mosing/Eric Foss/John Tecce, Porsche Cayman, 614
   34. (9) Enzo Potolicchio/Stephane Sarrazin/Anthony Davidson/Pedro Lamy/Nicolas Minassian, Corvette DP, 612
   35. (49) Mark Thomas/Eliseo Salazar/Eduardo Costabal/Kevin Roush, Porsche GT3, 610
   36. (24) Robin Liddell/John Edwards/Jan Magnussen/Tom Milner, Chevrolet Camaro, 595
   37. (2) /Dario Franchitti/Jamie McMurray/Joey Hand/Scott Dixon, BMW-Riley, 594, .
   38. (25) Chico Longo/Xandinho Negrao/Daniel Serra/Raphael Matos, Ferrari 458, 576, .
   39. (51) Henrique Cisneros/Sean Edwards/Kuba Giermaziak/Patrick Pilet, Porsche GT3, 535, steering
   40. (10) Carlos de Quesada/Jim Pace/Byron Defoor/Frank Beck/Ian James, BMW-Riley, 517, accident
   41. (4) Chris Cumming/Michael Valiante/Jorge Goncalvez/Gustavo Yacaman, Ford-Riley, 508
   42. (36) Tracy Krohn/Nic Jonsson/Emmanuel Collard/Romain Dumas, Porsche GT3, 45
   43. (15) Jan Charouz/Ivan Bellarosa/Gaetano Ardagna/Scott Mayer, Ford-Riley, 441
   44. (16) Joe Sahlen/Tomy Drissi/Joe Nonnamaker/Bruno Junqueira/Will Nonnamaker, BMW-Riley, 422
   45. (45) Marcel Visconde/Constantino Junior/Nono Figueiredo/Ricardo Mauricio, Porsche GT3, 386
   46. (41) Tony Kanaan/Rubens Barrichello/Nono Figueiredo/Ricardo Mauricio, Porsche GT3, 352
   47. (17) Emmanuel Anassis/Anthony Massari/Tonis Kasemets, Ford-Riley, 304
   48. (14) Jim Lowe/Jon Bennett/Colin Braun/Paul Tracy, Ford-Dallara, 286
   49. (47) Brad Lewis/Jim Michaelian/Ronald Van De Laar/Ivo Breukers, Porsche GT3, 284
   50. (40) Mark Thomas/Kevin Estre/, Porsche GT3, 228
   51. (18) Nick Tandy/Michael Christensen/Christian Engelhart, Porsche GT3, 181, accident.
   52. (39) Eric Curran/Brandon Davis/Lawson Aschenbach, Chevrolet Corvette, 136, fuel cell
   53. (55) Sylvain Tremblay/Tom Long/, Mazda 6, 51
   54. (57) Derek Whitis/Andrew Carbonell, Mazda 6, 45
   55. (37) Jan Heylen/Moses Smith, Dodge Viper, 44
   56. (54) Joel Miller/Tristan Nunez/Tristan Vautier, Mazda 6, 33
   x-GT class winner.
Race Statistics
   Winners' average speed: 105.122 mph
   Time of Race: 24 hours
   Margin of Victory: 21.922 seconds
   Cautions: 16 for 121 laps
   Lead Changes: 78

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