Rolex 24 At Daytona Grand Marshal Hurley Haywood gave the command to start the engines on Saturday as the event’s lone five-time overall winner. Twenty-four hours later, he welcomed Scott Pruett into that elite company. (Read More on Pruett)
Pruett joined Memo Rojas, Juan Pablo Montoya and Charlie Kimball in the winning No. 01 TELMEX/Target BMW/Riley, giving Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates its fifth victory in the event. Montoya drove the final stint, coming back after falling to fourth following a restart with 51 minutes remaining. Montoya needed seven minutes to work his way past Max Angelelli to take the lead, and then prevailed in a battle of splash-and-gas fuel stops in the closing minutes to beat Angelelli to the checkered flag by 21.922 seconds.
“This was an incredible day all around. At the end of it, having known Hurley (Haywood) real well over the years by racing with him and just as a friend and then to have him there was a very pretty special thing," Pruett said. "One thing when you get together with a group like this with Memo, Charlie and Juan, you don’t try to be Superman. We’ve got some very incredibly talented guys that can step in and close it out I’m proud to be part of the team, and it was exciting to finish up on top.”
It was the third victory in the event for Montoya and Rojas, and first major triumph for Kimball.
“One of the cool things about doing the Rolex 24 with Chip you’re a favorite every time you come here," Montoya said. "You always have a chance of winning. Everybody that comes here with Chip finds that out. It’s fun and it’s exciting. I feel bad for the guys in our No. 02 because they had a ton of speed and they could have easily won, too.”
Defending winner AJ Allmendinger rallied the Michael Shank Racing from a seven-lap deficit and a final hour off-course excursion to take third, joined by Marcos Ambrose, Justin Wilson, John Pew and Ozz Negri in the No. 60 Ford/Riley. Joao Barbosa served a penalty following his contact with Allmendinger and returned to place fourth, joined by Christian Fittipaldi, Burt Frisselle and Mike Rockenfeller in the No. 9 Action Express Racing Corvette DP.
The GT class featured a scrap that saw seven cars finish on the lead lap. Filipe Albuquerque nursed the No. 24 Audi Sport Customer Racing/Alex Job Racing Audi R8 to take the class victory, giving Audi its first GRAND-AM victory and first triumph in the Rolex 24.
“I knew that I had to do a splash and dash, but I didn’t know if I had to push," Albuquerque said. "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."
The event marked the debut of the GX class. David Donohue, 2009 Rolex 24 winner, joined Shane Lewis, Dr. Jim Norman and Nelson Canache in the No. 16 Napleton Racing Porsche Cayman.
The performances of Ganassi Racing and Alex Job Racing gave the teams the early unofficial lead in the second annual North American Endurance Championship presented by VISITFLORIDA.com. That championship continues with the Sahlen’s Six Hours at Watkins Glen International on June 30, and concludes with the Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26.