2000 Atlantic Champion Rice Scores Rolex 24 At Daytona Overall Victory DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 25, 2009) - Buddy Rice, the 2000 Atlantic champion and 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner, added another impressive accomplishment to his resume...
2000 Atlantic Champion Rice Scores Rolex 24 At Daytona Overall Victory
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 25, 2009) - Buddy Rice, the 2000 Atlantic champion and 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner, added another impressive accomplishment to his resume by teaming with co-drivers David Donohue, Darren Law and Antonio Garcia to take the overall victory in the 2009 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Co-driving the No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley, Rice led a team-high 86 of the car's 258 laps at the head of the field, contributing to the closest victory in Rolex 24 history. Donohue drove the No. 58 machine across the start/finish line just 0.167 seconds ahead of the second-place finishing No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley of Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas. Rice became the 11th driver to win both the Indianapolis 500 and the Rolex 24.
"I'm still shocked by it," said Rice following the race. "Even to think that my face is on the Borg-Warner Trophy (for winning the Indianapolis 500), that's a pretty elite group, but now to have also all the people that have won the 24 Hours of Daytona and for me to be able to do both is just unbelievable. It's just hard to believe. I'm just really happy to be coming in with Brumos Racing for the last three or four years, and it's been a great thing.
"It's really cool. It's awesome. I can't be any happier. It's great to see that Brumos finally won. The last two years, we've been quite strong. We had a self-inflicted wound two years ago, when we had a car that was actually capable of winning. Last year, we had a mechanical issue. It's not like it should be a big shock that we were running up front, but this year, we had all of the I's dotted and the T's crossed and we came here and executed. That's what it takes to win these 24-hour races. Brumos did it the best this weekend."
In addition to it being the closest margin of victory in the 47-race history of the Rolex 24, there were a record four cars to finish on the lead lap. Finishing third in the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley were JC France, Hurley Haywood, Terry Borcheller and former Atlantic competitor Joao Barbosa.
The No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley of co-drivers Max Angelelli, Pedro Lamy, Brian Frisselle and Wayne Taylor finished fourth, followed by the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley of Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and Alex Lloyd. The No. 02 machine finished four laps down in fifth place.
Despite mechanical problems that dropped them from contention for the victory, 35th Anniversary Atlantic Championship All-Star team members Jon Fogarty and Jimmy Vasser combined with former Atlantic driver Alex Gurney and three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion to finish seventh overall in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley.
A few other former Atlantic competitors also earned top-10 results in the Daytona Prototype class. Atlantic graduate and IndyCar superstar Danica Patrick combined with Andy Wallace, Casey Mears and Rob Finlay to finish eighth overall in the No. 2 Childress-Howard Motorsports Pontiac Crawford. Finishing ninth in the DP class and 19th overall was 2007 Atlantic champion Raphael Matos in the No. 55 Level 5 Motorsports BMW Riley he shared with Christophe Bouchut, Scott Tucker and Ed Zabinski. Rounding out the top-10 in the DP class and finishing 20th overall was former Atlantic driver David Martinez alongside co-drivers Jared Beyer and Jordan and Ricky Taylor in the No. 13 Beyer Racing Pontiac Riley.
Claiming the GT class victory was the No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3 for co-drivers Andy Lally, RJ Valentine, Justin Marks, Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long. Lally participated in the 2000 Atlantic Championship.
The GT class also included a pair of 2008 Atlantic drivers making their first appearance in the twice-around-the-clock event, and both were driving Mazda RX-8s. Dane Cameron, one of the top rookies in the 2008 Atlantic series, is also transitioning to sports cars and will drive the No. 30 Racers Edge Motorsports Mazda RX-8 full-time in 2009 with co-driver Doug Peterson.
Cameron and Peterson were joined by Dion von Moltke and yet another Atlantic grad, Bryan Sellers, and the team finished 13th in the GT class and 24th overall.
"The car was pretty good the whole time," Cameron said "We just had some electrical issues pretty early on with the car cutting on and off and losing the lights back and forth. Once we got that sorted, we were able to run pretty quickly and set fast lap in the dark last night. We just got so far behind with our initial problems, 20-odd laps behind, and we had a few other problems later on that we couldn't make up. But we were quite happy that we were able to show that we have a fast car and fast drivers on our team. Mechanically, we were really strong. We just had some electrical gremlins we couldn't quite find.
Jonathan Bomarito, the 2008 Atlantic Championship runner-up, combined with co-drivers Sylvain Tremblay, David Haskell and Nick Ham to finish 17th in class and 28th overall in the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8. Tremblay started the No. 70 machine from the class pole position, but an early fuel cell problem robbed the team of a chance at victory and later mechanical issues prevented a higher finishing position.
"It's such a shame that we had a problem so early in the race, but the team did an awesome job just to get the car even back on track," Bomarito said. "It's a big task to put a whole, basically, rear half on that car and get the fuel cell back in. I think over the night, up until about nine or ten this morning, we had actually made six laps back on the lead car. That's a pretty awesome feat in itself. But this morning, we actually cracked a header and had some differential issues.
"I'm just now starting to make that transition from formula cars to sports cars and I've come up through the MAZDASPEED ladder system. We did a shootout for this fourth seat with the SpeedSource team, and I won that. It's just been an awesome opportunity for me. I did about six stints and they all went flawless. Just ingraining myself with the team and the format has been a huge learning experience."
Other drivers with Atlantic experience in the Rolex 24 included Romain Dumas (sixth overall and in DP), Mike Forest (21st overall, 11th in GT), Guy Cosmo (23rd overall, 13th in DP), Duncan Ende (25th overall, 14th in GT), Ross Bentley (30th overall, 19th in GT), Memo Gidley (31st overall, 12th in GT), David Empringham and Alex Figge (38th overall, 14th in DP), Ryan Dalziel and Jean-Francois Dumoulin (39th overall, 15th in DP), Ryan Hunter-Reay (41st overall, 16th in DP), Romeo Kapudija (43rd overall, 27th in GT), Michael Valiante and A.J. Allmendinger (47th overall, 18th in DP) and Tom Nastasi (48th overall, 29th in GT).
A total of 27 former Atlantic competitors competed in the event.