Daytona 24: Lexus race report

Lexus, Ganassi Win Record Third In A Row At Rolex 24 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 27, 2008) - Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Juan Montoya and Dario Franchitti combined to give Lexus a third consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona victory and in the process make...

Lexus, Ganassi Win Record Third In A Row At Rolex 24

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 27, 2008) - Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Juan Montoya and Dario Franchitti combined to give Lexus a third consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona victory and in the process make Chip Ganassi Racing the first team in history to win three straight races at the twice-around-the-clock event.

With the two-lap victory, Lexus becomes the first manufacturer to win three consecutive Rolex 24's in more than 20 years when Porsche last registered the feat from 1985 to 1987.

The Ganassi team led the final 101 laps and three hours and 19 minutes today. Overall, the team led 252 laps, while Lexus-powered cars were in front for 286 of the 695 circuits. Over the three-year victory run, Lexus-powered cars have now led 1,257 laps -- more than 60 percent of the laps run at Daytona during that span.

After qualifying sixth, the #01 team started from the pit lane after making the decision to change from wet weather tires to slicks, dropping all the way back to the 18th position. First Pruett and then Montoya helped carry the team into the top-five by the fifth hour. After that, the quartet of drivers never fell outside of the top-five over the final 19 hours of the event, never putting a wheel wrong as both the Lexus engine and car ran flawlessly. The team was never forced to pit for more than brake pads, fuel or tires, despite sometimes treacherous wet conditions.

For Pruett, the victory gave him a record-setting eighth Rolex 24 class victory, while it was the second for Montoya and the first for both Rojas and Franchitti.

While the #01 Ganassi Lexus had a trouble-free race, things didn't go nearly as well for the #02 Lexus that dominated the early going of the event. Scott Dixon led 34 of the first 87 laps and registered the overall fastest lap of the race. The team continued to run in the top-two into the fifth hour before changing weather conditions contributed to Salvador Duran going off-track with the car suffering substantial damage to the front end. The team re-joined the race 12 laps down, but could never climb higher than 11th and eventually retired early in 18th-place after a separateincident. It also was an up-and-down day for the #3 Southard Motorsports Lexus.

After falling behind due to an early pit stop, the team recovered quickly and climbed from 17th to eighth during the mid-stages of the race.

Unfortunately, an off-road excursion caused the team to lose a number of laps and they would be plagued by mechanical gremlins the rest of the way to eventually place 17th in class.

ROLEX 24 RACE NOTES:

- Today's win is the third consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona victory for Lexus. Lexus becomes the first manufacturer to win three consecutive Rolex 24 races since Porsche registered the feat from 1985 through 1987.

- Today's win also is the third for Lexus in just five Rolex 24 attempts and its 18th overall Daytona Prototype victory since entering the series in 2004.

- With the victory today, Chip Ganassi Racing becomes the first team ever to win three consecutive Rolex 24s.

- Scott Pruett's victory today is his eighth Rolex 24 class victory, extending his all-time record. He's earned previous class victories in 2007, 2002, 1994, 1993, 1992, 1988 and 1987. This is his third overall win after taking the checkered flag first in 1994 and 2007.

- The victory is the first Rolex 24 victory for Memo Rojas and the second Rolex Series win for the 2007 Grand-Am Rookie of the Year.

- Over the last two years, the #01 Ganassi Lexus has 720 laps out of a possible 1363 (53%) on their way to the two victories, with 252 this year and 468 in 2007.

- The #01 Ganassi Lexus never fell out of the top-five overall after the fifth hour of the race. It marks the second straight year that they've never been lower than fifth in the final 19 hours of the event (based on hourly updates).

- Juan Montoya becomes the first driver in Rolex 24 history to win each of his first two starts in the 24-hour race.

- Scott Pruett extended his record Rolex Series win total to 15.

- The Ganassi team led the final 101 laps and three hours and 19 minutes today. A year ago, the team led 91 laps and 2 hours and 43 minutes today and in 2006, Ganassi led the final 168 laps.

- In a span of just more than 10 months, Dario Franchitti has now won a Class victory at the Sebring 12 Hours, the Indianapolis 500 and the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It's his first Rolex win.

Scott Pruett, #01 Telmex/Target Lexus: "Just like last year, we had zero problems. There's just one little mark on the car. Otherwise it's totally clean. We didn't touch anybody, we didn't hit anybody. We could run fast without getting ourselves in trouble. I think it's awesome that we came back here for three in a row.

It's exciting for me to be a part of two in a row. Winning the 24 hours here is a true test of man and machine and a big part of that is the Lexus engine. It's just never missed a beat."

Memo Rojas, #01 Telmex/Target Lexus: "I'm very excited to be a part of this line-up. It was an honor to race with Scott, Juan and Dario. To win this race, it's something I'll never forget the rest of my life. The engine was great. Lexus has been developing this engine ever since Utah last year. We came to the test here with some issues, but Lexus went back to work immediately and you can see the result right here - a three-time Rolex 24-winning car. I'm just particularly happy to be a part of this with my first 24-hour win, and happy to be a part of this Lexus program and this victory."

Chip Ganassi, team owner: (On how it feels to win a third straight Rolex 24): "It's hard to put into words what winning does to you and what it feels like. You can't touch it, you can't feel it, but it sure does feel good. One thing a lot of people don't consider are the conditions that these guys had to drive in. They were just miserable. Particularly between three and six this morning. The track was very wet, your vision is limited...just to keep these cars on the asphalt was a huge task, and I want to give credit where credit is due to the guys that drove in those conditions in Dario and Memo. They drove in the conditions that were the most horrific out there. Just to stay in the game under those conditions is a huge challenge."

Dario Franchitti, #01 Telmex/Target Lexus: (On if he had any second thoughts due to his busy NASCAR schedule that requires him to test in Las Vegas on Monday): "I know that by Friday, I'm really going to be run down because we've got to really full week, but I just couldn't turn down an opportunity like this. Chip actually asked me last year, but I couldn't do it because I had a conflict -- and then they went out and won the race. This is a race I've watched for a very long time, so to win it means a lot to me."

Juan Montoya, #01 Telmex/Target Lexus: "I thought we were in a really good position even before the #6 had their problem because we had already pitted and we had a lot more fuel. We knew we could just follow them around and we'd be fine. The only thing was we were picking up a lot of dust from the other cars and the temperatures started to come up Once the 6 car had its problem, I just got out of it the gas. Once we came in for Scott to get in, we got all cleaned up and the temps came down and then we just rolled. When you have a five-lap lead, you just make sure you don't hit anything, you don't go over any curbs."

-credit: lexus

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Scott Pruett , Memo Rojas , Chip Ganassi , Salvador Duran
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing