Daytona 24: Lexus race report

GANASSI LEXUS WINS ROLEX 24; LEXUS POWERS TOP-TWO FINISHERS DAYTONA BEACH, Fla (Jan. 28, 2006) -- Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon and Casey Mears drove the Ganassi Racing Target Lexus-Riley to victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona with fellow ...

GANASSI LEXUS WINS ROLEX 24; LEXUS POWERS TOP-TWO FINISHERS

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla (Jan. 28, 2006) -- Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon and Casey Mears drove the Ganassi Racing Target Lexus-Riley to victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona with fellow Lexus-powered drivers Oswaldo Negri, Justin Wilson, A. J. Allmendinger and Mark Patterson finishing second in their Michael Shank Racing Flight Options Lexus-Riley to give Lexus a one-two finish in the manufacturer's first-ever Rolex 24 victory.

Lexus-powered cars led more than 14-and-a-half of the final 17 hours of the race -- taking the lead at 7:22 p.m. on Saturday evening and giving up the lead only for a brief two-hour stint the rest of the way.

After falling two laps down on three separate occasions, the #02 Ganassi Lexus took the lead for good on Lap 558 and went on to lead the final 168 laps over the final five-and-a-half hours. For the race, the #02 squad led 272 laps, while overall Lexus-powered cars led 467 of the 734 laps run. Mears led a race-high 109 laps, while Dixon was just behind with 105.

In addition to the strong effort from the #02 car, the #60 Flight Options Lexus never fell below sixth throughout the twice-around-the-clock event. The second-place finish matched the team's best-ever Daytona Prototype showing to date.

The #39 Cheever Racing Crown Royal Lexus-Crawford almost made it three Lexus' in the top-five. The team, making its sports car racing debut, took over the lead in the early evening hours and then led 74 laps and maintained a top-five position through most of the next 13 hours before being retiring due to mechanical problems with just over two hours remaining and while running third after a strong performance by drivers Eddie Cheever, Christian Fittipaldi and Patrick Carpentier.

The Grand American Daytona Prototype schedule continues March 4 in Mexico City.

Quotes:

Brad Nelson, Lexus motorsports manager: "Winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona is a major accomplishment and we're fortunate to have some great teams in Chip Ganassi, Michael Shank Racing and Cheever Racing campaigning our engines, which were superbly prepared by TRD. I think this win helps demonstrate Lexus' very strong and growing performance dimension."

Scott Dixon, #02 Target Lexus: "A 24-hour race is so difficult to win. It' s a big team effort. Our guys seemed to have answers for every problem we might have. We definitely had a good pace on the track, but you're always going to have to have a problems. During the night we had a gear box, an alternator that had to be replaced, but they were quick to repair any problem we had. (On winning the race) It's sort of relieving after 24 hours. You're so worn out and it's just great to be here in Victory Circle. The last stint just seems like it's 24 hours by itself -- it keeps going and going."

Oswaldo Negri, #60 Flight Options Lexus: "I don't think we fell below sixth all race. The car ran very well. The Lexus engine was great and the team did a great job. What else can I say about this team? These are fantastic people. I chose to be with the guy because he wants to win as badly as I do -- that says it all. I am so happy for this team, for Mike Shank and for Mark Patterson. Everything went almost perfectly, and to come so close to winning this race I think really gives us a lot of confidence looking to the rest of the season. To be racing with this team and with Mark is an opportunity that I am very thankful for, and I just can't wait to get the rest of the season going."

Justin Wilson, #60 Flight Options Lexus: ""It's great to come here and be able to compete. There were a lot of fast cars here, the racing was close and everyone was going for it in the early stages. Other teams had their problems, but MSR gave us a fast car and it ran faultlessly. I had a couple of close shaves in traffic, but other than that it was just a case of putting in the lap times and taking care of the car. It's a fine achievement for the team, and I'd certainly love to come back again next year and do one better. Michael Shank Racing did an excellent job. The Lexus was very strong and reliable and was good to us all race. I'm just pleased that we were able to accomplish what we did. We didn't really have any major issues at all during the race, just little issues that would cost us 30 seconds here or there that probably took us out of contention for the win, but we've got to be happy and I think it's a great result."

Mark Patterson, #60 Flight Options Lexus: "I'm really thrilled. This team is so well prepared, and it showed when we had two small problems that stayed just that-small problems, and we were able to get back on track right away and keep getting the laps in. This was a fantastic and humbling experience for me to be teamed up with drivers of this caliber and to come away with a second place in the biggest race of the season. Now, we just need to go win one of these."

A.J. Allmendinger, #60 Flight Options Lexus: "I was really impressed with Mike Shank and his team-they have the same total devotion to winning that RuSPORT does, and obviously they know a lot about how to prepare and run in these 24 hour races. This was a great way to get the season started and hopefully we can come back again next year and go one better."

Christian Fittipaldi, #39 Crown Royal Lexus: "All in all, I 'll have to say I 'm happy. With the way the whole team performed all weekend, to our strategy, to our engineers and our three-driver lineup, it all went like clockwork until our unfortunate outcome. It was almost too good to be true. We never had to come in and fix anything. We didn't touch anybody out on the track. It was a big disappointment to see it end like that. We even started looking forward to being on the podium. Even without the podium, a top-five finish would have been a great, great result. We definitely have some good things to build on, and more than a month to get ready for the next one."

-lexus-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Justin Wilson , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Dan Wheldon , A.J. Allmendinger , Mark Patterson , Michael Shank
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Michael Shank Racing