LEXUS FALLS JUST SHORT AT ROLEX 24; WIN STREAK SNAPPED AT THREE IN CLOSEST 24 HOURS EVER
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 25, 2009) -- Lexus-powered Juan Montoya led 37 laps late in the race, only to get balked slightly in traffic and give up the race lead on Lap 711 and then barely fall short in a valiant rally to lose by just .167 seconds in the closest Rolex 24 at Daytona in history.
The second-place finish snaps Lexus and Chip Ganassi Racing's three-race win streak at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Lexus is one of only two manufacturers, along with Porsche, ever to win three consecutive Rolex 24s.
In addition to the #01 Telmet/Target Lexus' second-place finish, the Chip Ganassi Racing team's second entry, the #02, placed fifth to give Lexus two finishers in the top-five with their next closest competitor 14 laps down.
For Montoya and co-drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, the 24-hour event was virtually flawless other than a cracked splitter in the first six hours. The trio never fell out of the top two in the last five hours of the event, nor did it fall out of the top-five over the final 15 hours. The car led seven different times during the 24 hours, with each of the team's three drivers occupying the top spot over the course of the race. Eventually, the race became a dual between the #01 Lexus and the #58 Porsche as the two traded the lead eight times over the final 188 laps. Montoya took the lead on Lap 674 and led through Lap 710 when he was slowed by traffic coming through the bus-stop, providing the Porsche with the opportunity it needed to take the lead. Montoya would take numerous runs through the final 25 laps, but was never able to squeeze by on the way to the eventual second-place finish.
While the #01 Ganassi Lexus had a virtually trouble-free race, things didn't go quite as well for the #02 Lexus driven by Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and Alex Lloyd, although the team was in contention for the victory through the first 16 hours of the event. After leading for the final time on Lap 477, the #02 suffered its first setback with a brake problem on Lap 497, which resulted in Franchitti having to drive through the chicane on the way to the pits. In addition to losing a lap due to the brake problem, the team also was issued a drive-through penalty for going through the chicane, which put them two laps down.
After regaining one of those laps on the race track, a realistic shot at victory was taken away on Lap 550 when the car lost its nose and was forced to head to the garage. Despite the setback, another strong effort by the Ganassi crew kept the team from dropping below sixth on the way to its eventual fifth-place finish. Despite finishing four laps down, the #02 never ran below 10th throughout the twice-around-the-clock endurance event.
- With its second-place finish today, Lexus has now registered five top-two finishes in the Rolex 24 in the past four years, including three victories (2005, 2006, 2007).
- After registering a second-place finish today, Chip Ganassi Racing has the greatest four-race stretch in Rolex 24 history with three wins and a second since 2005.
- Juan Montoya has never finished below second in three Rolex 24 attempts, with two wins and a second. Last year, he became the first driver in history to win two overall titles in his first two Rolex 24 events.
- Lexus-powered cars led 162 laps in this year's event, 82 by the #02 and 80 by the #01. Over the past four years, Lexus-powered cars have now led 1,419 laps -- almost half the laps run in competition during that time period.
- The #01 Ganassi Lexus never fell out of the top-five overall after the ninth hour of the race. It marks the third straight year that they've never been lower than fifth in the final 15 hours of the event (based on hourly updates).
Scott Pruett, #01 Telmex/Target Lexus: "To run 24 hours and for all the excitement to come down to the end is amazing. The whole Ganassi team did an awesome job today. Lexus did a great job for us again. The car didn't miss a beat, but it was a little frustrating when guys just drive by you on the straightaways. Hopefully, Grand-Am will get that straightened out, but congratulations to the Brumos guys, it was a long-time coming for them."
Memo Rojas, #01 Telmex/Target Lexus: "I'm happy for the work the team did all weekend. We had a great car. We were much quicker in the infield, but the Porsches seemed to have a big advantage on everyone on the straightaway. I'm happy for the Brumos team, though."
Juan Montoya, #01 Telmex/Target Lexus: "Everybody involved in this did a great job. I'm not sure we had the second-place car today, so it was a great finish. We had such a good handling car. We ran with a lot less wing. But, if we got caught in traffic, the Porsches would just blow by us. It was a little unfair, but there's nothing you can do about it. Hopefully, Grand-Am will do something and next year when we come back, things will be a little more even."