Wallace, Stewart, Lammers Rally ...
Wallace, Stewart, Lammers Rally #20 CITGO Racing Team to Second in Rolex
24 at Daytona
Late-race transmission problem foils victory drive
Daytona Beach, FL (February 6, 2005) . The 43rd annual Rolex 24 At Daytona had all the makings of a "storybook finish". One year after their victory hopes were dashed with seventeen minutes remaining, Andy Wallace and Tony Stewart were poised to win the most prestigious race on the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series schedule. However, their dream of giving CITGO Racing and Howard-Boss Motorsports their biggest victory in their brief two- year existence took a turn just two hours from the checkered flag.
Last year, the CITGO Racing Team of Wallace, Stewart, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. led by several laps and were headed to victory lane when a suspension problem ended their hopes. This year, Jan Lammers joined the Wallace- Stewart duo and had the win within sight. Then, on lap 648, Wallace was forced to pit when he sensed a problem with his #20 CITGO Pontiac Crawford. After a thorough inspection by the crew, it was determined that there was a hole in the transmission. The CITGO immediately crew took their car to the garage for repairs. Thirteen laps later, the #20 reentered the race in fifth position.
During the remaining laps, a determined Lammers and an excellent pit call by Crew Chief Max Crawford enabled the CITGO Racing Team to rally for a third-place finish.
"I've got mixed emotions," three-time Rolex 24 winner Wallace said. "We obviously lost the race last year and we lost this one too. But, on the other hand, we had two cars from Howard-Boss Motorsports on the podium." The #4 BOSS Snowplow Team driven by Butch Leitzinger, Elliott Forbes- Robinson, and Jimmie Johnson posted a second-place finish in the endurance event. And, if not for an unfortunate accident to the #2 CITGO Racing Team with Milka Duno, Dan Wheldon, and Dario and Marino Franchitti, it could have been a "clean sweep" of the podium positions.
"It's a real thrill to drive with these guys," Wallace continued. "I really mean that. When you turn the car over to these guys (Stewart and Lammers), you know it's in good hands and great for the team. It's no mean feat to get two cars on the podium from the same team. A lot of work went into that. Although we didn't win, I'm happy and we'll just have to do it next year."
"I've got more experience with Andy (Wallace) at the moment than some of my brothers," Lammers added. "We've spent so much time together. I think Andy did a fantastic job to set up the car that made it real easy for us. To drive with Tony and Andy is just a pleasure."
"I could definitely feel the difference from last year to this year as far as intensity and pace," Stewart commented. "Everybody seemed to be flat out and running a pretty strong pace all day. It was fun and made for a fun race. The Crawford family, they do such a great job. And, with CITGO, these guys have come together and made this package complete. It's just an unbelievable deal. Situations like we had this year and last year, all that does is when you win the event, it makes it that much more gratifying. The Crawford family will never give up trying to win this race. I'm already looking forward to coming back next year."
Wallace, Stewart, and Lammers combined to lead the 43rd edition of the Rolex 24 At Daytona twelve times for a total of 248 laps. Wallace led six times for 73 laps, Stewart four times for 90, and Lammers twice for 85.
"This was an amazing event to see all the drivers from the different disciplines," Stewart concluded. "I can't remember the number of championships represented here this weekend. I don't know of any other event in the United States where you have that many championships come together and run an event like this. It was great. This series keeps getting bigger and better every year and the cars keep getting better. It speaks a lot of volume for the series and what they've been able to accomplish."
Wallace will reunite with teammate Milka Duno in the CITGO Racing Pontiac Crawford to defend their victory in the Grand Prix of Miami at the Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 5th, the next race on the Rolex Series schedule for 2005. In fact, Wallace, Duno, and the CITGO Racing Team won both Rolex Series races at the Homestead, Miami track last season. Could we see a "three-peat" next month?