Daytona 24: Lexus race report

LEXUS, GANASSI MAKE IT TWO IN A ROW AT ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA DAYTONA BEACH, Fla (Jan. 28, 2007) -- Scott Pruett, Juan Montoya and Salvador Duran teamed to give Lexus and Ganassi Racing their second consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona victory as their...


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla (Jan. 28, 2007) -- Scott Pruett, Juan Montoya and Salvador Duran teamed to give Lexus and Ganassi Racing their second consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona victory as their #01 Telmex/Target Lexus-Riley won in dominating fashion this weekend.

The winning trio led 468 of the 668 laps, while overall Lexus-powered cars led a total of 504 laps -- good for more than 75 percent of the laps run over the 24 hours. Over the past two Rolex 24 races, Lexus-powered cars have now led 971 laps -- approximately 70 percent of the laps run over the past two years at Daytona.

After starting 12th, the winning #01 Lexus moved to the lead for the first time on Lap 68 and would go on to dominate the race -- never putting a wheel wrong as both the Lexus engine and car ran flawlessly, never pitting for more than brake pads, fuel or tires.

The victory was a record-setting seventh Rolex 24 class victory for Pruett, the series all-time leader in wins. It also marked the second win in a row here for Chip Ganassi Racing, which became the first team in 20 years to repeat a Rolex 24 overall victory after Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon and Casey Mears drove to victory in their #02 Lexus-Riley a year ago.

While the Ganassi team was one of the pre-race favorites heading into the event, the AIM Autosport #61 Exchange Traded Gold Lexus-Riley might have been the biggest surprise. In its first full season of Daytona Prototype, the squad earned a fifth-place finish with Mark Wilkins, David Empringham, Brian Frisselle and Burt Friselle piloting the car in just the second Rolex Series event for the team. After starting 18th, the Canadian-based team moved into the top 10 during the night and never dropped below eighth from there on out.

Michael Shank Racing (MSR) made it three Lexus-powered cars in the top-10 as the #60 Fresh From Florida Lexus-Riley placed ninth. After an early half-shaft problem, team drivers Oswaldo Negri, Mark Patterson, Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr. charged from 40th to earn a second consecutive Rolex 24 top-10 showing after earning runner-up honors a year ago. Things didn't go as well for the second MSR entry, though. An alternator problem negated a spectacular early run by A.J. Allmendinger that saw him stretch out a 12.5-second lead through the race's first 66 laps. Teammate Ian James later would lead a pair of laps, but mechanical woes thwarted any hopes for victory. After falling as low as 56th, that pair along with Paul Tracy and Henri Zogaib regrouped to earn a respectable 26th.

Things didn't go as well for the two remaining Lexus-powered entries. The #02 Ganassi Lexus-Riley of Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon and Memo Rojas ran in the top-five for much of the race, but crashed heavily into the tire barrier on Lap 538 to place 41st. After a testing crash earlier in the month here in Daytona, the Southard Racing team put together an all-out effort to simply make Saturday's green flag. After qualifying 24th, the team would eventually climb into the top-five before mechanical woes would sideline the squad just 214 laps into the event.


- The #01 Ganassi Lexus never fell out of the top-three overall after the third hour of the race.

- Today's win is the second consecutive Rolex 24 victory for Lexus and the manufacturer's 16th overall triumph in 41 Rolex Series races.

- Today's win is the second for Lexus in just four Rolex 24 attempts

- Lexus-powered cars led 504 of the 668 laps run in this year's Rolex 24.

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

- With the victory today, Chip Ganassi Racing becomes the first team to win back-to-back Rolex 24's since Al Holbert's squad registered the feat in 1986-1987

- Juan Montoya becomes the only driver in history to win a Rolex 24 hour race, an F1 race and an Indianapolis 500. This is Montoya's first-ever race at Daytona.

- Salvador Duran's victory comes in his first-ever Rolex Series start.

- Scott Pruett, already the winningest driver in Daytona Prototype history, now matches James Weaver's 13 wins for the most in Rolex Series history.

- The Ganassi team led the final 91 laps and 2 hours and 43 minutes today. A year ago the team led the final 168 laps.

- AIM Autosports earned a fifth-place finish in their Rolex 24 debut -- in just their second-ever Daytona Prototype event.

Scott Pruett, #01 TELMEX/Target Lexus-Riley: "The job that this TELMEX team did today was just outstanding and the car performed flawlessly. We always hear that this event sports the best group of drivers in all of racing, and it turned out to be one hell of a shootout at the end with three cars battling for the win. I think it says a lot about our team and this series. What a fantastic feeling."

Juan Pablo Montoya, #01 TELMEX/Target Lexus-Riley: "I though it was pretty tough overall. Max Angelelli and Darren Manning gave me a run for my money through my last stint, doing everything they could to make my life miserable. I starting thinking about all the things that could go wrong after leading 18-20 hours, and then not winning the race. I wanted to go as fast as I could and pass people, but I also didn't want to be remembered for taking someone out of the race in its final stages. This is a great win for the team and I look forward to running for Chip and Felix in the upcoming NASCAR season."

Salvador Duran, #01 TELMEX/Target Lexus: "For a rookie in this event, I felt really good going in with a team like this behind me and the great drivers I was fortunate enough to have been paired with. I think I learned that this race is all about consistency and confidence. Scott and Juan played their cards right, while at the same time giving me the confidence to drive to the best of my ability. I think I was able to make the right moves at the right times, and that ultimately led to this team getting through the race nearly incident free."

Scott Dixon, #02 Ganassi Lexus-Riley: "The team did such a great job. There were a lot of ups and downs but while it is disappointing not to finish this year's race because of all of the hard work that went into it, it is always so much fun to take part of the Rolex 24. I'm really happy the Chip Ganassi Racing team was able to defend the win. It's really cool to win back to back."

Dan Wheldon, #02 Ganassi Lexus-Riley: "The effort put in by the entire team is really incredible and it really showed with the second consecutive team win at the Rolex 24. It's amazing to drive for so long and still be as close as it was all the way to the finish line. It was just so exciting. It's too bad that we weren't part of it at the finish as well but this is definitely a team win."

Mike Shank, Michael Shank Racing team owner: "I said to someone about 12 hours into this thing after we had all those set backs that it'd be amazing for us to even get a top 10, and though we had even more problems after that, we did it. We had both cars running at the finish and that's a testament to the job my guys did preparing the cars and never giving up no matter what happened for 24 hours. We had super driving from all our guys. The six car probably passed the leader two or three times-- we had fast cars but we just didn't have the luck this time around."

Helio Castroneves, #60 No.60 Fresh From Florida Lexus-Riley: "I had a great time, but the last stint (with no engine cover on the car) wasn't much fun! A lot of things happened that were just out of our control. When the 99 car hit us from behind, we couldn't attach the engine cover back on to the car, so we had a really bad aero situation and the car was really loose. It cost us downforce and really hurt us on the straights, which had been our strength all day."

"But the 24 was a good experience and hopefully I will be back next year. I learned so much, and think there are a lot of things I would do different next time so it was good to get this experience. I rested when I had the chance, so after 24 hours I feel tired for sure, but not destroyed. My conditioning is pretty good. Independent of the results, it was a good race. This is a young team, with lots of good people on it. They are all workaholics who love racing and those are always my kind of people."

Mark Patterson, #60 Fresh From Florida Lexus-Riley: "After being down in 41st like we were earlier, a top 10 in this race is no shabby accomplishment. From here, we want to target podiums and wins this season and we know with Michael Shank Racing and Lexus, we can do that. We've seen what Lexus has done for us all day and night, and we're looking forward to that kind of partnership all season."

Oswaldo Negri, #60 Fresh From Florida Lexus-Riley: "This is a great result with all the trouble we had all weekend. It was a big roller coaster all week from having a track record time in practice then right after that crashing in qualifying and then moving up to the front then having all the problems we did and then taking ninth place on the very last lap. Really fantastic. These guys never gave up and there isn't a team out there with more heart than these guys."

Sam Hornish, Jr., #60 Fresh From Florida Lexus-Riley: "The competition is so much closer than it was back then (in his first Rolex 24 start in 1999). With the World Sports Cars, we were a lot faster than the GT cars, but now the difference is a lot less, so you really have to do a good job timing your passes to get through traffic. "It's been fun working with the team again (Hornish raced Toyota Atlantics with the team in 1999), it's too bad we weren't able to do better, but we were in the wrong place at the wrong time a couple of times today. Everyone's working really hard to do the best we can. I definitely want to come back and do it again. If we had a couple less problems, we'd be right there up front no question."

AJ Allmendinger, No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Lexus-Riley: "I was spoiled last year, racing in my first 24 and we didn't even have a hiccup. We have to take the positives out of this - even at the end, our car was one of the fastest and with how many times we got hit, it wasn't the handling that was good, that was all motor. Big credit to Mike Shank and his team. These guys just don't give up. At least the car is going home in one piece which is impressive after getting hit as many times as we did."

Henri Zogaib, #6 Michael Shank Racing Lexus-Riley: "(On crossing the finish line for the first time in the Rolex 24 in his adopted hometown with so many friends and relatives on hand to see) "It was fun even though I didn't have as many gears in the car as I was hoping! I am amaze the car still rolls, but it was very fulfilling to finish here, and obviously the next step is to try to aim for a win. AJ, Ian, and Paul did a spectacular job. Mike and his crew were on it all week, and we had a very fast car and the Lexus/Riley is really a great package to be working with so we will keep building from here."

Ian James, #6 Michael Shank Racing Lexus-Riley: "Its disappointing because we had a car that could win here. We showed some great speed and consistency with the car. A few things went wrong but we know we could have been fighting at the front. That's racing.The good thing is this is clearly a great package, and the Mike Shank cars were running near the front all week, so I'm really looking forward to getting to the sprint races."

Paul Tracy, #6 Michael Shank Racing Lexus-Riley: "It's disappointing to finish like this just because our car was so fast, but we just ran into problems. It's frustrating to be up front two years in a row but to run into trouble right off the bat. But I'll just have to come back next year and try to have some better luck."

Steve Southard, Southard Racing team owner: "With our experience as a team, I had complete faith that not much could stop us from finishing the Rolex 24. The crew worked incredibly hard to get the new car here and ready to race, and it was running really well. Unfortunately, we just aren't allowed to change an engine, otherwise, we certainly would have. It is such a shame; we had great drivers, good pit strategy, and a fantastic crew and were looking forward to another successful 24-hour race. It's just bad luck today. But we won't let it get us down, we will definitely be ready to show what we have in a few weeks at our next race in Mexico City."

Brian Frisselle, #61 Exchange Traded Gold Lexus-Riley: "It's awesome! It's our only finish at the Daytona 24, and now it's our best finish. A top-five is great, especially for a new team. Great teammates, great crew, I can't say enough good things. We want to thank Lexus for giving us such a great motor to make it all the way."

-credit: lexus

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing , Michael Shank Racing