No Fewer Than 10 Team USA Scholarship Drivers Contested the Rolex 24 at Daytona Daytona Beach, Fla. (January 30, 2006) ---- This past weekend's 44th Running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona was notable for many different reasons. It attracted a ...
No Fewer Than 10 Team USA Scholarship Drivers Contested the Rolex 24 at Daytona
Daytona Beach, Fla. (January 30, 2006) ---- This past weekend's 44th Running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona was notable for many different reasons.
It attracted a stellar entry list comprising top names from many different branches of the sport, including Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, the Indy Racing League, NASCAR Nextel Cup and, of course, the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve; it produced the first-ever 24-hour race triumph for the team owned by Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates; it added another feather in the caps of 2005 Indianapolis 500 race winner and IRL champion Dan Wheldon and 2003 IRL champ Scott Dixon; and provided the biggest win thus far for emerging Nextel Cup racer Casey Mears.
It was memorable, too, for the fact that no fewer than 10 former winners of the prestigious Team USA Scholarship were among the high-quality, 66-car field.
Three of the 10 took turns in the overall lead of the race, with 2001 Team USA Scholarship winner A.J. Allmendinger pacing a total of 27 laps in the #60 Michael Shank Racing Lexus-Riley Daytona Prototype; 1994 winner Mike Borkowski leading a handful of laps in the sister #6 Graydon Elliott Fusion Racing with MSR entry; and 1995 alumnus Memo Gidley out in front during one of his stints aboard the #19 Playboy/Uniden Racing Ford-Crawford.
Meanwhile, in the equally competitive GT category, 1998 and 1999 Team USA Scholarship winners Paul Edwards and Andy Lally both led the way for a while in their respective #64 and #65 TRG Pontiac GTO.Rs.
The best-placed Scholarship winner in the final overall standings was Allmendinger, who capped his first-ever endurance race with a fine second-place run alongside fellow RuSPORT Champ Car star Justin Wilson and Michael Shank's regular drivers, Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson.
Gidley, sharing with Michael McDowell and Alex Barron, placed sixth after a couple of lengthy delays.
Lally claimed second-place honors in the GT class -- and a magnificent ninth-place overall -- sharing with Marc Bunting, R.J. Valentine and Johnny O'Connell.
Bryan Herta, who claimed the second-ever Team USA Scholarship in 1991, and fellow IRL star Buddy Rice (1997) finished 11th overall and ninth in the DP class alongside Michael Valiante and team owner Rob Finlay in the #28 Finlay Motorsports Ford-Crawford.
Jimmy Vasser (1990), Tony Ave (1992) and Bryan Sellers (2001) also represented the Team USA Scholarship in North America's premier endurance race.
In addition, Joey Hand (2000) and Joe D'Agostino (2003) were present at Daytona, while Phil Giebler (2000), was busy flying the Team USA colors in last weekend's A1 GP event in Durban, South Africa.
The first Team USA Scholarship was awarded in 1990 to Jimmy Vasser. The most recent recipient, 17-year-old Californian J.R. Hildebrand, finished a strong third in last November's Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Trophy which comprised a half-dozen races at Snetterton and Brands Hatch in England.
Current supporters of the program include Mockett.com, a Torrance, Calif.-based producer and supplier of "Fine Architectural Hardware For Your Fine Furniture," Sparco USA, RACER magazine, Speedstar, Mi-Jack Conquest Racing, Dale Coyne Racing, Jim Russell Racing Schools and the majority of past Scholarship winners.