Action Express Racing: Rolex 24 At Daytona Race Recap
DAYTONA BEACH, FL -- Action Express Racing went into the 49th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona looking to recreate the excitement of its upset win in the prestigious race one year earlier. After a long and hard-fought 24 hours, the No. 9 Porsche/Riley found itself once again in the middle of a historic finish, but this time had to settle for a third-place podium finish.
With just eight minutes remaining in the race, the caution flag flew for debris from a blown tire on the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Chevrolet, bunching up the four remaining cars on the lead lap for a one lap sprint for the win. Lining up third behind the No. 01 and No. 02 for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sababtes -- and ahead of the No. 23 United Autosports Ford -- driver Joao Barbosa made a last ditch effort to claim the second position, falling just short.
"I thought on the last lap I could have pushed a little bit for second place, but I had to defend third place at the same time, so I couldn't push too hard," said Barbosa, who piloted the winning car one year ago. "I'm extremely pleased with the outcome."
Added team owner Bob Johnson: "It was exciting, you have to give it that. You don't see those types of finishes in this series too much. At first I wasn't going to watch at all, but then it started to become possible to move forward and we were all jumping up and down."
The first race for Action Express with its two-car lineup went well. Neither team had the mechanical problems that plague most teams over a 24-hour race - a great sign of things to come for 2011 - and in the end, both teams finished with top 10s.
"That's a huge accomplishment. Just to finish this race is a big win," Johnson said. "This team worked extremely hard. They're a hard-working group of guys and I had no doubt that we would finish. We finished well so I certainly have to be happy with that."
It was a near perfect day for both the No. 5 and No. 9. The only slip-up came in the race's 18th hour when David Donohue looped the No. 5 Porsche/Riley in the chicane and did not have a clutch pedal to get the car refired. It took the team three laps to get the car towed and back on track and the team eventually finished 9th, four laps down.
"I went under the No. 59 in the chicane and it just didn't really slow down much. I got into the dirt and around it went," said Donohue of the spin. "It's frustrating. We would've only lost a little bit of track position if we would've had a clutch. These guys do such a great job and it was an on-track error that cost us a podium."
Still, with a podium and a pair of top 10s, Action Express opens the season once again with momentum coming out of Daytona. They will look to make the podium for a second time when the series returns to Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 4-5 for the Grand-Prix of Miami.
"It was a very difficult race for us. We didn't have the outright speed for the Ganassi guys, but all the drivers and the team did such a great job. We were on the lead lap the whole time. I thought on the last lap I could have pushed a little bit for second place, but I had to defend my third place also so I couldn't push too hard. I'm really pleased with the outcome."
"What an amazing race. I couldn't be happier to be able to finish third and be on the podium for the second year. This is such a great driver lineup, it's been a blast. This is really awesome."
"Obviously it feels good to be on the podium, but we were aiming to win and that's what we all expected. But with all of this competition, just to finish the 24-hour race, I'm happy. I think we lacked a little bit of speed, and that was it. Apart from that it was a great team effort. We didn't make any mistakes and the team did an immaculate job in the pits. We'll hope for the best when we come back next year."
"I'm extremely proud of the whole team. This was definitely an effort by everybody. The drivers did an unbelievable job and the crew did a perfect job in the pits. Today we proved that we are here, and on the last lap we were fighting for the win. That's what you want. You can't ask for anything better."