Team USA Scholarship Alumni Sweep Top Positions in the Rolex 24 at Daytona
Daytona Beach, Fla. (January 30, 2011) – Drivers from 10 different nations were represented on the podium at the conclusion of a thrilling Rolex 24 at Daytona this afternoon, including four Team USA Scholarship winners.
Joey Hand, from Sacramento, Calif., an alumni from 2000, drove a sensational stint this morning to pave the way toward Victory Lane for the #01 Telmex/Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-BMW he shared with veteran Scott Pruett, regular co-driver Memo Rojas and Daytona debutant Graham Rahal. The quartet triumphed in a star-studded Daytona Prototype field which saw the top four cars finish within a few seconds of each other.
Meanwhile, the equally hotly contested GT category saw 1999 Team USA Scholarship winner Andy Lally, from Dacula, Ga., share the winning TRG Porsche GT3 Cup with close friend Spencer Pumpelly, factory Porsche driver Wolf Henzler, NASCAR regular Brendan Gaughan and car owner Steven Bertheau.
Bryan Sellers, from Auburn, Ga., winner of a Team USA Scholarship in 2001, joined countryman Bryce Miller and Englishmen Rob Bell and Tim Sugden aboard the second-placed Paul Miller Racing Porsche GT3 Cup after leading for several hours on Saturday evening.
The season-opening event in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 never fails to serve up excitement, and this year’s 49th running of the endurance classic lived up to all expectations. Seven cars remained on the lead lap at mid-morning on Sunday, and after fortunes had ebbed and flowed since the start at 3:30 pm the previous afternoon, misfortune struck Hand when he incurred a 30-second stop-go penalty for inadvertently clipping one of his discarded wheels after being signaled out of the pits following routine service. Undeterred, Hand fought back from a deficit of almost a minute to trail the race leading sister Target/Ganassi car by less than 15 seconds when he handed the car back to team leader Pruett a little under one hour later.
Excellent pit strategy enabled Pruett to take the lead for good on Lap 694, with less than an hour remaining, whereupon the defending series champion secured his sixth Rolex 24 victory and the first for Hand.
Lally, too, had his share of drama. The three-time Rolex series champion and 2009 Rolex 24 winner posted the fastest lap in qualifying, only for his time to be disallowed following technical inspection. Lally started the car at the back of the field but quickly worked his way into contention. The #67 TRG Porsche survived various dramas, including a broken clutch in the closing stages, to claim the victory.
Several other Team USA Scholarship alumni also played starring roles in the traditional twice-around-the-clock classic. Paul Edwards (1998), from Santa Maria, Calif., Buddy Rice (1997), from Phoenix, Ariz., and A.J. Allmendinger (2001), from Hollister, Calif., all led the race overall at various stages, while Dane Cameron (2006), from Sonoma, Calif., ran up front in the GT class before his Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 suffered some mechanical difficulties. Memo Gidley (1995), from Novato, Calif., unfortunately hit trouble in the early stages, while 2010 winners Spencer Pigot, from Windermere, Fla., and Felix Serralles, from Haines City, Fla., were on hand as spectators.
The Team USA Scholarship program has been helping young American drivers since 1990 and is supported by Doug Mockett & Company, Road Racing Drivers Club, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, Walldinger Racing, Robo-Pong, Highcroft Racing, "The Road to Indy," Mazda, Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, Honda Performance Development, Silicon Salvage, McMurry Inc., Robertson Racing, PitFit Training, Sparco USA, eFormulaCarNews.com, Speedstar Management, Styled Aesthetic and Manifest Group as well as numerous past Scholarship winners.
-source: team usa scholarship