IndyCar and NASCAR big name line-up conquers American long-distance sportscar classic.
Daytona Beach, Fla - Ganassi's 'star car' line-up of Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray won the 53rd Rolex 24 at Daytona in their Riley-Ford, seeing off the challenges of rivals Wayne Taylor Racing and Action Express.
I hated this race last year, I was horrible! It’s a pretty emotional victory.
Dixon got into the lead during the penultimate round of pitstops, but had Jordan Taylor right with him as they raced into the final hour. Taylor made his final splash-and-dash with 40 minutes to go, with Dixon – the master of fuel saving – running a lap longer and making a shorter stop which extended his advantage to almost five seconds, and he cruised home to victory despite a late yellow.
Star power in combined NASCAR/IndyCar lineup
“It’s such a team effort here," said the magnanimous Dixon. "We kept the car clean, tried to look after it as much as possible, a big thank you to my team-mates. We had the speed, and managed to jump them in the pitlane there. It’s my first win here since 2006, and the last part of the race is so horrible, you think something is going to break. But it was mega."
NASCAR rising star Larson added: “I hated this race last year, I was horrible! I’m just a dirt oval guy, so to come here and win is awesome. It’s a pretty emotional victory.”
First-time winner Kanaan, who went off in the night and damaged the splitter, was relieved to win: “I made a little mistake, and promised the team I would get it back. What a great way to start the year. I love watches, and I got one free today!”
Team officials speaking of Dixon's ability, "He's never complacent and he'll come back here to race again, wanting to improve himself. He's in the Indy shop two to three days a week. He's very direct wtih what he wants with his race car and he's very selfless."
McMurray makes history
McMurray, meantime, joined AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti as winners of both the Daytona 500 and 24 Hours: “It’s really special. Tony and Kyle and I were just thanking Chip and Felix for letting us drive. It was all about Scott Dixon today, he got in and did an amazing job, three and half hours in the car at the end. Really cool.”
As for their chief rivals, Taylor shared with brother Ricky and Max Angelelli in the Wayne Taylor-run Dallara Corvette, which had suffered a misfire in the night but overcame traction control issues as the race wore on. It dropped to third in the very closing stages, as an extra pitstop was required to extract Jordan from the car as he had completed four hours of driving within a six-hour period, which effectively guaranteed the Ganassi success.
"It was just a miscalculation on driver time, so it’s a bit disappointing," said Jordan Taylor. "We win and lose as a team. We just cant win this race: two seconds and a third now.”
Issues for sister car
Meantime, the 'regular' No 01 Ganassi car suffered an issues with two and a half hours remaining, losing third place as he pitted for clutch problem when Sage Karam was behind the wheel, losing a couple of laps before it was later sent to the garage where it retired. The failure stymied Scott Pruett’s hopes of taking Hurley Haywood’s mantle of America’s most successful Daytona 24 Hours racer.
The Action Express car of Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais was forced to battle back after losing three laps on Saturday night due to a fuel connector issue. It finished a second after the Taylor car's late pitstop, but was never a true threat to the winning car despite finishing 1.3s behind.
"Unfortunately, we had a problem with the fuel pressure, but the team was prepared right away," said Barbosa. "We lost three laps and it wasn't looking very good ... We were three laps down for a long time but we had an excellent strategy, getting two laps back in one time."
The VisitFlorida.com Corvette of Richard Westbrook, Michael Valiente and Mike Rockenfeller battled with traction control and engine map issues throughout the race, and was classified fourth but six laps down.
Comeback by No. 31 Whelen Corvette
One of the comebacks of the race was the second Action Express Corvette of Eric Curran, Dane Cameron, Max Papis and Phil Keen, which lost 17 laps when a torsion bar in the steering column broke, and needed a lengthy repair. It recovered to finish fifth in class, and seventh overall.
The DeltaWing was the race’s first retirement, after Andy Meyrick ran in the top four early on, with a transmission failure.
In a race of high attrition, both ESM HPDs and the Starworks Riley also went out, along with the Krohn Racing Ligier, and the leading P2-type car was the pole-claiming MSR Ligier, which finished 24 laps down after a lengthy garage visit on Sunday morning.