CHAMPCAR/CART: Series drivers Daytona 24 race notes

Champ Car Contingent Has Strong Showing At Daytona Drivers with Champ Car World Series ties impress at Rolex 24 At Daytona as car shared by Vasser finishes second overall; car of Wilson and Rahal winds up in sixth. INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 28,...

Champ Car Contingent Has Strong Showing At Daytona

Drivers with Champ Car World Series ties impress at Rolex 24 At Daytona as car shared by Vasser finishes second overall; car of Wilson and Rahal winds up in sixth.

INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 28, 2008)--Representatives of the Champ Car World Series put in a strong performance on behalf of the organization in this past weekend's 46th Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona sports-car endurance race with the car shared by Jimmy Vasser overcoming late-race mechanical problems finishing runner-up and Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal sharing the car that captured the pole position and ended up sixth overall.

The race, the first major motorsports event of 2008, was won by the Lexus/Riley in Daytona Prototype Class shared by 2000 Champ Car titlist Juan Pablo Montoya, former Champ Car drivers Scott Pruett and Dario Franchitti and Memo Rojas. The winning car completed 695 laps and averaged 103.057 mph for the 24 hours. Vasser, the 1996 Champ Car titlist, finished two laps back in the No. 99 Gainsco Pontiac/Riley co-driven by reigning NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson and former Atlantic series drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty.

Vasser's car led or challenged for the lead throughout the night. However, the co-owner of PKV Racing was forced into the garage for gearbox repairs with less than six hours remaining. He was able to rejoin the race six laps behind the lead--essentially costing him the race. Vasser and his co-drivers were able to make up four laps by the time the checkered flag fell.

Ever the racer, Vasser found little solace in finishing second.

"It's almost better to finish fourth on something like this," Vasser said. "Second, you were kind of close. We were there pretty much all night long, just sticking to the plan, taking care of the car. Typical story, it's a long race and to get bit like that as late as we did, it kind of stinks. I don't get to drive cars that much any more, so it is good to get back in the rhythm and get the fight back in your soul."

Wilson and Rahal also experienced problems in their No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley they shared with Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson. Their stop occurred during the night hours of the race and dropped them out of contention. The car had been among the lead group prior to that moment. In Thursday qualifying, Negri, a former competitor in the Indy Lights Series, set a new track to capture the pole position.

Negri started the race in the car and Wilson took over and briefly led before turning the car over to Rahal, who ultimately ran a close second. The team remained in the lead pack but suffered a number of tire problems, forcing extra time in the pits. Later in the race, during the early morning hours, Wilson went slightly wide and apparently hit a pothole, seriously damaging the suspension. The ensuing repairs took the car out of contention although the drivers were able to get back into the top 10 and finish sixth.

"I'd been in the car for about two hours and 45 minutes when it happened," explained Wilson. "I was pushing hard and trying to manage a high water temperature problem, and I ran about six inches wide coming out of Turn 1. I caught a hole, broke the suspension and spun across the grass. Up to that point, the car was in pretty good shape and Mike and the guys did a great job as always. I'm just really disappointed that this cost us a possible podium."

"It's always fun to do this race, but this one has been really disappointing," added Rahal. "We did everything possible to win it, but there are so many things that are out of your control during a 24-hour race and those things just didn't go our way ... The guys put together a great car and I was impressed with the team."

-credit: ccws

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya