DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates’ magical run continued on Sunday with their fourth overall victory in the 49th Rolex 24 At Daytona at Daytona International Speedway.
In the final minutes of America’s premier sports car race, a late caution suddenly turned the Rolex 24 At Daytona into a sprint race. The No. 01 BMW Riley with driver Scott Pruett behind the wheel held off the sister Ganassi Racing car – the No. 02 BMW Riley and driver Scott Dixon – on a final green and white restart to capture one of the most competitive twice-around-the-clock challenges in history. “It’s exciting for our team having a one-two finish,” Pruett said. “I think that’s how you one-up what you do here. I think that’s absolutely amazing and I’m proud of our whole organization. “The 02 car is great, having a team car in this race you get to bounce things off each other in practice and in testing and really try and make the most out of that opportunity to put two cars up front.” It was the fourth career overall Rolex 24 victory for Pruett and second for co-driver Memo Rojas while Graham Rahal and Joey Hand earned their first coveted Rolex watches.
Ganassi won three Rolex 24s between 2006-08 and has earned runner-up finishes the past two years.
“I don’t drive the cars, I don’t change the tires, I don’t work on the engines,” Ganassi said. “There are lots of people, lots of great competitors that it takes to make up a team, and I’m just the guy that gets to stand up there and talk about it.”
The winning No. 01 entry covered 721 laps, 2,566.76 miles, equivalent of a trip from Daytona Beach to Los Angeles. The margin of victory was 2.070 seconds and there were four cars on the lead lap.
Rounding out the top three was the runner-up No. 02 Ganassi Racing entry with Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Juan Pablo Montoya and 2010 Daytona 500 champion Jamie McMurray. Third-place honors went to the No. 9 Action Express Racing Porsche Riley and drivers Max Papis, Christian Fittipaldi, JC France, Joao Barbosa and Terry Borcheller. The No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3, driven by Andy Lally, NASCAR driver Brendan Gaughan, Spencer Pumpelly, Wolf Henzler and Steven Bertheau, overcame a broken clutch to take GT class honors.
“This car was awesome and the gearbox that these guys built was a testament to us beating it up for 17 hours and not using a clutch,” Lally said. “It was just phenomenal to be a part of TRG and I’m in Victory Lane at Daytona,” Gaughan said. “That’s a dream come true.”
Rounding out the podium in the GT class was the No. 48 Miller Barrett Racing Porsche GT3 and drivers Bryce Miller, Tim Sugden, Bryan Sellers and Rob Bell in runner-up honors and Dempsey Racing in third place with actor Patrick Dempsey, Joe Foster, Tom Long and Charles Espenlaub. For Dempsey, it was his first podium in the Rolex 24 and a huge step in both his racing career and the team’s progression.
“I think it’s important for our development as a team,” Dempsey said. “The sacrifices Joe has done personally and professionally to get us here; and (engineer) Kirt (Wightman), our team, they have worked so hard the last few months with not the kind of funding that other teams have.”
Dempsey got emotional about his finish in his post-race interviews. “You just think of the waves of emotions,” Dempsey said.
“I started racing at the Panoz school a long time ago, and Joe was the head instructor and Charles was the instructor, and from that getting off the couch from watching SPEED on Sunday, to go and follow your dreams and to be here, it’s pretty special.”
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