DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., -- The finish in the 45th anniversary of the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona came down to a three-car battle on the same lap in the final hours.
The No. 01 TELMAX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley and driver Scott Pruett outlasted the No. 11 SAMAX CITGO Pontiac Riley and Patrick Carpentier and the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley and Jan Magnussen to win the Rolex 24.
It's the second straight victory in the Rolex 24 for owner Chip Ganassi and the second Rolex 24 victory for Pruett, who won the twice-around-the-clock challenge back in 1994 with Nissan. For Salvador Duran and Juan Pablo Montoya, the other co-drivers on the No. 01 car, it was their first Rolex 24 triumphs in their first Rolex 24 starts.
"It's like winning a championship in one race," Ganassi said.
The No. 01 car had the third closest Rolex 24 margin of victory - 1 minute, 14.749 seconds - over the No. 11 car while the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley, which battled clutch and brake problems in the final hours, finished third.
The winning No. 01 car turned 668 laps and 2,378 miles on the historic 3.56-mile road course, which is equivalent of a road trip from Daytona Beach to Phoenix, Ariz.
The No. 10 car featured the driving lineup of Magnussen, Wayne Taylor, Max Angelelli and three-time Daytona 500 champion Jeff Gordon.
In the final hours of the Rolex 24, the three lead-lap cars were nose to tail with Montoya behind the No. 01, Angelelli in the No. 10 and Ryan Dalziel in the No. 11.
"It was incredible after 20 hours there were three cars on the lead lap, three really fast cars," Montoya said. "It was like qualifying on every lap over and over again."
The Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates sister car, the No. 02, was also a late-race contender but Memo Rojas crashed entering Turn 1 when attempting to pass a GT class car.
Montoya becomes the first driver since Mario Andretti to win a Rolex 24, a Formula One race, an Indianapolis 500, and a Champ Car/IndyCar Series title.
¿It's a big deal,¿ Montoya said. ¿But I¿m back here in a couple of weeks for the Daytona 500. Hopefully, we can do something about that as well.¿
Meanwhile, Gordon, who was joined by fellow NASCAR stars Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte, hopes to return again in the future for the Rolex 24.
¿I had a great experience with Wayne and his whole group,¿ Gordon said. ¿I worked a lot with Max during the tests and him and Jan were so helpful to get me up to speed. I had a blast out there, but I made some mistakes so I¿m going to have to come back because I don¿t like to make mistakes. I want to come back and fix those and give it another try and just be more of an asset to the team.¿
Richard Petty, international motorsports icon and seven-time Daytona 500 champion, served as the Rolex 24 Grand Marshal and gave the starting command to the 69-car field. For Petty, who is NASCAR's all-time wins leader with 200, this is the first Rolex 24 At Daytona that he has attended in person.
"It's just completely different from Cup racing," Petty said. "I come here, there are people wandering around everywhere and all the tents out there. It's like a tailgate party. Looks like everyone is really enjoying themselves. I know I will enjoy myself, too."
For more information on the 46th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2008 and all events at Daytona International Speedway, call 1-800-PITSHOP.