DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 27, 2008) – Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates continued its dominance of North America’s most prestigious sports car race winning their third straight overall victory on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.
The team of Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Dario Franchitti in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley won the 46th anniversary of the Rolex 24 by a margin of two laps.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s win is the first time a team has won the overall Rolex 24 in three consecutive years.
While it’s a third straight victory for Ganassi, it’s the second straight Rolex 24 win for Montoya and Pruett and the third career overall Rolex 24 win for Pruett.
“This is over the top to come here and win this thing overall, now back-to-back and three in a row for Chip,” said Pruett, who was behind the wheel for the checkered flag. “Wow, this is unbelievable.”
Winners Press Conference
Franchitti, who is making the jump to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with Ganassi beginning with the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 17, becomes the third Indy 500 driver to win the Rolex 24 the following year.
“It’s been a helluva year,” Franchitti said. “These guys, the preparation they put into this car is the reason why we’re here. We just tried to stay out of trouble and here we are -- bloody brilliant.”
Montoya was behind the wheel of the No. 01 running second to the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley in Hour 21 when the No. 6 car encountered suspension problems and was forced to make repairs. From that point, the No. 01 was in cruise control.
“It’s was pretty hard until the last stint,” said Montoya, who was Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2007. “We were pretty close with the 6 car. They had a problem and after that it was more of bringing the car home.”
Two-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and 2006 Daytona 500 champion Jimmie Johnson came close to that elusive first Rolex 24 win again finishing second in the No. 99 Lowe’s/GAINSCO Pontiac Riley with co-drivers Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and Jimmy Vasser.
Rounding out the podium was the No. 9 Penske-Taylor Racing Pontiac Riley with drivers Helio Castroneves, Kurt Busch and Ryan Briscoe.
The competition was tight throughout the Rolex 24. There were a record 15 different leaders and 695 laps were completed in the race.
The finish was shaping up to be a special one for the No. 59 Brumos Porsche team. With just under five hours remaining in the race and Joao Barbosa behind the wheel with the overall lead, the rear suspension failed coming off NASCAR Turn 4. The car spun out, made contact with the inside retaining wall and caused significant front end damage to the car.
“Joao had a great restart and going around the banking coming out of (NASCAR Turn) 4, the lower tie rod broke,” No. 59 co-driver and five-time Rolex 24 champion Hurley Haywood. “The bolt that holds it on broke and it just sent him right into the wall. There was nothing he could do about it. You want to cry almost.”
Patrick Dempsey, star of the hit ABC show Grey’s Anatomy, made his first career start in the Rolex 24 finishing 39th overall co-driving Charles Espenlaub, Joe Foster, Romeo Kapudija and Scott Maxwell.
“We had a lot of bad luck but the team has really rallied to keep the car out there,” Dempsey said. “We wanted to finish this race. We had a great time and I can’t wait to do it again.”
The pole winner of the Rolex 24 – the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley driven by Oswaldo Negri – led the 66-car field to the green flag on Saturday afternoon and finished sixth overall.
In the GT class, the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda with drivers Sylvain Tremblay, David Haskell, Nick Ham and Raphael Matos finished ninth overall and captured the class victory by a margin of seven laps.
“It was pretty special,” Tremblay said. “I’ve dreamt of this since I’ve started racing. To win at Daytona has been a dream of mine for a long, long time. When I first talked of getting a Mazda running against the Porsches, it seemed like a joke back then. There was so much that had to happen, so many pieces we had to build. Then we had to convince other people to believe in our dream, and pull on from there.”
Before the Rolex 24 went green on Saturday afternoon, the crowd was treated to a flyover by three Navy F-5 Tigers based out of Key West and Rolex 24 Grand Marshal Dan Gurney’s starting command, “Drivers, start your engines.”