An all-star race fittingly was won by an all-star team, which had to battle from flag-to-flag to deliver a milestone victory.
The Rolex 24 At Daytona – where champion drivers from various racing disciplines come to make history – had another of the down-to-the-wire finishes that have become commonplace in this sports car endurance test. Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray, co-driving the No. 02 Ford EcoBoost DP of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, captured the Rolex 24’s 53rd running on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway by a mere 1.333 seconds over the race’s defending champions, No. 5 Corvette DP drivers Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais.
The Prototype class/overall podium was completed by the trio of Jordan Taylor, Ricky Taylor and Max Angelelli, who finished third in the No. 10 Corvette DP. All three podium teams finished on the lead lap – the 740th of the race, on the 3.56-mile DIS road course.
Regarding history: McMurray became only the third driver to win both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the DAYTONA 500 (2010), joining Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt on that most elite list. It also continued a career-long pattern for McMurray of success in major events. He also has won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ Brickyard 400 and the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.
“To be in that group with Mario and A.J. … it’s some feeling,” said McMurray, who will try to win the DAYTONA 500 for the second time on Feb. 22.
The Rolex 24 At Daytona is the annual season-opening event for the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, a series in its second year of existence following the 2014 merger of the former GRAND-AM Rolex Series and the American Le Mans Series Presented by Tequila Patrón. The Rolex 24, though, dates to 1962 with an original three-hour incarnation won legendary driver Dan Gurney – the start of a progression into its current status as North America’s premier sports car race with international renown.
And with that has evolved an annual pilgrimage to the “World Center of Racing” by drivers with NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One on their résumés, joining regulars from sports car racing.
That’s what the No. 02 brought to Daytona this weekend. Dixon is a three-time IndyCar Series champion and won the Indy 500 in 2008; Kanaan likewise has won both the Indy Car Series title and the Indy 500 (2013); Larson was last season’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year.
Ganassi, a winning Rolex 24 owner for the sixth time, annually fields lineups like this. His other entry this year, the No. 01 which finished 25th, was co-driven by five-time Rolex 24 champion Scott Pruett, premier road racer Joey Hand, IndyCar regular Charlie Kimball and former Indy Lights champion Sage Karam.
Ganassi appreciates versatility, saying he grew up in a time that he “respected race car drivers who could drive lots of different cars. And I think all the drivers on our team look at opportunities [to diversify] if there’s an opening on their schedule.”
Added McMurray: “It’s pretty unbelievable to get to come down to Daytona and have the opportunity to run for Chip and Felix, and know you have a chance to win it every year you’re here.”
In addition to the headlining Prototype class, three other class championships were contested in the Rolex 24:
The production-based GT Daytona class also featured a second career Rolex 24 class podium finish for actor-driver Patrick Dempsey, who co-drove to a third-place finish in the No. 58 Porsche 911 with Madison Snow, Jan Heylen and Philipp Eng.
Tickets for the remainder of 2015 Budweiser Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway are available for purchase on-line at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
Fans also can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for the latest news all season long. Fans can follow the latest on DAYTONA Rising, the $400 million frontstretch renovation at the “World Center of Racing” by using #DAYTONARising on Twitter or visiting www.daytonarising.com.