Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates’ “Star Car” lived up to its billing in the 53rd Rolex 24 At Daytona. With a lineup of IndyCar’s Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan joined by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson, the No. 02 Target Ford EcoBoost/Riley prevailed in a hard-fought battle with Action Express Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing to win the opening round of the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
The race came down to a seven-minute, 30-second sprint to the finish, with Dixon holding off defending race winner Sebastien Bourdais by 2.267 seconds at the checkered flag.
The victory enabled McMurray to join A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti as the only drivers to win both the Daytona 500 and Rolex 24. Dixon won the Rolex 24 for the second time – winning in the Ganassi No. 02 in 2006 – while Kanaan and Larson joined McMurray in winning the event for the first time. It was Ganassi Racing’s sixth Rolex 24 triumph in 12 attempts.
“It takes a team of people, it takes a team of drivers,” car owner Chip Ganassi said. “I think the 01 car had a great team, as well. They had just as much of a shot.”
The race shaped up as a shootout between Dixon and Jordan Taylor. However, a miscalculation over the latter’s driving time brought the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP to the pits during the final caution. Ricky Taylor took over, served a penalty for pitting out of sequence and finished third, giving the team its third consecutive podium in the event.
Bourdais moved into second in the closing minutes but could not challenge Dixon, joining Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi in giving the 2014-winning No. 5 Mustang Sampling Corvette DP a second-place finish.
The latter half of the race was a four-car, back-and-forth battle among the eventual top-three finishers and the No. 01 Ford EcoBoost/Riley of Scott Pruett, Joey Hand, Charlie Kimball and Sage Karam throughout the final 12 hours. However, clutch problems with two hours, 30 minutes remaining dropped the No. 01 car from contention, ending Pruett’s bid to become the lone six-time overall winner of the Rolex 24.
Attrition thinned the Prototype field, with retirements including both Tequila Patrón ESM Honda HPD ARX entries and the two SpeedSource SKYACTIV Diesels, in addition to the Krohn Racing Ligier/Judd, DeltaWing DWC13, and Starworks Motorsport Dinan BMW/Riley.
NEWS AND NOTES
· The race opened the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup, featuring the four endurance races on the TUDOR Championship schedule. With points scored at six-hour segments, the No. 02 Ganassi entry led only the final period to score 16 points, one more than Wayne Taylor Racing.
· The race proved to be a long uphill battle for the No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Team Fox Corvette DP after Max Papis went to the garage for 17 laps with steering problems early in the second hour. It was a struggle the rest of the way for Dane Cameron, Eric Curran, Phil Keen and Papis, as the Action Express team was rewarded with a fifth-place finish, 19 laps down.
· Tom Long recorded a pair of firsts early in the race when he led a lap in the No. 07 SpeedSource Mazda Prototype. It marked the first lap led for a diesel-powered car at the Rolex 24, and also the first overall lap led for Mazda in the history of the event.
Jamie McMurray, Driver – No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Target Ford EcoBoost/Riley
“I saw Chip walk in here just a second ago, and I told him after the race was over, we have shared some of the most special memories of my life together, some of the greatest days, with the exception of getting married and having kids, I’ve shared with Chip Ganassi and Felix. It’s been great. Victory Lane at Daytona has been very special for us with the Daytona 500, and this is a big deal for me because these cars are so much different than what Kyle and I typically drive.”
Christian Fittipaldi, Driver – No. 5 Action Express Racing Mustang Sampling Corvette DP
“One position shy, but we’ll take it because from the get-go we never had a perfect car, and we were struggling with it during the whole race. This race is a lot of effort, because you’re pretty much preparing yourself the whole year for it – and everyone that’s here obviously wants to win. The Ganassi boys had a perfect run. Let’s move on to the next one.”
Scott Pruett, Driver – No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford EcoBoost/Riley
“(This is not) the way we thought this was going to end. We thought it was going to be an epic battle the last three hours with the 10, the 5 and the 02. I’m really just disappointed for all the guys. All the effort and energy that goes into getting here; all the work, all the countless nights of lost sleep. Just all the dedication these guys put in. The engine, I can’t say enough about Ford. The EcoBoost engine ran flawlessly. It was incredible.”