NASCAR: Ganassi grabs top two
Published 12:00 am Monday, January 31, 2011
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — America’s longest endurance race came down to a one-lap sprint.
No surprise, the winner ended up being the guy with more wins in the Grand-Am Series than anybody else.
Three-time and defending series champion Scott Pruett drove the last leg of the Rolex 24 at Daytona and held off Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon during a final restart.
Pruett’s smooth restart helped him pull away from Dixon and third-place finisher Joao Barbosa after the green-white restart and clinch the Daytona Prototype class by 2.42 seconds. It was Pruett’s 32nd win in the series and his fourth Rolex 24 victory (1994, 2007, 2008). It could be his most meaningful, too.
This one capped the “Ganassi Slam.”
Ganassi became the only car owner to win the four biggest races in the United States during a 12-month period. His drivers won the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400 last year.
“I don’t drive the cars, I don’t change the tires, I don’t work on the engines. There’s a lot of great competitors that it takes to make up a team,” Ganassi said. “I’m just the guy that gets to stand up here and talk about it. It’s the guys that do all the work.”
Pruett and co-drivers Memo Rojas, Joey Hand and Graham Rahal celebrated with Ganassi and fellow team owner Felix Sabates in Victory Lane. They received electric guitars and Rolex watches to go with the memory of winning at one of racing’s most hallowed tracks.
Pruett and Rojas teamed to win nine of 12 races in the Grand-Am Series last year, but they came up short in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway. They also finished second in 2009.
“There’s a lot of should’ve, would’ve, could’ve,” Pruett said. “I was right there the last two years. … I lived it. Chip as well. We lived it the last two years. So it’s certainly nice to be back in Victory Lane. At the end of the day, it’s exciting for our team to have a 1-2 finish. That’s how you one-up what you do here. I think that’s absolutely amazing.”
Pruett used pit strategy to get his No. 01 BMW Riley ahead of the other Ganassi entry in the final hour and stayed out front down the stretch. Pruett, Rojas, Hand and Rahal ended up racing 721 laps and more than 2,566 miles. More importantly, they overcame several setbacks.
The car went down two laps Saturday because of a gear box issue and fell as low as 18th in the DP class before getting back near the front. The last problem looked like it might doom the team.
Hand, who consistently clocked the event’s fastest laps, drove to the front of the field in the closing hours.