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Ganassi Finishes 1-2 in Rolex 24 at Daytona
In a one-lap dash that followed the 23rd caution of an action-filled race, Scott Pruett drove away from Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon on Sunday to win the Rolex 24 Grand-Am season opener at Daytona International Speedway's road course.
In leading teammates Joey Hand, Memo Rojas and Graham Rahal to a fourth Daytona Prototype division victory for owner Chip Ganassi, Pruett won the overall title in the Rolex 24 for the fourth time. In all divisions combined, Pruett has six Rolex 24 wins.
With the victory, team owner Chip Ganassi completed what amounts to an auto racing grand slam, with four straight "majors" in hand. He now holds the trophies for the 2010 Daytona 500 (Jamie McMurray), 2010 Indianapolis 500 (Dario Franchitti), 2010 Brickyard 400 (McMurray) and 2011 Rolex 24.
McMurray, who teamed with Franchitti, Dixon and NASCAR teammate Juan Montoya in the second-place No. 02 BMW on Sunday, will defend his Daytona 500 victory Feb. 20.
"I think that, for all of us, it's really quite amazing what Chip's done," McMurray said. "Chip was known for his IndyCar program for a long time, and the NASCAR program wasn't really where it needed to be. And then the Grand-Am program was winning championships, and I feel like the NASCAR program's as good as it can be right now -- doing really well everywhere.
"To come back and not only win this, but to have a one-two, it's really amazing what he's been able to do."
After driving like a man possessed following a 30-second penalty for hitting a tire on pit road, Hand turned the No. 01 BMW over to Pruett with 1 hour, 48 minutes left in the race.
"Scott Pruett's the right guy to get it done," Hand said after exiting the car.
He was right. Pruett took the lead during a decisive cycle of pit stops in the final hour of the 24-hour event and pulled away to a comfortable lead over the No. 02 Ganassi car driven in its final stint by Scott Dixon.
The lead didn't last. With seven minutes left in the race, the No. 90 Chevrolet lost its rear cowling and caused a full-course caution. With a phenomenal restart, Pruett pulled away to win the race by 2.07 seconds over the No. 02, which survived a drag race for the runner-up spot against the No. 9 Action Express Porsche Riley.
With 54 minutes left, Pruett brought the No. 01 Daytona Prototype to the pits for tires and fuel. Dixon didn't pit until three laps later, and during that time, Pruett turned a 2.26-second deficit into an 11.9-second lead by the time the pit stops cycled through.
In the GT division, the TRG Motorsports team of Andy Lally, Spencer Pumpelly, Brendan Gaughan, Wolf Henzler and Steven Bertheau drove the No. 67 Porsche to victory for owner Kevin Buckler.
Lally, who drove the final stint, finished one lap ahead of the second-place Porsche driven by Bryce Miller, Tim Sugden, Bryan Sellers and Rob Bell.
Actor Patrick Dempsey claimed a third-place finish as an owner/driver in the GT division, teaming with Joe Foster, Charles Espenlaub and Tom Long. Dempsey's No. 40 Mazda was leading before Long spun with approximately six hours left.