Ganassi Lexus Riley Scores Hat Trick At Daytona

Daytona Beach, FL ? The Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley team made history at the Daytona International Speedway by winning its third-consecutive Rolex24. In the expert hands of skilled drivers Scott Pruett, Indianapolis 500 winners Juan Montoya and Dario Franchitti and Pruett?s regular teammate Memo Rojas, the classy team held a two-lap advantage when the checkered flag dropped Sunday afternoon.

The 46th anniversary edition of the Rolex24 marked the start of the 2008 Rolex Series season.

During the long event, the victors and 65 others experienced cool and breezy conditions, rain and eventually sunshine. A large crowd filled the track?s massive infield throughout the weekend.

For Pruett, he has chalked up three overall victories in the famed race.

Montoya won it for the second consecutive time and became the first driver to win the race in his first two starts. Franchitti and Rojas were first-time winners. After the fifth hour of the race, they were never out of the top-five.

A Lexus engine won for the third time in five attempts and the engine manufacturer scored its 18th Daytona Prototype victory since entering the series four years ago.

?This is over the top,? Pruett said in victory lane. ?We kept our nose clean and it was an awesome performance by our car and crew. This was the most difficult 24-hour race I have ever driven; it is more difficult than the LeMans race. Driving in the darkness and in the rain was unbelievable.?

?This has been an unbelievable year for me,? Franchitti stated. ?Racing is a team sport and our job as drivers are to keep the car on the road.?

In winning, Franchitti joined Arie Luyendyk and Dan Wheldon as drivers who won the Indianapolis 500 and followed up with a Rolex24 victory seven months later. ?You can?t compare one with another,? he stated. ?They just all stack up and it feels bloody good. From Sebring last March to now is one of those years you dream about.?

Added Montoya, who won the 2007 race, ?It is exciting to win the race, and the last two hours of the race were very difficult for us.?

Rojas was thrilled with the outcome. ?It is a dream come true for me and I will remember it for the rest of my life.?

Car owner Chip Ganassi stated, ?The most important victory is the last one, and today is very special. When the checkered flag came out, I asked my drivers, ?How does the win taste?? You can?t touch or see a win but you sure can feel it.?

The winners covered 2,473 miles and averaged 103.057 miles per hour for their day?s work. They led 252 of the 695 laps. Spins and accidents triggered 24 caution periods for a total of 95 laps.

Rolex grand marshal and American racing legend Dan Gurney made the trophy presentations.

Second place went to the comeback Stallings/Riley-Mathews Pontiac team of Rolex Series champions Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney along with Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and Champ Car stalwart Jimmy Vasser. Transmission problems beset them three-fourths of the way through the race, but they were able to make repairs and continue in the race.

?It is very difficult to get through this race,? Gurney said. ?It is a bummer that we couldn?t pull off the win.? Added Johnson, ?It is an honor to be here, and the race really helps get my season going.?

Vasser stated, ?To get hit with the transmission problem stings. For me, the race allows me to get the fight back into your routine.?
Third place overall was the Penske-Taylor Racing Pontiac Riley of IndyCar veterans Ryan Briscoe and Castroneves and former Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch. They were six laps behind the victors. The trio got behind early but steadily worked their way back into contention to gain a podium finish.

Fourth and fifth places went to Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley of Ricardo Zonta, Nic Jonsson and Darren Turner and the Penske-Taylor Racing Pontiac Riley of Wayne and Ricky Taylor, Max Angelelli and Michael Valiante.

They completed 688 and 687 laps, respectively.

The GT class winner was a SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 of fast qualifier Sylvain Trembley, David Haskell, Nick Ham and Raphael Matos. Overall, they earned ninth place, completing 664 laps.

?We dreamed of winning here,? Trembley noted. ?The race itself had the toughest GT field I have ever faced.?

Second and third in GT was a pair TRG Porsche GT3 Cup entries. Andy Lally, Ted Ballou, Richard Westbrook and Bryce Miller were second. Third place went to Spencer Pumpelly, Tim George Jr., Bryan Sellers, Romain Dumas and Emanuel Collard.

A second Ganassi entry of IndyCar stars Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon, Indy Pro Series champion Alex Lloyd and Salvador Duran ran with the leaders until the car took two off-course excursions, causing extensive damage. The car was withdrawn after 515 laps.

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