GANASSI CARS FINISH ONE-TWO IN ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA
Ex-Indy car driver and now team owner – make that very successful team owner – Chip Ganassi of Pittsburgh, Pa., took up Sunday where he left off in 2010 by watching his cars win the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the opening race in the 2011 Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series.
Regular drivers (and defending series champions) Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas – supported in this 24-hour race by sports car ace Joey Hand and IZOD IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal – won over their teammates in the second BMW-Riley Daytona Prototype Ganassi car – IndyCar drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti and NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers Juan Montoya and Jamie McMurray – to give their boss a one-two victory in the Florida winter classic.
Third-place went to Joao Barbosa, Terry Borcheller, Christian Fittipaldi, Max Papis and J.C. France in a Porsche Cayenne-Riley.
As has become almost routine in recent races, the 24-hour marathon was won by seconds – as compared to years gone by when the margin was minutes or, in the extreme, laps.
Pruett crossed the finish line with a margin over Dixon of a little more than two seconds, with Barbosa hot on the Indy car driver’s heels and missing second by a blink. Full results story here.
Now, the TV people were making a big deal about this being a Grand Slam of sorts – saying that Ganassi had now won the Daytona 24 in the same 12-month period as his cars had won the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400.
But the last three victories came in 2010 and this win came in 2011. I’m of the old school that subscribes to a Grand Slam as being in the same calendar year, so I’ll be cheering for Ganassi cars to win THIS YEAR at Daytona in the 500 and twice at Indy. Throw in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in May, and then you’ll be talking about a real GRAND slam.
Okay, a couple of things:
– Graham Rahal was on the winning team at Daytona 30 years after his father Bobby was on a team that won it. Good for him.
– Montoya was a one-man battering ram out there, hitting other cars and walls every time they let him near the cockpit. In fact, he destroyed three noses and an undertray on that second Ganassi car.
Okay, they finished second but no thanks should go to Montoya because, if he hadn’t been so busy screwing up, that car might have won the race.
– David Hobbs is a great colour announcer and it was wonderful to hear him doing his "yeeee-ohhhh that was close" routine. But he inadvertently called David Donohue by his father’s name, Mark Donohue, and anybody can make that mistake but I found it surprising that he didn’t correct himself. Surely, someone on the SPEED broadcasting team must have noticed.
– Ganassi has now won the overall Daytona 24 title four times – in 2006, 07 and 08 and now in 2011. And, all nit-picking about Grand Slams aside, I think it’s fair to say that Chip Ganassi is certainly at least equal to Roger Penske now in the team-owner department and perhaps has passed him. Penske is the king of Indy cars but Ganassi has also been successful in that class and is far superior to the "the Captain" in NASCAR and sports cars.
Roger Penske is still my idol but Chip Ganassi is coming on strong.
Meantime, Andy Lally, Spencer Pumpelly, NASCAR’s Brendan Gaughan (mostly trucks and Nationwide, although he spent a season in Cup) and Wolf Henzler were first in the GT class driving a Porsche 911.
Bryce Miller, Brian Sellers, Tim Sugden and Rob Bell were second in GT in another Porsche, two laps behind, and the third-place car – a Mazda RX-8 that could have won the class if it hadn't suffered electrical issues that saw it spend three laps in the pits with six hours to go – was owned by TV star Patrick (Dr. McDreamy) Dempsey.
– BBC F1 commentator, and former driver, Martin Brundle and ex-F1 and CART racer Mark Blundell were part of a four-driver team that finished fourth overall, which is incredible considering that neither had driven a racing car of the first rank in anger in years.
Which says one of two things: 1) driving a racing car is like getting back on a bike after a few years, or 2) those Daytona Prototypes aren’t really very hard to drive. Take your pick.
– IndyCar star Ryan Briscoe was on a team that finished fifth, Justin Wilson and NASCAR’s A.J. Allmendinger were seventh, Ryan Hunter-Reay was 11th and five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson was on a team that finished 15th.
Now, keeping with a tradition I started a few years ago, here is a rundown of how Canadians did in this particular Rolex 24 and its sister event, the Continental Tires 200. Except for Scott Maxwell’s and Paul Dalla Lana's podium finishes in the Continental race, the news isn’t very good.
Here are the results:
– Mark Wilkins of Toronto finished eighth overall in the Rolex 24 and eighth in the Daytona Prototype class, which was the best result for Canada in the main event.
– Darren Law of Phoenix (he was born in Toronto, so we’re including him here) was ninth and ninth.
– Michael Valiente of Vancouver was tenth and tenth.
– Mike Forest of Edmonton finished 33rd in the race and 16th in the DP class. Poor Forest went off track early in the marathon and the mishap made the Speed News’s Fast Five most photogenic incidents of the weekend – unfortunately.
Now, in the Rolex 24 GT Class, Scott Maxwell and David Empringham of Toronto didn’t get to race because their car was withdrawn.
– Sylvain Tremblay’s team finished 18th in the headline race and sixth in GT. He lives in Florida now but was born and grew up in Montreal.
– Mark Thomas, originally from St. Stephen, N.B., finished 22nd in the race and ninth in class. He's been working overseas for years.
– Dave Lacey of Toronto was 24th in the race and 10th in class.
– Paul Dalla Lana of Toronto was 32nd and 17th.
– Darryl O’Young of Vancouver was 41st and 25th.
– Jean-Francois Dumoulin of Tois-Rivieres, Que., was 43rd and 26th.
And Chris Cumming and Taylor Hacquard of Vancouver were 47th and 29th.
On Friday, the Continental Tire 200 Canadian results were as follows:
– Scott Maxwell of Toronto, driving for Toronto’s Multimatic Motorsports, finished second in the GS class and Paul Dalla Lana of Toronto was third. Good stuff!
– Kenny Wilden of Oakville finished sixth in GS.
– Ashley McCalmont, back in action following the birth of her child, finished 14th in GS.
Now, I learned long ago that you can go over the entry list for some of these races with a fine-tooth comb and still find out afterward that people were entered whose names weren’t on the list and there were people with names on the list who weren’t in cars.
This is a long way around to saying that try as I might, I could not find a finishing result for either Fraser Wellon of Mississauga or Frank Rossi of Kleinburg, even though they were listed as being entered. I know Wellon was there last year because we had his picture in Wheels.
Moving on to the ST Class:
– Benoit Theetge of Boischatel, Que., was 25th in the race and fourth in class.
– Donald Theetge of Boishcatel, Que., was 32nd and 11th.
– Jocelyn Hebert of Becancour, Que., and Rejean Vincent, of Trois Rivieres, Que., were 35th and 14th.
– Taylor Jacquard of Vancouver was 57th in the race and 29th in class.
And Carlos Tesler-Mabe of Vancouver was 61st and 32nd.