Action Express wins Daytona on debut
|By Diego Mejia||Sunday, January 31st 2010, 20:33 GMT|
The new Action Express team has taken a shock Daytona 24 Hours victory in its debut event, beating the #01 Ganassi car to the flag.
The squad is affiliated to last year's winner Brumos, and was formed using personnel from the latter when it had to scale back to a single car - but was still not expected to be capable of a win at the first attempt.
Portugal's Joao Barbosa drove the car to the finish line first on the team's debut, as he and Action Express team-mates German Mike Rockenfeller, Briton Ryan Dalziel and American Terry Borcheller emerged as unexpectedly strong contenders for team owner Bob Johnson.
They survived the early rain, the tricky changing track conditions and the low morning temperatures, which caught others out. Clutch and throttle issues caused worries for a while in the second half of the race as well, but did not really hamper their run to beat the Ganassi entries.
The two-horse race between them started to shape up into the last quarter of the distance, by which time they were the only two cars running on the lead lap.
With four hours and 30 minutes left of racing, Pruett started chasing leader Dalziel, following a caution that allowed him to close back in. The former Grand-Am champion and Rolex 24 winner kept the pressure on until he finally got the better of Dalziel.
However the lead then went back to Dalziel as Pruett pitted to hand the car over to Justin Wilson, who later got back in front when Mike Rockenfeller took over from Dalziel entering the last three hours.
With about two hours and a half remaining Wilson suddenly pitted and drove the car straight to the garage after feeling something was wrong with it. The Ganassi mechanics rushed to it and quickly checked it over, but they did not find anything and Wilson returned to the track almost two laps down to Rockenfeller.
"It's very odd," said Wilson. "I came out of the Bus Stop and I heard a loud clog and the car kind of whacked. So I thought I had torn a front tyre or something like that and being that close to the pits we decided to drive in and check everything over, but it seemed fine."
The leading Riley-Porsche then pitted for fuel and tyres, allowing Wilson to get a lap back in the process. Pruett was able to get back on the lead lap but never close enough to challenge the leaders. There were no cautions to help Ganassi's cause in the last two hours either.
The cold temperatures on Sunday caused trouble for many drivers who got caught out in the conditions. Entering hour 19 the #7 Starworks Motorsport Riley-BMW driven by Dion von Moltke crashed into the pitwall at Turn 2, ending up on the racetrack where he collided with a GT Porsche.
The #6 Michael Shank Racing Riley-Ford driven by Brian Frisselle also spun out of Turn 2 shortly after that while the race was under caution, and lost more ground to the leaders.
His team-mate AJ Allmendinger was still closing on a podium finish but with less than an hour and a half left he had to park his Riley-Ford with fire coming out of the left rear of the car.
The SunTrust Racing Dallara-Ford of polesitter Max Angelelli set the fastest lap of the race but there was little reward for the team's speed in the end. Pedro Lamy hit the pitwall following a pitstop, causing damage to the front end and several gearbox changes also hampered their efforts.
Last year's race winning Brumos Riley-Porsche did not finish the race due to a broken engine with less than five hours to go. IndyCar's Raphael Matos had just taken over from sportscar legend and five-time event winner Hurley Haywood, who drove his final stint in the 24 Hours of Daytona.
Reigning Grand-Am champion squad GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing retired with oil pump issues after recovering initially from Jimmie Johnson's crash in practice, which caused massive damage to the rear end of its Riley-Chevrolet. The four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champ drove solid stints despite a couple of moments, but a gearbox change in the 14th hour had already put the car several laps down.
In the GT class the #71 TRG Porsche lost the lead after running out of fuel while driven by former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte in the 20th hour. The team lost a two-lap advantage in the process, dropping down to third place and handing the lead back to the #67 TRG/Flying Lizard Porsche.
However about thirty minutes later, a broken shock forced the new class leader to the pits and gave the lead to the #70 Speedsource Mazda RX-8 of Jonathan Bomarito, Nick Ham, Sylvain Tremblay and David Haskell, which remained up front until the chequered flag.
Pos Drivers Car Laps 1. Borcheller/Barbosa/Rockenfeller/Dalziel Riley-Porsche 755 2. Pruett/Rojas/Wilson/Papis Riley-BMW 755 3. Tucker/Hunter-Reay/Bouchut Riley-BMW 751 4. Krohn/Jonsson/Zonta/Braun Lola-Ford 735 5. Pew/Negri Jr/Frisselle/Wilkins Riley-Ford 726 6. Taylor/Angelelli/Lamy/Taylor Dallara-Ford 711 7. Patterson/Valiante/Allmendinger/Frisselle Riley-Ford 707 8. Haskell/Tremblay/Ham/Bomarito Mazda 707 9. Bergmeister/Long/Neiman/van Overbeek Porsche 703 10. Ballou/Collins/Flanagan/Henzler/Lally Porsche 691