Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Pruett and Salvador Duran took overall victory in the 45th anniversary of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, driving the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley and giving the team back-to-back victories in the endurance race.
Montoya also became the first driver to win the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, the Indy 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix, as the Colombian prepares for his first full season in the NASCAR Nextel Cup.
"It's an amazing feeling," Montoya said after the race. "It's incredible: after 20 hours, there were three cars on the same lap, but it was like qualifying speed every lap. Very exciting."
For Ganassi, the achievement was emotional. "This was just a total team win," the team owner said after becoming the first to win the Daytona 24 Hours consecutively team owner Al Holbert achieved this in 1986 and 1987.
"Al was somebody I wanted to be like when I was growing up, so I'm going to think about this one for a long time."
The race started with pole-sitter Alex Gurney leading the way until he clipped the rear of a GT-class car on lap four and was forced to pit for repairs, losing several laps. Max Angelelli, AJ Allmendinger and Bill Auberlen all led the race briefly afterwards.
Approaching hour two, Scott Pruett, driving the No. 01 car, took the lead just before handing the car over to Juan Pablo Montoya. The Colombian was then closely followed by the second Ganassi car driven by Scott Dixon, who ran a longer first stint.
Montoya then led the majority of his 2.5-hour stint, building a one-lap cushion to the No. 02 Ganassi car, then driven by Dan Wheldon. A1GP race winner Salvador Duran then took over from Montoya, driving for about an hour and keeping the car in the lead before giving it back to Pruett.
Pruett briefly handed the lead to the No. 11 machine, driven then by Darren Manning, who shone in his first stint in the car.
Behind them, the No. 58 Brumos Red Bull Porsche steadily became a contender for the lead until it was hit by a slower car, forcing both into the garage for lengthy repairs, which blighted Porsche's chances of victory.
Pruett and Duran drove further stints before handing the No. 01 car back to Montoya, who had to tackle the most eventful part of the race, once past the eleventh hour. The forecasted rain finally arrived in the form of a slight drizzle, which made conditions tricky for some.
That was the case with the No. 82 GT-class Porsche, driven by American Chris Pallis, who crashed into the guardrail separating the pit road exit from the track, causing extensive damage to it and forcing the race to be red flagged. Pallis wasn't injured in the incident.
All cars lined up at the end of the pits and stayed there for 78 minutes as officials worked on fixing almost 80 feet of guardrail. Close to the thirteenth hour mark, the cars took to the track again, but the race remained under caution for more than half an hour more.
More significant trouble came late last night when former F1 driver Gaston Mazzacane spun off and hit a guardrail in the infield section of the track. The Argentinean was unconscious and taken to a nearby hospital, where he is reported to be in good condition but will remain for observation.
As the racing resumed, Montoya set the pace in the rain, followed first by the sister No. 02 car driven by Memo Rojas, and then by the No. 11 Citgo Pontiac Riley car driven by Ryan Dalziel.
Behind them, Max Angelelli was already up to third in the No. 10 SunTrust car recovering from mechanical problems they had in the first part of the race. Their speed and the safety car rules allowed them to get to the lead lap in the last quarter of the race.
The Ganassi team held a comfortable lead heading into the early morning hours, but a conservative tyre choice as the track went from wet to dry saw them taking on an extra pitstop relative to the No. 11 car driven by Dalziel, which led the race into the last four hours.
At the same time, the No. 02 car, the defending race winner, went out of contention while running as Memo Rojas slid into the tyre barrier in turn one, damaging the car beyond repair.
The last three hours of the race became a sprint, with Dalziel closely followed by Angelelli and Montoya, with the Italian putting pressure on the Scot, while Montoya looked happy to follow them and save fuel.
That was until Dalziel pitted for tyre and fuel and Angelelli ran wide, handing the lead back to the No. 01 Ganassi car, with Montoya also running longer than his two rivals. After changing four tyres and refuelling, Montoya rejoined in the lead for his last stint.
Angelelli lost contact with the leading duo for a while as his car lost the clutch early into the race, making every pitstop a handicap. The Italian quickly started to gain on the leaders, though, putting his car in contention for victory again before finishing his last stint.
With less than two hours to go, Montoya pitted last among the top three runners, handing the driving of the leading No. 01 Ganassi car to Scott Pruett.
The American drove a trouble-free last stint, while Patrick Carpentier had to pit for repairs after slight contact with another car, while the No. 10 car driven by Jan Magnussen had to slow its pace after facing brake problems.
Pruett drove the No. 01 Ganassi car through the finish line on lap 668 to give the team their second consecutive victory, ahead of the No. 11 car of Ryan Dalziel, Patrick Carpentier, Darren Manning and Milka Duno. The Pontiac Riley was the only car on the same lap as the winners.
In the GT Class, the No. 74 Porsche GT3 of Lux, Henzler, Farnbacher and Tafel led the early part of the race until Lux spun into turn one, giving the lead to the No. 85 similar car which ran into mechanical trouble with less than two hours to go while driven by Dirk Werner.
From then on it was the No. 22 Porsche of Carlos De Quesada, Jean- Francois Dumoulin, Scooter Gabel and Marc Basseng, which led the GT Class taking a close victory over the No. 7 car of Paul Edwards, Kelly Collins and Andy Pilgrim. Both cars finished in the same lap.
Taking the chequered flag for the No. 01 car, Pruett paid tribute to his machine: "This is very cool. It's a huge thing for Ganassi and Lexus.
"The car never missed a beat. I was getting a little nervous there at the end, but the car was just rock solid the whole time. We never spent any time in the pits."