January 29, 2007 - Daytona Beach - Scott Pruett, Juan Montoya and Salvador Duran teamed to give Lexus and Ganassi Racing their second consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona victory as their #01 Lexus-Riley won in dominating fashion yesterday. After starting 12th, the winning #01 Lexus moved to the lead for the first time on Lap 68 and would go on to dominate the race, never putting a wheel wrong as both the Lexus engine and car ran flawlessly, never pitting for more than brake pads, fuel or tires.
"The car never missed a beat," said Pruett. 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. The car was flawless."
The victory was a record-setting seventh Rolex 24 class victory for Pruett, the series all-time leader in wins. It also marked the second win in a row here for Chip Ganassi Racing, which became the first team in 20 years to repeat a Rolex 24 overall victory after Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon and Casey Mears drove to victory in their #02 Lexus-Riley a year ago.
While the Ganassi team was one of the pre-race favorites heading into the event, the AIM Autosport #61 Lexus-Riley might have been the biggest surprise. In its first race of its first full season of Daytona Prototype racing, the squad earned a fifth-place finish with Mark Wilkins, David Empringham, Brian Frisselle and Burt Friselle piloting the car in just the second Rolex Series event for the team. After starting 18th, the Canadian-based team moved into the top 10 during the night and never dropped below eighth from there on out.
Michael Shank Racing (MSR) made it three Lexus-powered cars in the top-10 as the #60 Lexus-Riley placed ninth. After an early half-shaft problem, team drivers Oswaldo Negri, Mark Patterson, Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr. charged from 40th to earn a second consecutive Rolex 24 top-10 showing after earning runner-up honors a year ago.
An alternator problem negated a spectacular early run by A.J. Allmendinger in the MSR #6 Lexus-Riley that saw him stretch out a 12.5-second lead through the race’s first 66 laps. Teammate Ian James later would lead a pair of laps, but mechanical woes thwarted any hopes for victory. That pair along with Paul Tracy and Henri Zogaib soldiered on to finish in 26th place.
Despite the MSR team's challenges during the race, Hornish echoed the sentiment of virtually every driver in the star-studded Lexus lineup this year, saying "I definitely want to come back and do it again."
The #02 Ganassi Lexus-Riley of Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon and Memo Rojas ran in the top-five for much of the race, but crashed heavily into the tire barrier late in the race to place 41st. After a testing crash earlier in the month here in Daytona, the Southard Racing team put together an all-out effort to simply make Saturday’s green flag. After qualifying 24th, the team would eventually climb into the top-five before mechanical woes would sideline the squad just 214 laps into the event.
Lexus Race Results Started/Finished
#01 Telmex/Target Lexus (Pruett, Montoya, Duran) 12/1
#61 Exchange Traded Gold Lexus (Wilkins, Empringham, Br. Frisselle, Bu. Frisselle) 18/5
#60 Fresh From Florida Lexus (Negri, Patterson, Castroneves, Hornish) 22/9
#6 Michael Shank Racing (James, Zograib, Allmendinger, Tracy) 10/26
#02 Target/Telmex Lexus (Dixon, Wheldon, Rojas) 8/41
#3 Preformed Line Products Lexus (Lewis, Ruhlman, Rahal, Forbes-Robinson) 24/62
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