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Allmendinger outduels Dalziel to win Rolex 24

by Mark J. Cipolloni
Sunday, January 29, 2012

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The winning Michael Shank No. 60
In a battle of ex-Champ Car drivers where the best drivers in American racing were produced, A.J. Allmendinger outdueled polesitter Ryan Dalziel to win the 50th running of the Rolex 24 classic at Daytona International Raceway Sunday afternoon. 

Years ago Michael Shank (who himself used to drive in Champ Car Atlantics and a team owner) started a team and struggled for years making it into a winner and today he won the biggest Grand-Am race of the year. 

In the end the damaged No. 8 Starworks Ford was not fast enough
Justin Wilson, another Champ Car graduate co-drove the No. 60 Riley Ford alongside Allmendinger and the two of them carried the car to victory.

Finishing a few seconds behind the No. 60 car was the pole-winning No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Ford Riley and Ryan Dalziel, Alex Popow, Lucas Luhr, Allan McNish and Enzo Potolicchio.  The car's rear end was damaged when Lucas Luhr crashed it, which may have been why Dalziel had nothing for Allmendinger at the end.

Shank Racing took the final spot on the podium with the No. 6 Ford Riley with Michael McDowell, Jorge Goncalvez, Gustavo Yacaman and Sunoco Rolex 24 Driver Challenge winner Felipe Nasr.

With the minutes ticking down on the Rolex clock in Pit Row, it was an epic battle on Daytona International Speedway’s 3.56-mile, 12-turn road course.  Lead changes between three DP cars – Michael Shank Racing’s #60 Ford Riley, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates #01 BMW Riley, and the Starworks Motorsport #8 Ford Riley – had set the stage for the golden anniversary edition of this race to come to a dramatic close. 

Scott Pruett (Auburn, Calif.), the owner of Pruett Vineyard and co-author with his wife of four children’s books when not on the track, was within striking distance of tying Floridian Hurley Haywood’s record five wins of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.  With little more than an hour left in the race, Pruett lost first and second gear in the #01 BMW Riley gear box which, despite the herculean efforts of his pit crew, completely put him out of podium contention. 

At 30 minutes to the checkered flag, A.J. Allmendinger (Denver, Colo.) had been behind the wheel of Michael Shank Racing’s #60 Ford Riley for more than three hours.  He took over the lead with Ryan Dalziel (Orlando, Fla.), in the Starworks Motorsport #8 Ford Riley, chasing him down with each lap.  Dalziel, a native of Scotland and the 2010 Rolex 24 At Daytona champion, had earned his first career pole in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series during qualifying for this race. 

As the final laps were logged, Allmendinger’s lead went from 11 seconds to six as the white flag signaled the final lap of the race.  He won by 5.198 seconds to earn Michael Shank his first Rolex 24 At Daytona win.  Sharing the driving duties with the California-born Allmendinger was Brazilian native Oswaldo “Ozz” Negri, Jr. (Miami, Fla.), Justin Wilson (England) and John Pew (North Palm Beach, Fla.).

“The Rolex 24 At Daytona is such a prestigious race; it’s one you want on your résumé and you want to say that you were part of a victory,” said Allmendinger. “Ultimately it’s just amazing. I’m going to cherish this.”

“It’s the most fun three hours of racing I’ve ever done,” added Allmendinger regarding the push to the finish line and how he had worked hard to build up a gap and then manage the gap over the last 10 laps. “It was flat out.  When Dalziel got in the [#8] car I knew that every lap I had to drive my butt off.  I feel like it’s some of the best driving I’ve done in my life.  It’s fun to walk up and down pit lane [at the Rolex 24 At Daytona] just as a pure fan of racing to see all the different drivers in this series. We’ve been close before, and something happened to take us out.  Now to have Ozz and Justin, and John Pew … it’s the biggest win I’ve ever had.” 

Finishing second was the #8 Starworks Motorsport Ford Riley driven by Dalziel, Enzo Potolicchio (Venezuela), Alex Popow (Venezuela), Lucas Luhr (Germany) and Allan McNish (Scotland), with Michael Shank Racing’s #6 Ford Riley -- driven by Michael McDowell (Huntersville, N.C.), Gustavo Yacaman (Key Biscayne, Fla.), Jorge Goncalvez (Brownsburg, Ind.) and Felipe Nasr (Brazil) -- taking the last podium spot. 

“The thing that keeps you coming back to this event is you don’t have a watch yet,” said McDowell. “It’s a great event, and it’s become really an all-star race with great drivers from every series and world champions. So to win one of these races is very special.” 

Richard Lietz in the winning GT class No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche
Richard Lietz (Austria), sharing the #44 Magnus Porsche 911 GT3 Cup with John Potter/Andy Lally/Rene Rast, took over the driving duties with less than two hours left to go at the 50th Rolex 24 at Daytona. He then guided his car through two pit stops and to the GT victory for the Salt Lake City-based team owned by Potter and led a sweep of the GT podium by Porsche 911 race cars.

In fact, with Lietz, Henzler and Lieb – all Porsche factory drivers - driving their cars to the checkered flag, Porsche Motorsport North America president Jens Walther is especially proud of the Porsche people, not just the race cars.

“With both our customer race car owners and our factory drivers, we have the best people in the motorsports business associated with Porsche, and they are a key part in making our street cars and race cars great,” said Walther, who has been president of Porsche Motorsport North America, Inc. since 2010.

Winning team owner John Potter could not contain his feelings in the pit box after the checkered flag dropped, as his team was victorious in one of the greatest sports car races in the world after being in existence less than three years. 

“This crew works so hard, and we have come so close to the top step of the podium in Grand-Am in the past, but to win for the first time, at this race is something special.  Rene and Andy are great guys, and Richard really brought us home strong,” said Potter.

Lietz was pleased that Potter chose him to finish the race, and he thought the field of drivers was especially strong.

“I was honored to carry the team flag to the finish line, and we bested a field of world-class GT drivers,” said Lietz.

For Rene Rast (Germany), the defending Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup champion, it was his first time at Daytona, but the significance of the victory did not escape him.

“To finish at the top with perhaps the greatest GT field ever is an honor, and I thank Porsche and Magnus Racing for allowing me to be involved,” said Rast.

Andy Lally (USA) won this GT event last year, but switched teams this year to join Magnus Racing. 

“This was a great victory for John Potter and Magnus, but it is only the first step in our quest for the Rolex Grand-Am GT championship and North American Endurance GT Championship,” said Lally, who will run with Potter for the entire Grand-Am season in their Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.

Finishing the Porsche sweep of the podium is the second-place TRG Porsche of Steve Bertheau/Marc Goosens/Wolf Henzler/Spencer Pumpelly/Jeroen Bleekemolen, and the #59 Brumos Porsche (Leh Keen/Hurley Haywood/Andrew Davis/Marc Lieb) was third. Both teams led for substantial lengths of time during the 24-hour event, but, in the end, both the cars couldn’t catch the Magnus Porsche.

“We ran the whole event flat out, and spent hours and hours in the lead, but we had some front-end body damage that hurt our aerodynamics, and an extra pit stop in the end brought us up a little bit short.  Still, we are proud of our Brumos drivers and crew, and we won the GT championship last year after finishing fifth, so we will proceed on that mission again,” said Hurley Haywood, five-time Daytona overall winner an current Brumos team manager.

For Porsche factory driver Wolf Henzler (Germany), qualifying woes put their TRG Porsche near the back of the field for the start of the race, but they also led for multiple hours before clutch woes slowed them down near the end.

“My Porsche colleague Richard Lietz is very fast, and we could not make up any time on the Magnus car in the end.  But we are happy with our second-place finish, and the TRG crew prepared a Porsche which performed great all race,” said Henzler, who won the GT class at Le Mans in 2010.

Results

Pos No. PIC Drivers or Driver at Finish Laps Behind Gap Fast Lap Team
1 60 1 AJ Allmendinger/Negri/Pew/Wilson 761 0.000s 0.000s 1:41.473 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Ford / Riley
2 8 2 Ryan Dalziel/Luhr/McNish/ Popow/Potolicchio 761 5.198 5.198 1:41.470 Starworks Motorsport Ford / Riley
3 6 3 Felipe Nasr/McDowell/ Goncalvez/Yacaman 761 49.439 44.241 1:42.076 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Ford / Riley
4 02 4 Juan Pablo Montoya/Dixon/Franchitti/McMurra 759 2 LAPS 2 LAPS 1:42.119 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW / Riley
5 5 5 Darren Law/Donohue/Fittipaldi 758 3 LAPS 1 LAP 1:42.640 Action Express Racing Corvette DP
6 01 6 Scott Pruett 756 5 LAPS 2 LAPS 1:41.973 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW / Riley
7 77 7 Paul Tracy 748 13 LAPS 8 LAPS 1:42.730 Doran Racing Ford / Dallara
8 90 8 Jan Magnussen 745 16 LAPS 3 LAPS 1:42.604 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP
9 9 9 JC France 738 23 LAPS 7 LAPS 1:42.370 Action Express Racing Corvette DP
10 2 10 Michael Valiante 735 26 LAPS 3 LAPS 1:42.100 Starworks Motorsport Ford / Riley
11 44 1 Richard Lietz/Lally/Potter/Rast 726 35 LAPS 9 LAPS 1:48.582 Magnus Racing Porsche GT3
12 67 2 Wolf Henzler/Bertheau/ Bleekemolen/Goossens/Pumpelly 726 35 LAPS 8.209 1:48.767 TRG Porsche GT3
13 59 3 Marc Lieb/Davis/Haywood/Keen 726 35 LAPS 46.177 1:48.670 Brumos Racing Porsche GT3
14 57 4 John Edwards/Bremer/Liddell 726 35 LAPS 15.687 1:49.096 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GT.R
15 63 5 Olivier Beretta/Bruni/Fisichella/Matos 726 35 LAPS 20.396 1:48.886 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458
16 70 6 Sylvain Tremblay 722 39 LAPS 4 LAPS 1:50.120 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8
17 66 7 Patrick Pilet 720 41 LAPS 2 LAPS 1:49.038 TRG Porsche GT3
18 69 8 Anthony Lazzaro 716 45 LAPS 4 LAPS 1:49.029 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Racing with Ferrari Ferrari 458
19 32 9 Bret Curtis 712 49 LAPS 4 LAPS 1:49.027 Orbit/GMG Porsche GT3
20 76 11 Nic Jonsson 712 49 LAPS 0.433 1:42.067 Krohn Racing Ford / Lola
21 88 10 Jordan Taylor 712 49 LAPS 14.758 1:48.949 Autohaus Motorsports Camaro GT.R
22 40 11 Charles Espenlaub 712 49 LAPS 0.284 1:51.070 Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8
23 42 12 Dane Cameron 711 50 LAPS 1 LAP 1:49.504 Team Sahlen Mazda RX-8
24 03 13 Guy Cosmo 706 55 LAPS 5 LAPS 1:49.148 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari 458
25 24 14 Michael Avenatti 706 55 LAPS 4.846 1:50.456 Alex Job Racing Porsche GT3
26 45 15 Seth Neiman 705 56 LAPS 1 LAP 1:49.112 Flying Lizard Motorsports with Wright Motorsports Porsche GT3
27 93 16 Michael Marsal 691 70 LAPS 14 LAPS 1:49.453 Turner Motorsport BMW M3
28 23 17 Cooper MacNeil 689 72 LAPS 2 LAPS 1:48.410 Alex Job Racing Porsche GT3
29 26 18 Carlos Kauffmann 687 74 LAPS 2 LAPS 1:49.157 NGT Motorsport Porsche GT3
30 64 19 Emilio DiGuida 687 74 LAPS 13.156 1:52.056 TRG Porsche GT3
31 22 20 Darryl O'Young 680 81 LAPS 7 LAPS 1:51.404 Bullet Racing Porsche GT3
32 50 12 Byron Defoor 671 90 LAPS 9 LAPS 1:44.127 50+Predator/Alegra BMW / Riley
33 99 13 Jon Fogarty 671 90 LAPS 11.501 1:41.891 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP
34 82 21 Dick Greer 664 97 LAPS 7 LAPS 1:51.141 Dick Greer Racing Porsche GT3
35 56 22 Michael Waltrip 644 117 LAPS 20 LAPS 1:49.033 AF - Waltrip Ferrari 458
36 65 23 Jack McCarthy Jr 643 118 LAPS 1 LAP 1:52.868 TRG Porsche GT3
37 68 24 Chris Cumming 639 122 LAPS 4 LAPS 1:49.189 TRG Porsche GT3
38 55 25 Randy Pobst 626 135 LAPS 13 LAPS 1:51.043 Acumen Motorsport Porsche GT3
39 18 26 Mark Thomas 608 153 LAPS 18 LAPS 1:52.116 Muehlner Motorsports America, LLC Porsche GT3
40 41 27 Don Kitch Jr 607 154 LAPS 1 LAP 1:52.178 Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8
41 12 28 Matt Schneider 603 158 LAPS 4 LAPS 1:51.714 Alliance Autosport Porsche GT3
42 19 29 Marco Seefried 598 163 LAPS 5 LAPS 1:51.235 Muehlner Motorsports America, LLC Porsche GT3
43 75 30 Al Carter 577 184 LAPS 21 LAPS 1:49.720 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GT.R
44 51 31 Jim Norman 446 315 LAPS 131 LAPS 1:50.660 APR Motorsport Audi R8 Grand-Am
45 74 32 Humaid Masaood 431 330 LAPS 15 LAPS 1:49.435 Oryx Racing Audi R8 Grand-Am
46 17 33 Martin Ragginger 424 337 LAPS 7 LAPS 1:49.062 Burtin Racing with Goldcrest Motorsports Porsche GT3
47 20 34 Gunter Schaldach 416 345 LAPS 8 LAPS 1:51.218 Liqui Moly Team Englster/Mitchum Motorsports Porsche Porsche GT3
48 34 35 Phil Fogg 383 378 LAPS 33 LAPS 1:53.827 Orbit/GMG Porsche GT3
49 4 36 Justin Bell 309 452 LAPS 74 LAPS 1:50.201 Magnus Racing Porsche GT3
50 36 37 Taylor Hacquard 270 491 LAPS 39 LAPS 1:52.638 Yellow Dragon Motorsports Mazda RX-8
51 15 38 Doug Harrington 256 505 LAPS 14 LAPS 1:51.324 Rick Ware Racing Ford Mustang
52 48 39 Mark Wilkins 224 537 LAPS 32 LAPS 1:49.307 Paul Miller Racing Porsche GT3
53 46 40 Ivo Breukers 172 589 LAPS 52 LAPS 1:55.814 Michael Baughman Racing Corvette
54 62 41 Gianmaria Bruni 154 607 LAPS 18 LAPS 1:49.635 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458
55 87 42 Emilio Valverde 101 660 LAPS 53 LAPS 1:51.306 Racers Edge Motorsports Dodge Viper
56 94 43 Billy Johnson 86 675 LAPS 15 LAPS 1:50.533 Turner Motorsport BMW M3
57 43 44 Will Nonnamaker 21 740 LAPS 65 LAPS 1:53.187 Team Sahlen Mazda RX-8
58 10 14 Max Angelelli 14 747 LAPS 7 LAPS 1:43.057 SunTrust Racing Corvette DP

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