DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Chip Ganassi bristles when his No. 02 team is called the “star car.”
Truth is, the moniker couldn’t be more appropriate right now.
Ganassi’s all-star driver lineup of three-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray, Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan and NASCAR’s reigning top rookie Kyle Larson won the prestigious Rolex 24 at Daytona on Sunday to give the team owner his record-setting sixth victory in 12 attempts.
Ganassi made it clear he doesn’t endorse the “star car” nickname, and he and team manager could pick their eight drivers names out of a hat to set the vaunted two-car lineup.
“I don’t know who named it, but I don’t approve of that name,” he said. “That’s like any other car on our team.”
It didn’t look like any other, team, though as Dixon drove a gritty and lengthy final leg Sunday as his three teammates confidently believed he’d pull out the win.
Dixon relieved Larson with 3 hours, 32 minutes remaining in the twice-round-the-clock endurance race, and set out to conserve fuel, make no mistakes and follow the Ganassi strategy down to the checkered flag.
The Iceman delivered, and made it look easy, too.
He totaled more than seven hours behind the wheel of the Target/Ford EcoBoost Riley Prototype and carried the heaviest load on the team.
“We had such a good group of guys driving, an awesome team,” McMurray said. “It’s about Scott Dixon to me. It’s really hard to appreciate the talent that guys have from other series until you race with them, and it’s crazy the pace that Scott is able to have in the car. It’s so much fun to sit up there and watch it.”
It was the second win for Dixon, who was part of the 2006 victory with Casey Mears and Dan Wheldon.
After picking up his second watch, the New Zealander downplayed his role.
“The car was very consistent, and I think we had good speed, but everybody pulled their weight,” he said. “Everybody did what they needed to do, and that’s what gets you through this 24 hours. Everybody kept the car in one piece.
“I can’t emphasize how big of a team effort it is. It’s not one person that ever wins this race. It’s everybody involved, and this weekend everybody on the 02 team did their best job, and that was obviously enough to get the victory.”
It was the first Rolex win for McMurray, Kanaan and Larson, who felt he was so underwhelming in his debut last season that he let his team down and never wanted to return to the sports car race. Instead, he drove his own impressive three-plus hour stint in the middle of the night, then put together a brief but error-free run Sunday morning to get the team into the time window to turn the car over to Dixon.
“It’s crazy how much a year can do. I hated this race last year. I was terrible,” Larson said.
McMurray joined AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti as the only drivers to win the Daytona 500 and the Rolex, while Kanaan joined a limited list of drivers to win both Indy and the 24 Hours.
“It’s awesome, man. I love watches,” Kanaan said. “I always bought them, so I’ve finally got one for free today.”
Ganassi beat defending race winner Action Express Racing, which was driven by Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais, by 1.33 seconds.
Wayne Taylor Racing, runner-up the last two years, lost a shot to challenge Dixon when it realized under a caution with 20 minutes remaining that Jordan Taylor had exceeded his allotted time allowed in the car. He was forced to pit from second to let older brother Ricky Taylor close out the final 9 minutes of the race.
“It’s a bit disappointing, but we win and lose as a team,” said Taylor.
Ganassi’s other entry, the No. 01 led by five-time winner Scott Pruett, was in the mix for the victory until the clutch broke and the team was forced to retire with under two hours remaining.
Corvette Racing won the GT Le Mans class with drivers Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Ryan Briscoe.
PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports won the Prototype Challenge class with drivers Mike Guasch, Andrew Novich, Andrew Palmer and Tom Kimber-Smith. It appeared that CORE Autosport had that win locked up until Colin Braun’s fiery crash with roughly 20 minutes remaining brought out the final caution and ended what seemed an easy victory.
CORE Autosports owner Jon Bennett could only shrug.
“We did 23 hours and 46 minutes very successfully,” he said. “I think we had small contact with another car, which caused Colin to have a tire going down. We were trying to get back, we didn’t a splash of gas, anyway. That’s how racing is, I love it.”
The GT Daytona class was won by Riley Motorsports and drivers Ben Keating, Dominik Fambacher, Al Carter, Kuno Wittmer and Cameron Lawrence. Keating, who is a Dodge Viper car dealer and driver for the SRT team, choked back tears after the win.
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