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Ganassi cars out front at Daytona race

Ganassi cars out front at Daytona race

It was eerily quiet at the halfway point of the Rolex 24, with the entire field of sports cars parked on pit road while Daytona International Speedway workers replaced a flattened guardrail.
With Ryan Dalziel leading the endurance classic by about 2 minutes over Juan Pablo Montoya, and just minutes after a light rain began falling, a GT3 Porsche driven by Chris Pallis slammed into a guardrail near the pit road exit on the 5.73 kilometer (3.56-mile) road circuit, knocking down about 25 meters (80 feet) of the steel railing.
Pallis was not injured but officials threw a red flag, stopping the field about 35 minutes before the 1:30 a.m. local time halfway point of the twice-around-the-clock event. Racing resumed at 2:15 a.m. in a heavier rain.
Crews were not allowed to work on the cars during the stoppage, but the drivers were allowed to get out and stretch and the race clock continued to run.
The race was a close one, with five cars _ all of them in the Daytona Prototype class _ within four laps of the lead with 12 hours to go.
Dalziel, sharing the leading Pontiac Riley with Milka Duno of Venezuela, one of only two women in the 70-car field, Darren Manning and Patrick Carpentier, took the lead during a round of pit stops near the start of the 12th hour.
Montoya, a former Formula One and Indy star making the move to NASCAR's Nextel Cup series this season, got into the Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley he is driving with six-time Daytona winner Scott Pruett and young Mexican driver Salvador Duran for his second stint shortly before the crash.
The Colombian driver put that car into the lead for the first time during the third hour, passing the second Ganassi entry, shared by former IRL champions and defending Daytona champions Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon and another Mexican driver, Memo Rojas.
He was beginning to close the gap on Dalziel before the red flag.
The second Ganassi car was third at halfway, one lap off the pace.
Four laps down were a Pontiac Riley co-driven by NASCAR's Jeff Gordon, former Daytona winners Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli and longtime road racer Jan Magnussen, followed by a Porsche Riley shared by five-time Daytona winner Hurley Haywood, J.C. France, grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., Joao Barbosa and Roberto Moreno.
Three other cars remained within six laps of the lead at halfway, with Chris Festa sixth in a Pontiac Riley, Burt Frisselle seventh in a Lexus Riley and Fabrizio Gollin eighth in a Ford Doran.
As tight as the racing was late into the night, it was expected to get even closer with more rain and the possibility of strong wins in the forecast for the early morning hours.
"I practiced in the rain earlier this week and it's the first time I ever drove in the rain," Gordon said. "I couldn't believe how slick it got. If it happens, that's going to be real interesting."
As expected, the prototypes were dominating the twice-around-the-clock race. Twenty-eight of the fast cars started the race and 15 of them were at the top of the field at the end of 12 hours.
Two-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart, who has come close to winning this race twice only to run into late mechanical problems, continued to run in bad luck Saturday.
Stewart, driving a Pontiac Crawford with former Daytona winners Andy Wallace and Butch Leitzinger, was 45th, 79 laps off the pace.
He said the 24-hour race "can be brutal.
"It can just eat you up. We came within 17 1/2 minutes of winning this thing a couple of years ago and it just blew up on us. There are just so many things that can go wrong in 24 hours, you just have to drive the car and put everything else out of your mind."
There were five full-course caution periods in the first 10 hours, one of them brought out when a Porsche Fabcar driven by Gaston Mazzacane of Argentina slid off track and hit a barrier protecting a light pole in the infield portion of the 3.56-mile road circuit.
The Formula One test driver was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital for precautionary X-rays and a CAT Scan.
Track officials could not say what his injuries were because of privacy laws, but they did say Mazzacane was conscious and alert.


Updated : 2021-05-18 22:35 GMT+08:00