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Montoya leads team to Daytona endurance victory

Montoya leads team to Daytona endurance victory

Juan Pablo Montoya gave his team the lead and Scott Pruett kept it until the finish Sunday for a victory in the Rolex 24 sports car endurance race.
Joined by Mexican driver Salvador Duran, Montoya added his first sports car title in the Daytona 24-hour race to a CART championship, the 2000 Indianapolis 500 win and seven victories in Formula One. Pruett, a veteran road racer, earned his second Daytona win.
Montoya will be back in this city in three weeks to begin his first full NASCAR season in the Daytona 500.
This is the second straight year that Chip Ganassi's team has won this event. Former IRL champions Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon combined with NASCAR driver Casey Mears to win the 2006 race in one of the team's sleek Lexus Riley Daytona Prototypes.
"This was just a total team win," said Ganassi, the first team owner to win this race back-to-back since Al Holbert in 1986 and 1987. "Al was somebody I wanted to be like when I was growing up and I'm going to think about that for a long time."
The winning car covered 668 laps and 2,378 miles. The race was slowed by 13 full-course caution flags and a 78-minute red flag stoppage at the halfway point after a GT class car knocked down 80 feet of guardrail.
Pruett and Duran avoided the big pitfalls that hurt other teams in the 24-hour event. The race was hotly contested, with two cars finishing on the lead lap. With only three hours to go, three cars were nose to tail for the lead, with Montoya third and battling Scotland's Ryan Dalziel and Italy's Max Angelelli.
"It's amazing," Montoya said in the tumultuous Victory Circle. "It's incredible after 20 hours there are three cars on the same lap. It was like qualifying every lap. Very exciting."
Dalziel, who will be a rookie in the Champ Car World Series this season, held off the two veterans until he pitted during the 24th hour. That gave the lead to Angelelli, but the former Daytona winner was quickly passed by Montoya and the eventual winners led the rest of the way.
During the 25th hour, Pruett, who added the overall win here in 2004 to five other class victories, took over the cockpit from his Colombian teammate, while Dalziel gave up his seat in the Pontiac Riley prototype to longtime open-wheel racer Patrick Carpentier, and road racing ace Jan Magnussen took over the third-place Pontiac Riley for Angelelli.
Magnussen managed to put the car he shared with two-time Daytona winner Wayne Taylor and four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon into second place. But he wound up third, two laps down, after brake problems sent him on an off-course excursion and forced a long pit stop during the final half hour.
It was still a great effort considering their problems. The team had no clutch for most of the race and had to be push-started by the crew after every pit stop.
Carpentier, driving with Darren Manning and Milka Duno, one of only two women in the 70-car race, finished second _ 1 minute, 14.749 seconds behind Pruett.
"This is very cool," Pruett said. "It's huge 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."
Ganassi's other car, shared this year by Wheldon, Dixon and Mexican driver Memo Rojas was not as fortunate. That trio challenged for the lead through the night, came back to race in the top five after Rojas knocked off the nose cone and then went out of the race when Rojas spun on a wet track and hit a tire wall after daylight Sunday. They finished 41st.
Gordon, who fared considerably better than several other stock car stars in the race, got the full experience in his first endurance race. He spun in the grass on his first stint and drove another stint in a downpour during the night.
"I want to be faster the next time so I can help this team be even more competitive," Gordon said, grinning. "But I don't know how I could prepare for the monsoon I was in last night."
Bobby Labonte, the 2000 NASCAR champion, was part of the team that finished 10th. The Grand-Am teams with reigning Nextel Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and two-time champion Tony Stewart wound up 36th and 48th after numerous mechanical problems.
The powerful prototypes took the first 10 spots, with a Porsche GT3 co-driven by Jean-Francois Dumoulin, Carlos de Quesada, Scooter Gabel and Marc Besseng finishing 42 laps behind the overall winners.
A Porsche Fabcar prototype driven by Formula One test driver 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 late Saturday night. Mazzacane was briefly unconscious and was admitted to a hospital for observation.


Updated : 2021-02-27 08:39 GMT+08:00