Lexus Wins Rolex 24

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Daytona Beach, FL – January 28, 2007 - 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 Telmex/Target Lexus-Riley won in dominating fashion this weekend.

The winning trio led 468 of the 668 laps, while overall Lexus-powered cars
led a total of 504 laps – good for more than 75 percent of the laps run
over the 24 hours. Over the past two Rolex 24 races, Lexus-powered cars
have now led 971 laps – approximately 70 percent of the laps run over
the past two years at Daytona.

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 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 Exchange Traded Gold Lexus-Riley might
have been the biggest surprise. In its first full season of Daytona
Prototype, 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 Fresh From Florida 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. Things didn’t go as well for the second MSR entry,
though. An alternator problem negated a spectacular early run by A.J.
Allmendinger 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. After falling
as low as 56th, that pair along with Paul Tracy and Henri Zogaib
regrouped to earn a respectable 26th.

Things didn’t go as well for the two remaining Lexus-powered entries.
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 on Lap 538 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

LEXUS ROLEX 24 RACE NOTES:

– The #01 Ganassi Lexus never fell out of the top-three overall after the third hour of the race.

– Today’s win is the second consecutive Rolex 24 victory for Lexus
and the manufacturer’s 16th overall triumph in 41 Rolex Series races.

– Today’s win is the second for Lexus in just four Rolex 24 attempts

– Lexus-powered cars led 504 of the 668 laps run in this year’s Rolex 24.

– Scott Pruett’s victory today is his seventh Rolex 24 class victory,
setting the all-time record. He’s earned previous class victories in
2002, 1994, 1993, 1992, 1988, 1987. This is his second overall win
after taking the checkered flag first in 1994.

– With the victory today, Chip Ganassi Racing becomes the first team to
win back-to-back Rolex 24’s since Al Holbert’s squad registered the
feat in 1986-1987

– Juan Montoya becomes the only driver in history to win a Rolex 24
hour race, an F1 race and an Indianapolis 500. This is Montoya’s
first-ever race at Daytona.

– Salvador Duran’s victory comes in his first-ever Rolex Series start.

– Scott Pruett, already the winningest driver in Daytona Prototype
history, now matches James Weaver’s 13 wins for the most in Rolex
Series history.

– The Ganassi team led the final 91 laps and 2 hours and 43 minutes today. A year ago the team led the final 168 laps.

– AIM Autosports earned a fifth-place finish in their Rolex 24 debut – in just their second-ever Daytona Prototype event.

Scott Pruett, #01 TELMEX/Target Lexus-Riley: “The job that this
TELMEX team did today was just outstanding and the car performed
flawlessly. We always hear that this event sports the best group of
drivers in all of racing, and it turned out to be one hell of a
shootout at the end with three cars battling for the win. I think it
says a lot about our team and this series. What a fantastic feeling.”

Juan Pablo Montoya, #01 TELMEX/Target Lexus-Riley:
“I
though it was pretty tough overall. Max Angelelli and Darren Manning
gave me a run for my money through my last stint, doing everything they
could to make my life miserable. I starting thinking about all the
things that could go wrong after leading 18-20 hours, and then not
winning the race. I wanted to go as fast as I could and pass people,
but I also didn’t want to be remembered for taking someone out of the
race in its final stages. This is a great win for the team and I look
forward to running for Chip and Felix in the upcoming NASCAR season.”

Salvador Duran, #01 TELMEX/Target Lexus: “For a rookie in this
event, I felt really good going in with a team like this behind me and
the great drivers I was fortunate enough to have been paired with. I
think I learned that this race is all about consistency and confidence.
Scott and Juan played their cards right, while at the same time giving
me the confidence to drive to the best of my ability. I think I was
able to make the right moves at the right times, and that ultimately
led to this team getting through the race nearly incident free.”

Scott Dixon, #02 Ganassi Lexus-Riley: “The team did such a great
job. There were a lot of ups and downs but while it is disappointing
not to finish this year’s race because of all of the hard work that
went into it, it is always so much fun to take part of the Rolex 24.
I’m really happy the Chip Ganassi Racing team was able to defend the
win. It’s really cool to win back to back.”

Dan Wheldon, #02 Ganassi Lexus-Riley: “The effort put in by the
entire team is really incredible and it really showed with the second
consecutive team win at the Rolex 24. It’s amazing to drive for so long
and still be as close as it was all the way to the finish line. It was
just so exciting. It’s too bad that we weren’t part of it at the finish
as well but this is definitely a team win.”

Mike Shank, Michael Shank Racing team owner: “I said to someone
about 12 hours into this thing after we had all those set backs that
it’d be amazing for us to even get a top 10, and though we had even
more problems after that, we did it. We had both cars running at the
finish and that’s a testament to the job my guys did preparing the cars
and never giving up no matter what happened for 24 hours. We had super
driving from all our guys. The six car probably passed the leader two
or three times– we had fast cars but we just didn’t have the luck this
time around.”

Helio Castroneves, #60 No.60 Fresh From Florida Lexus-Riley: “I
had a great time, but the last stint (with no engine cover on the car)
wasn’t much fun! A lot of things happened that were just out of our
control. When the 99 car hit us from behind, we couldn’t attach the
engine cover back on to the car, so we had a really bad aero situation
and the car was really loose. It cost us downforce and really hurt us
on the straights, which had been our strength all day.”

“But the 24 was a good experience and hopefully I will be back next
year. I learned so much, and think there are a lot of things I would do
different next time so it was good to get this experience. I rested
when I had the chance, so after 24 hours I feel tired for sure, but not
destroyed. My conditioning is pretty good. Independent of the results,
it was a good race. This is a young team, with lots of good people on
it. They are all workaholics who love racing and those are always my
kind of people.”

Mark Patterson, #60 Fresh From Florida Lexus-Riley: “After being
down in 41st like we were earlier, a top 10 in this race is no shabby
accomplishment. From here, we want to target podiums and wins this
season and we know with Michael Shank Racing and Lexus, we can do that.
We’ve seen what Lexus has done for us all day and night, and we’re
looking forward to that kind of partnership all season.”

Oswaldo Negri, #60 Fresh From Florida Lexus-Riley: “This is a
great result with all the trouble we had all weekend. It was a big
roller coaster all week from having a track record time in practice
then right after that crashing in qualifying and then moving up to the
front then having all the problems we did and then taking ninth place
on the very last lap. Really fantastic. These guys never gave up and
there isn’t a team out there with more heart than these guys.”

Sam Hornish, Jr., #60 Fresh From Florida Lexus-Riley: “The
competition is so much closer than it was back then (in his first Rolex
24 start in 1999). With the World Sports Cars, we were a lot faster
than the GT cars, but now the difference is a lot less, so you really
have to do a good job timing your passes to get through traffic. “It’s
been fun working with the team again (Hornish raced Toyota Atlantics
with the team in 1999), it’s too bad we weren’t able to do better, but
we were in the wrong place at the wrong time a couple of times today.
Everyone’s working really hard to do the best we can. I definitely want
to come back and do it again. If we had a couple less problems, we’d be
right there up front no question.”

AJ Allmendinger, No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Lexus-Riley: “I was
spoiled last year, racing in my first 24 and we didn’t even have a
hiccup. We have to take the positives out of this – even at the end,
our car was one of the fastest and with how many times we got hit, it
wasn’t the handling that was good, that was all motor. Big credit to
Mike Shank and his team. These guys just don’t give up. At least the
car is going home in one piece which is impressive after getting hit as
many times as we did.”

Henri Zogaib, #6 Michael Shank Racing Lexus-Riley: “(On crossing
the finish line for the first time in the Rolex 24 in his adopted
hometown with so many friends and relatives on hand to see) “It was fun
even though I didn’t have as many gears in the car as I was hoping! I
am amaze the car still rolls, but it was very fulfilling to finish
here, and obviously the next step is to try to aim for a win. AJ, Ian,
and Paul did a spectacular job. Mike and his crew were on it all week,
and we had a very fast car and the Lexus/Riley is really a great
package to be working with so we will keep building from here.”

Ian James, #6 Michael Shank Racing Lexus-Riley: “Its
disappointing because we had a car that could win here. We showed some
great speed and consistency with the car. A few things went wrong but
we know we could have been fighting at the front. That’s racing.The
good thing is this is clearly a great package, and the Mike Shank cars
were running near the front all week, so I’m really looking forward to
getting to the sprint races.”

Paul Tracy, #6 Michael Shank Racing Lexus-Riley: “It’s
disappointing to finish like this just because our car was so fast, but
we just ran into problems. It’s frustrating to be up front two years in
a row but to run into trouble right off the bat. But I’ll just have to
come back next year and try to have some better luck.”

Steve Southard, Southard Racing team owner: "With our experience
as a team, I had complete faith that not much could stop us from
finishing the Rolex 24. The crew worked incredibly hard to get the new car
here and ready to race, and it was running really well. Unfortunately,
we just aren’t allowed to change an engine, otherwise, we certainly
would have. It is such a shame; we had great drivers, good pit
strategy, and a fantastic crew and were looking forward to another
successful 24-hour race. It’s just bad luck today. But we won’t let it
get us down, we will definitely be ready to show what we have in a few
weeks at our next race in Mexico City."

Brian Frisselle, #61 Exchange Traded Gold Lexus-Riley: "It’s
awesome! It’s our only finish at the Daytona 24, and now it’s our best
finish. A top-five is great, especially for a new team. Great
teammates, great crew, I can’t say enough good things. We want to thank
Lexus for giving us such a great motor to make it all the way."

Credit: Lexus Motorsports
Copy By: Flipside909

 

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