Sunday, January 29, 2012

AJ Allmendinger wins 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona


Michael Shank's No. 60 car during the early morning hours.
Credit: Brian Cleary

NASCAR stars went racing a few weeks early for the 50th Anniversary running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway. Teaming up with Michael Shank Racing, AJ Allmendinger brought home the win after leading 249 laps on the 3.56-mile course.

Allmendinger drove the final stint in the No. 60 Ford Riley, spending almost three hours behind the wheel at the end of the grueling 24-hour race. His team included IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, and Grand-Am regulars Ozz Negri Jr. and John Pew.

“What a start to the year,” Allmendinger said. What a start it is for Allmendinger, who recently signed with Penske Racing and is looking for his first Sprint Cup Series win. 

NASCAR Cup Series drivers Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya drove the No. 02 BMW Riley for team owner Chip Ganassi and finished fourth. Partnered with Ganassi's IndyCar stars Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon, the team led 52 laps collectively. 

What may have come as a surprise was Joe Gibbs Nationwide Series and Phil Parsons Cup driver Michael McDowell, who drove the No. 6 Ford Riley for Michael Shank, led laps and finished third overall.

Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year Timmy Hill and Jeffrey Earnhardt drove a Rick Ware Racing Mustang and finished a disappointing 51st after receiving front-end damage caused by contact with a passing Ferrari. Hill said on his Facebook page: "I had a Great experience at the Rolex 24 hours of Daytona1 I was able to get a lot of driving in and I had a blast! The car suffered some rear suspension problems in the early morning of Sunday which ended our day! I would like to thank Rick Ware Racing, Poynt, and everyone who was involved to put this all together!"

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year, Andy Lally’s team brought home the victory in the GT class and finished in 11th overall. He has teamed up with Magnus Racing for the 2012 season and will be competing full-time in the Grand Am Series.

Boris Said raced with Turner Motorsport (not to be confused with the NASCAR team) in the No. 94 BMW. Said’s team finished in 56th after engine issues.

NASCAR team owner and Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip and Nationwide Series driver Travis Pastrana teamed up with in a car Rob Kauffman, co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, for the first time ever in the GT class to finish 35th and 116 laps down after an eventful race. During the race, Pastrana climbed from the car and simply said, "This is awesome."

"Mad" Max Papis joined Action Express Racing in the No. 9 DP and finished an ironic 9th after starting in 7th.

Colin Braun, a former Roush Fenway Racing development driver, teamed up with Krohn Racing and after qualifying started 12th. His team finished 19th and was 48 laps behind the leader.

Last but certainly not least, former Sprint Cup driver John Andretti and his son Jarret joined Yellow Dragon Motorsports. Their No. 36 Mazda started 38th overall and finished in 50th.  

In just a few short weeks, these drivers as well as the rest of NASCAR’s superstars will return for the Daytona 500. Will Allmendinger return to victory lane with Penske Racing?

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