By Peter M. De Lorenzo
Detroit. Scott Dixon, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray and Tony Kanaan (No. 2 Target/Ford EcoBoost Riley) drove to victory in the Daytona 24 Hour race (Rolex24) at the Daytona International Speedway, battling hard with Action Express Racing (No. 5 Mustang Sampling Corvette DP), Wayne Taylor Racing (No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP), as well as the No. 01 Ganassi Racing team car (driven by Scott Pruett, Joey Hand, Charlie Kimball and Sage Karam) throughout the event for the overall win.
The race came down to a shootout between Dixon and Jordan Taylor in the No. 10 machine, but a major miscalculation over Taylor’s driving time (drivers are limited to no more than four hours in the car at one time) brought the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP to the pits during the final caution for a driver change. Ricky Taylor took over, served a penalty for pitting out of sequence, and the screw-up cost the team dearly, resulting in a less than satisfactory third-place finish. Sebastien Bourdais (teamed with Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 machine) finished second.
In the process of yet another big win at Daytona, the Ganassi team enjoyed setting several notable marks in the process. First of all, it was the sixth win for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2013, 2015), the most for any team in the 53-year history of the event. Secondly, it allowed Jamie McMurray to join American racing legends A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti as the only drivers to win both the Daytona 500 and the Daytona 24 Hour race. It was also the first wins for McMurray, Larson (in only his second attempt) and Kanaan in the event. Larson served notice of his burgeoning stardom in the event, rising to the challenge and displaying his tenacity and talent, while young Sage Karam was extremely impressive as well in the No. 01 machine.
But the real story was the simply brilliant performance by Scott Dixon, who was absolutely sensational in his driving stint, which unfolded over the last three-and-one-half hours of the race. I will make no apologies in saying - and I've said it repeatedly in this column - that I believe Dixon to be one of the premier driving talents in the world, and he demonstrated that emphatically over the weekend. Cool under pressure, absolutely precise, and blistering fast when the occasion calls for it, the sixth victory for the Ganassi Racing team in America's longest endurance event was directly attributable to Dixon, who will go down as one of the all-time greats of the sport before he hangs it up.
Typically, Dixon deflected the accolades (see his quote below), but make no mistake, his incredible performance behind the wheel won the race for the team.
Kudos should go out to Ford and Ford Racing, too, as the manufacturer has now won North America's two premier endurance events in the modern era - the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring (2014) - with its formidable EcoBoost V6 racing engine.
“It was a great day for Ford and a great day for Ganassi,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development and Chief Technical Officer. “We had a great car and great drivers. And, of course, we had really great power, reliability and fuel economy out of the EcoBoost. It’s just a great testament to the entire team. I couldn’t be prouder of them.” Nair accepted the Manufacturers Trophy on behalf of Ford.
Congratulations are in order for Ford Racing - Jamie Allison and his team have done a tremendous job - Roush-Yates engines, for all of their stellar development work with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 racing engine, and to the entire Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates organization for a terrific job well done. The 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season continues March 18-21 with the 12 Hours of Sebring. You can see other coverage from the event in "The Line."
Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD
Daytona Beach, Florida, February 7, 1965. Ken Miles, Carroll Shelby, Lloyd Ruby, Leo Beebe and Ray Geddes celebrate the first overall win for the Ford GT in that year's Daytona Continental, which was a 2000 km event. The Miles/Ruby No. 73 Shelby American Ford GT40 won by five laps. Jo Schlesser, Hal Keck and Bob Johnson (No. 13 Shelby American Cobra Daytona Coupe) finished second and first in GT, while the No. 73 Shelby American Ford GT40 driven by Bob Bondurant/Richie Ginther came in third. Check our racingsportscars.com for excellent - and accurate - historic racing information, and check out a video here.
Publisher's Note: Like these Ford racing photos? Check out www.fordimages.com. Be forewarned, however, because you won't be able to go there and not order something. - PMD