DAYTONA BEACH (CBSMiami/AP) — The “star car” shined at Sunday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, as Scott Dixon drove a gritty and lengthy final leg to bring Chip Ganassi Racing its record-breaking sixth victory.READ MORE: COVID In Florida: 5,922 Additional Cases, 144 New Deaths Reported Friday
The three-time IndyCar champion relieved Kyle Larson, NASCAR’s reigning rookie of the year, with 3 hours, 32 minutes remaining in the twice-round-the-clock endurance race. Dixon was tasked with conserving fuel and making no mistakes in pursuit of the Rolex watch.
The Iceman delivered, and made it look easy, too.
He totaled more than seven hours behind the wheel of the Target/Ford EcoBoost Riley Prototype, and had teammates Larson, Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray and Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan watching with little worry as he closed out the victory.
“We had such a good group of guys driving, an awesome team,” McMurray said. “It’s about Scott Dixon to me. It’s really hard to appreciate the talent that guys have from other series until you race with them, and it’s crazy the pace that Scott is able to have in the car. It’s so much fun to sit up there and watch it.”
The win gave team owners Ganassi and Felix Sabates their sixth win in 12 Rolex attempts — most in the 53-year history of the race.
It was the second win for Dixon, who was part of the 2006 victory with Casey Mears and Dan Wheldon.
“I don’t know what to say, man,” the New Zealander said. “The whole last part of that race is so horrible because you think something’s going to break or you’re going to go off in a corner or something. I’m just stoked for the whole team.”
It was the first Rolex win for McMurray, Kanaan and Larson, who felt he was so underwhelming in his debut last season that he let his team down and never wanted to return to the sports car race. Instead, he drove his own impressive three-plus hour stint in the middle of the night, then put together a brief but error-free run Sunday morning to get the team into the time window to turn the car over to Dixon.
“It’s crazy how much a year can do. I hated this race last year. I was terrible,” Larson said.
McMurray joined AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti as the only drivers to win the Daytona 500 and the Rolex, while Kanaan joined a limited list of drivers to win both Indy and the 24 Hours.
“It’s awesome, man. I love watches,” Kanaan said. “I always bought them, so I’ve finally got one for free today.”READ MORE: You Can Now Get Gooey Knaus Berry Farm Cinnamon Rolls Delivered To Your Door
After the race, Ganassi stressed he does not endorse the “star car” nickname.
“I don’t know who named it, but I don’t approve of that name,” he said of the all-star driver lineup. “That’s like any other car on our team.”
Ganassi and team manager Mike Hull have always insisted they can draw the eight Rolex drivers’ names from a hat to set their two lineups, and the records seem to reflect that. The No. 01 team won four Rolex’s in the time between Dixon’s 2006 victory and Sunday.
Ganassi beat defending race winner Action Express Racing, which was driven by Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais, by 1.33 seconds.
Wayne Taylor Racing, runner-up the last two years, lost a shot to challenge Dixon when it realized under a caution with 20 minutes remaining that Jordan Taylor had exceeded his allotted time allowed in the car. He was forced to pit from second to let older brother Ricky Taylor close out the final 9 minutes of the race.
“It’s a bit disappointing, but we win and lose as a team,” said Taylor.
Ganassi’s other entry, the No. 01 led by five-time winner Scott Pruett, was in the mix for the victory until the clutch broke and the team was forced to retire with under two hours remaining.
Corvette Racing won the GT Le Mans class with drivers Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Ryan Briscoe.
PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports won the Prototype Challenge class with drivers Mike Guasch, Andrew Novich, Andrew Palmer and Tom Kimber-Smith. It appeared that CORE Autosport had that win locked up until Colin Braun’s fiery crash with roughly 20 minutes remaining brought out the final caution and ended what seemed an easy victory.
CORE Autosports owner Jon Bennett could only shrug.
“We did 23 hours and 46 minutes very successfully,” he said. “I think we had small contact with another car, which caused Colin to have a tire going down. We were trying to get back, we didn’t a splash of gas, anyway. That’s how racing is, I love it.”
The GT Daytona class was won by Riley Motorsports and drivers Ben Keating, Dominik Fambacher, Al Carter, Kuno Wittmer and Cameron Lawrence. Keating, who is a Dodge Viper car dealer and driver for the SRT team, choked back tears after the win.MORE NEWS: Stimulus Check Latest: Will Your Next Relief Payment Be $1,400?
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