Grand AM » 1 January 1901
Grand-Am: Rolex 24 - 21hrs: SunTrust join fight.
In what quite possibly could be one of the closest finishes ever for a 24-hour endurance race, three cars are battling for the Rolex 24 at Daytona title, with SAMAX, SunTrust and Chip Ganassi heading into the final three hours less than five seconds apart.
Currently the SAMAX Pontiac of Darren Manning, Ryan Dalziel, Milka Duno and Patrick Carpentier have assumed the lead of the race again from the #1 Ganassi Lexus-Riley of Juan Pablo Montoya, Salvador Duran and Scott Pruett when they were forced to pit twice within a few laps.
This was due to a caution period caused by their #1 Chip Ganassi team-mates, reigning champions Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon, as well as Memo Rojas, after Rojas attempted to pass a backmarker but ran slightly wide and slammed into the tyre barriers with gusto on the wet grass.
The ensuing damage has forced the trio to retire from the race, a great disappointment for a team that had been running comfortably in fourth place.
SAMAX took the opportunity of the caution period to dive into the pit lane and replace Manning with Dalziel, the former having done a magnificent job of holding onto Duran in tricky conditions following several sporadic showers that dropped lap times considerably.
With an eye on getting themselves back in sync with their pit stops, Montoya also came in and remained inside the car, returning to the circuit with the opportunity to catch Dalziel ahead of him before the circuit went green again.
What the two perhaps didn't account for was the arrival of the SunTrust Pontiac that has staged a marvellous comeback over the race following problems early on, Jan Magnussen getting the car onto the lead lap before handing over to Max Angelelli, who duly used the caution to get the team onto the tail of Dalziel and Montoya.
When the race did get underway again some 15 minutes later, Montoya quickly dispatched the backmarkers ahead to get onto the tail of Dalziel, the Chip Ganassi car appearing faster on the infield, but Dalziel having the advantage around the banked oval.
Montoya however was struggling rather more to scythe his way through the backmarkers and when he dived around the outside of one of the GT cars, who then proceeded to block him, Angelelli duly took advantage to slip ahead into second place.
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