A combination of quick driving and slick pit work saw Chip Ganassi Racing fight off the attentions of SAMAX and SunTrust to take a second consecutive victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona., albeit with Juan Pablo Montoya, Salvador Duran and Scott Pruett at the wheel this time.
In a captivating race from the off the could have gone one of either three ways until the latter stages of the race, Chip Ganassi and SAMAX had swapped the lead continuously through various driver changes, but it was Pruett's performance in the Lexus-Riley over the final hour that proved the crucial difference, eventually crossing the line a clear minute and a half up on his nearest rivals.
Despite falling away considerably in the final stages, SAMAX can be delighted with their effort nonetheless after battling away with their rivals for the duration of the race, leading at the 21 hours mark after Darren Manning produced a scintillating stint to get into the lead with only three hours remaining. However, team-mate Ryan Dalziel was unable to do enough to keep a fired up Montoya behind him through the final stage of pit stops
Handing over to Patrick Carpentier for the final stint, the Canadian gave chase but slipped back from Pruett, who was appropriately allowed to cross the line to win his seventh Rolex title.
Still, the trio, along with Milka Duno, have done enough to record a first Daytona podium result for their CITGO sponsored Pontiac-Riley, benefiting from a bit of late bad luck for the SunTrust Pontiac, who had gotten up into second place with an hour remaining after vaulting SAMAX in the pit lane, only for their brakes to fail and force Jan Magnussen to haul the car back to the pit lane for immediate repairs.
Nonetheless, the car, driven by Magnussen, Max Angelelli, Jeff Gordon and Wayne Taylor, was back on track within two laps to record a third place finish, even if the final result fails to highlight the six laps they made up through the night following earlier delays.
Having battled for a spot on the podium earlier in the race, the #59 Brumos Porsche eventually fell away thanks to persistent fuel pick-up problems. Nonetheless, the unfancied partnership of Roberto Moreno, JC France, Joao Barbosa, Hurley Haywood and David Donohue did enough to claim a surprise fourth place finish six laps off the lead.
They in turn finished a clear four laps up on the AIM Autosport Lexus Riley, an impressive result for the young team on only their second visit to Daytona.
They had been running seventh for the majority of the race but moved up a spot when the #2 Chip Ganassi Lexus-Riley crashed off just before the 18 hour mark. Sixth became fifth in the closing stages when the #7 SAMAX car ran into problems during its final driver change.