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Grand-Am: Rookies revel in Ganassi success.

Chip Ganassi has developed something of a habit of getting newcomers to the Rolex 24 onto the top step of the podium, after taking Juan Montoya and Salvador Duran to victory alongside Scott Pruett just a year after Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon succeeded at Daytona.

Pruett, Montoya and Duran led 468 of 668 laps of the 45th running of the race in the #01 TELMEX/Target Riley-Lexus to claim Ganassi's second straight Rolex 24 victory after Dixon, Wheldon and Casey Mears triumphed in the #02 car last year. Pruett was behind the wheel when the car rolled off the grid in 12th, and sealed the team's flawless drive as he crossed the chequered stripe just 1min 15.842secs ahead of his nearest rival 24 hours later.

The win was a record-breaking one on a number of levels for the Ganassi operation, with Pruett's second overall Rolex 24 victory tying him for first on the Rolex Series win list with 13 victories, alongside the now retired James Weaver, and marked the 2004 Rolex Series champion's seventh 24-hour class win, another all-time record.

“The job that this TELMEX/Target team did today was just outstanding, and the car performed flawlessly," the American veteran reported, "We always hear that this event sports the best group of drivers in all of racing, and it turned out to be one hell of a shootout at the end, with three cars battling for the win. I think it says a lot about our team and this series. What a fantastic feeling.”

Ganassi's Grand-Am programme extended its record tallies with a 14th win and 25th podium, while delivering Lexus its second straight Daytona 24 hour win months after scoring its first manufacturers' title in 2006, despite having two drivers with no experience of the Rolex 24 alongside Pruett.

“For a rookie in this event, I felt really good going in with a team like this behind me and the great drivers I was fortunate enough to have been paired with," F3 graduate Duran admitted, "I think I learned that this race is all about consistency and confidence.

"Scott and Juan played their cards right while, at the same time, giving me the confidence to drive to the best of my ability. I think I was able to make the right moves at the right times, and that ultimately led to this team getting through the race nearly incident free.”

Montoya's success made it two-in-a-row for Texaco/Havoline drivers in the Rolex after Mears, his predecessor in Ganassi's #42 Nextel Cup team, joined Wheldon and Dixon on the 2006 podium. The win also took the former F1 pilot into exalted company, as he joined another Texaco/Havoline favourite, Mario Andretti, as the only other driver to win the Daytona endurance race, the Indianapolis 500, a Champ Car title - all as a rookie with Ganassi - and an F1 grand prix. His next outing will also be a notable first, as he tackles the Daytona 500 in February.

“I thought it was pretty tough overall - especially as Max Angelelli and Darren Manning gave me a run for my money through my last stint, doing everything they could to make my life miserable," the Colombian commented, "I starting thinking about all the things that could go wrong after leading 18-20 hours, and then not winning the race.



Related Pictures

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Max Angelelli / Jordan Taylor. GRAND-AM Championship Weekend Presented by BMW at Lime Rock Park. 2013 Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series
Max Angelelli / Jordan Taylor. Continental Tire Sports Car Festival. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. 2013 Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series
Action. VisitFlorida.com Sports Car 250 at Road America. Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series [Pic credit: Grand AM]
Starworks Motorsport BMW/Riley duo Brendon Hartley and Scott Mayer celebrate their first Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series victory at Road America [Pic credit: Grand AM]
Max Angelelli and Jordan Taylor drive the #10 Velocity Worldwide Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype to victory Saturday, April 6, 2013 in the third race of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevrolet)
Max Angelelli and Jordan Taylor drive the #10 Velocity Worldwide Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype (left) to victory Saturday, April 6, 2013 in the third race of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Alex Gurney and Jo Fogarty, drivers of the #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP (right) finish in second place. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevrolet)
John Edwards and Robin Liddell, drivers of the # 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GT.R., race to victory Saturday, April 6, 2013 in the Grand Touring (GT) class of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevrolet)
Juan Pablo Montoya, Memo Rojas, Scott Pruett and Charlie Kimball, co-drivers of the #01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates TELMEX/Target Ford BMW Riley celebrate their win in victory lane at the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 27, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Rolex Series action [Pic credit: Grand-Am]
Alex Popow and Sebastian Bourdais, drivers of the #2 Ford Riley, celebrate in Victory Lane after wininng the Grand-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2012, in Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Alex Popow and Sebastien Bourdais, drivers of the #2 Soloson Ford Riley, celebrate after winning the Grand-AM Rolex Sports Car Series inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2012, in Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
The winning #60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Ford Riley car is brought into victory lane after a gruelling 50th anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona. [Picture Credit: Daytona International Speedway]
Action Express win the Rolex 24 [Pic credit: Grand Am]
Derek Johnston [Pic credit: Grand Am]
Vic Elford, the 2010 Rolex 24 At Daytona Grand Marshal (Photo credit: Motorsports Images and Archives)
The No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Porsche Coyote that will be tested by 2009 Radical European Masters Champion Derek Johnston at Virginia International Raceway
Max Angelelli and Brian Friselle win at Daytona [Pic credit: Grand Am Media]
Alex Gurney/Jon Fogarty - GAINSCO Bob Stallings Racing Riley-Pontiac   [pic credit: Grand-Am]

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