The 46th Rolex 24 at Daytona moved into its final quarter with a familiar face out front, as Scott Pruett, Juan Montoya, Dario Franchitti and Memo Rojas kept the defending champion #01 Chip Ganassi Racing entry at the head of a still closely-matched field.

The Telmex-backed machine had been towards the front when the race went through half-distance, Montoya only giving up the advantage when he made a scheduled stop just before the twelve-hour mark, but continued to run laps anything up to half-a-second faster than the race-leading #99 GAINSCO Riley of Alex Gurney when he resumed. Running in second place, quickly cut the #99's lead to just over a couple of seconds, but only moved back into P1 when Gurney pitted.

With the reigning series champion resuming in fifth, Montoya's closest challenge came from the #6 Michael Shank Racing car of Burt Frisselle, with Johnny O'Connell - making his debut in the #91 Riley-Matthews 'works' entry - and Penske-Taylor's Kurt Busch as the race moved into its 360th lap. Further back, the recovering SunTrust car - which had had the mystery electrical problem which stranded Michael Valiante at the end of pit-road solved by a deft push of the screen wiper button(!) - was running ninth pending its next scheduled stop, one ahead of the #60 MSR entry, which was mounting its own comeback in the hands of Graham Rahal.

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Cars continued to come and go from behind the wall throughout the 13th hour, with Fabrizio Gollin returning the #77 Doran entry to the fray, while Tracy Krohn went the opposite way following a crunching spin - and clash with the #07 Banner Racing Pontiac that had led GT - in the #75 Riley bearing his name. Ed Carpenter also spun, but the #03 Vision machine emerged unscathed.

Despite encountering heavy traffic from time to time, Montoya managed to keep his nose clean and only ceded the lead when making his next pit-stop. That promoted Frisselle and MSR to top spot, but the #6's advantage lasted just four minutes before JPM was able to reclaim P1 when the blue-and-black machine pitted. With O'Connell and Busch also pitting that allowed Gurney to move back into second spot, with Frisselle, Ryan Hunter-Reay (in for O'Connell) and Busch sorting themselves into the top five.

The second Ganassi car, however, had been on the receiving end of a whack from Edwards' Banner Pontiac, having come to a halt to avoid collecting a spun Krohn Riley. The Pontiac was then rear-ended by Krohn, leaving both ends of the #07 damage and the bonnet up across the windscreen. Remarkably, strong work by the Banner crew had Kelly Collins back on track as the hour ended, even if the #07's bid for victory appeared over.

Also in the wars, the GT pace-setting #70 Mazda was reported with broken tail lights, while the #21 Matt Connolly Porsche returned to pit-lane dragging bodywork and #43 Team Sahlen equivalent followed with front-end damage. The #72 Autohaus Pontiac was also a visitor to the garage area after Craig Stanton clipped the wall and left the car with spooky handling that required a couple of trips to correct, while Farnbacher was shorn of one of its cars when Giacomo Petrobelli suffered a blow-out and badly damaged the front of the #89 Porsche.

The rival TRG line-up continued to lead, with the #67, being handled by Bryan Sellers and Romain Dumas, out front from its #66 sister car, with Richard Westbrook and Andy Lally at the wheel, once the #70 pitted to fix its light problem.

Among the DP's the #3 Southard Riley-Lexus was a major casualty after Ted Christopher hit the wall, shredding a tyre in the process and requiring a spell behind the wall before resuming. While the #3 required a second spell of inactivity, however, the #58 Brumos Riley returned to the fray with David Donohue at the wheel hoping that its fuel issues had been cured.

Such was the combination of maintained pace out front and the tough nature of competition in the field that, when Gurney pitted the #99 for its next scheduled stop, replacement driver Jimmie Johnson resumed in fourth place, but a lap down on the leaders. The gaps shook themselves out as the leaders took their turn to pit, Montoya handing over, not only to team-mate Franchitti, but also conceding the lead once again to the chasing Frisselle. Hunter-Reay also moved up a spot as Franchitti settled in, but pitted soon after, allowing the Scot to take prime position for when Frisselle peeled the #6 into the pits.

Not long after the Scot had taken the #01 back to top spot, reports of debris in NASCAR Turn Two and the chicane led to a full course caution being thrown, and many teams taking the opportunity to bring their cars in for attention. Max Angelelli left the SunTrust garage without the front-end fitted, but was quickly back and behind the wall as the team faced another problem - and then ended the hour by picking up a penalty for a pit infringement.

Franchitti pitting handed the lead back to the #6 MSR car, now with AJ Allmendinger at the wheel, but the field was scrambled again as the rain returned and almost everyone headed for treaded tyres. This time, the #99, with NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson on board, took over at the front, passing both the #01 and #6, while Allmendinger underlined just how tricky the conditions had become by spinning at the East Horseshoe and losing several positions.

There was also trouble for the #61 AIM Autosport car, as Colin Braun was forced behind the wall with a clogged fuel filter. While work continued to determine the cause, the team also repaired suspension damage from an earlier incident. The #75 Krohn car returned with Oliver Gavin at the wheel after an extended stop with its rear body work removed, and was joined briefly in pit-lane by the #76 sister car. Gavin spun shortly afterwards, however, while the #03 Vision Racing DP went behind the wall after John Andretti pitted with problems.

TRG continued to hold sway in GT, with the #'67 out front, but SpeedSource was not about to let the Porsche team have things all its own way, reclaiming second from the #66 of Lally as the Porsche pitted for fuel. Everything changed, however, when the class-leading #67 was called for a penalty after Spencer Pumpelly pitted out of sequence. The drive-thru was enough to allow the #70 SpeedSource Mazda back into the lead, as Pumpelly dropped into third, ahead of the #57 Stevenson Pontiac and #69 SpeedSource Mazda.

The field was still led by Johnson as the hour mark passed, the #99 GAINSCO Riley being chased by Hunter-Reay's #91 Riley and the #01 example of Franchitti, with the #6 MSR and #23 AJR cars still on the lead lap.

A night full of cautions continued when the yellows were thrown early in the 15th hour to recover shed bodywork from the chicane. Allmendinger slipped by Franchitti for third when the Ganassi car pitted, but there were precious few changes out front until halfway through the hour, when Hunter-Reay passed Johnson on track. Allmendinger was also eyeing his Sprint Cup rival, hassling the #99 before eventually finding a way past as Johnson struggled with the un-NASCAR conditions.

The #7 Sigalsport was back into pit-lane, with Stephan Gregoire reporting clutch problems, while the # 3 joined it behind the wall when Alex Barron pitted with gearbox problems. Although the American returned to the field shortly afterwards, he was back in for more attention. Shane Lewis then took the car back on track, but was also forced back to the garage as the Riley-Lexus continued to misbehave.

There were also more penalties dished out, with Krohn's #75 crew hit with a drive-thru' when Gavin handed over to Eric van der Poele out of sequence, and the luckless SunTrust team picking up a 'stop-go plus 20' for a similar offence.

The lead of both classes changed hands during the hour, with Andy Lally regaining top spot for TRG in the GT category as a result of SpeedSource's #70 running into further light problems - only for the polewinning Mazda to move back ahead on the hour mark as Lally pitted for a scheduled hand-over to Westbrook.

There was further drama to end the hour in the DP class too, with both van der Pole and AIM's Mark Wilkins running off course in the final few minutes, the latter bringing out a full-course caution after van der Pole had limped back with rear bodywork damage. The yellows saw another flurry of pit-stops, allowing Allmendinger to seize top spot overall for MSR as Hunter-Reay pitted the #91 Riley-Matthews car. Franchitti also passed the #91, which resumed with Marc Goossens at the wheel.

Four cars headed into the 16th hour on the lead lap - Allmendinger, Franchitti, Goossens and Jon Fogarty in the #99 - but the reigning champion soon meant that the quartet became a trio, hitting the wall and having to return to the pits for a new nose section. He only narrowly avoided going a lap down, but soon fell into the clutches of Allmendinger.

While the #6 MSR car continued to pace the field throughout the hour, Fogarty and others used slightly different strategies to end the period back in contention, the #99 eventually regaining the lead lap - along with the #23 AJR/Ruby Tuesday car - and even moving up into second overall as those ahead of him pitted.

In GT, Nick Ham kept the #70 SpeedSource Mazda out front - and in 13th overall - ahead of the #66 and #67 TRG Porsches of Westbrook and Spencer Pumpelly.

The number of cautions was slowly rising, leaving little time for racing between the yellow flag periods, and Oswaldo Negri did little to help the count as his #60 MSR, which was trying to make its way back to the front of the field, was spun in the International Horseshoe. The caution also saw the lead change, as Allmendinger opted to pit, handing top spot back to Ganassi's Scott Pruett.

When the greens waved, Pruett was able to pull out an immediate gap, stretching his advantage to nearly twelve seconds before traffic caused it to fluctuate. Ian James, now at the wheel of the #6, was turning in an impressive night-time stint to keep the seasoned Pruett in sight, closing to within thee seconds, and then less than one, of the #01 as traffic played its part. The ex-pat Brit eventually took the lead when Pruett's time was up, with Long, Fogarty and Goossens all also passing the stopped Ganassi car while it received fuel and tyres.

Long had been the man on the move during the stint, passing Goossens for fourth and Fogarty for third before Pruett pitted, but pitting at the time of another caution for debris prevented the Porsche regular from making it to the front. Fogarty also took a turn at the front before the order shook itself out once again, with Pruett once again out front from James and Fogarty.

The DP contingent was reduced after a fraught spell for the #61 AIM Autosport team, which returned to the fray after repairs to its splitter and radio, only for Andrew Ranger to suffer a right rear puncture and extensive rear bodywork damage as a result, leading to its retirement.

The GT lead changed again with the #70 Mazda retaining the advantage from TRG's #66 Porsche - only for David Haskell to be penalised for having too many men working on his car during its latest service stop. With TRG concerned about engine temperatures in both the #66 and 67 Porsches, however, SpeedSource was quickly able to re-establish its advantage.

The previously frontrunning Farnbacher Loles team continued to strike problems, this time with Dominik Farnbacher spinning the #87 Porsche, while team-mate Sascha Maassen pitted the sister #86 and went behind the wall with clutch problems. Anthony Lazzarro also disappeared, taking the #14 Autometrics Porsche into the garage area to complete work started earlier on the right rear suspension and bodywork.

SunTrust's night got worse as Michael Valiante spun while trying to unlap himself from Pruett shortly into the 18th hour, the Canadian being forced to sit and wait as the closely-bunched field - having passed the race's 500th lap under caution - filed past. Pruett escaped unscathed from the assault, and continued to lead overall from Fogarty, James, O'Connell and Wallace, the latter in for Long, but was unable to stretch more than a second away from his pursuers.

The top five remained on the lead lap to the three-quarter distance mark, helped by yet another caution to help recover the stranded #02 Ganassi car of Salvador Duran, which spun in unison with Gunnar Jeannette's #57 Stevenson Pontiac GT machine. Although the latter managed to get going under his own steam, Duran got little further than the International Horseshoe before stopping and bringing out the yellows.

Pruett continued to head the field into the 19th hour, with Jimmy Vasser taking up the cudgels for GAINSCO in second, ahead of James, Joao Barbosa - the #59 Brumos car having got itself back onto the lead lap during the previous round of pit-stops - and Joey Hand, now installed in the #23, while the #91 briefly dropped off the lead lap due to the timing of its stop after O'Connell had got it as high as third.

The green flag ushered in the final quarter of the race, with Rafa Matos heading the GT class by a lap - again a quirk of the timing break, as well as an outstanding penalty for the #70 - having passed TRG's Bryce Miller. TRG's #67 also got by Miller, with Emmanuel Collard moving up to second in class.