Chip Ganassi Racing has taken its place in history after becoming the first team to win the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for three successive seasons.
After 24 hours of racing that included 95 laps under yellow flag conditions, Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Dario Franchitti and Juan Pablo Montoya came home two laps clear of the nearest rivals after a race held in difficult conditions at the 'World Centre of Racing'.
As the race entered its 19th hour, Pruett led the race after a full-course caution caused by a spin – one of many – for team-mate Salvador Duran in the #02 machine. As racing resumed, the defending champion set about extending his advantage and soon held a lead of just short of 20 seconds of Ian James in the Michael Shank Racing Riley, who had managed to get ahead of Jimmy Vasser in the GAINSCO Pontiac at the restart.
Indeed, the Champ Car driver found himself going the wrong was as he then lost out to Joey Hand in the Ruby Tuesday-backed Crawford Porsche and Joao Barbosa in the Brumos Racing Riley to slip to fifth.
Those five cars were the only ones still on the lead lap, but just behind there was a scare for sixth placed Justin Wilson as he span coming through turn one, although he was able to continue.
In the GT Class meanwhile, TRG led the way, with the #67 Porsche leading the sister #66 machine.
With the lead standing at just under 20secs, Pruett continued to lead the race from James, but the number of cars on the leading lap would soon be down to four when Vasser brought the GAINSCO into pit-lane and behind the wall just before the 18hrs 20mins mark with a gearbox problem. With it taking ten minutes before the car returned to action, it dropped Vasser down the order.
When Pruett pitted in the #01 car, it allowed James into the lead for MSR ahead of Hand and Barbosa, with Juan Pablo Montoya now at the wheel of the Ganassi entry. James wouldn't remain out front for long however, as little more than ten minutes after hitting the front, he suffered a spin which enabled both Hand and Barbosa to move ahead. Further down the DP pack, the Bob Stallings/Riley-Matthews team was amongst those in trouble, with Johnny O'Connell having climbed as high as fifth before he was forced into the pits with an engine issue.
A full course caution for debris on the circuit saw the race back under yellows approaching the 20th hour and as the resulting pit-stops played through it was Barbosa who hit the front after he elected not to stop. Montoya was now second, with Burt Frisselle third in the #6 MSR entry. Joey Hand was now fourth for Ruby Tuesday, while Justin Wilson had the second MSR car in fifth. In GT, Sylvain Tremblay now led on his own in the Speedsource Mazda – a lap clear of Dumas' Porsche and just outside the top ten overall.
Before the caution finished, Ganassi had lost its second car after Alex Lloyd suffered a spin and then on the first lap of green flag racing, Barbosa spun coming out of the final turn – handing the lead to Montoya and bringing out the caution once again.