Rolex 24 winning team boss Chip Ganassi has admitted that little comes close to the feeling of triumph in one of the world's most respected races - especially for the third year running.
Ganassi watched as Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Juan Montoya and Dario Franchitti combined to give Lexus a third consecutive Daytona 24 Hours victory and, in the process, made Chip Ganassi Racing the first team in history to win three straight editions of the event. The quartet team led the final 101 laps - over three hours and 19 minutes - to repeat the victory achieved by Pruett, Montoya and Salvador Duran in 2007.
“It's hard to put into words what winning does to you and what it feels like," Ganassi admitted, "You can't touch it, you can't feel it, but it sure does feel good.
"One thing a lot of people don't consider are the conditions that these guys had to drive in. They were just miserable. Particularly between three and six this morning. The track was very wet, your vision is limited...just to keep these cars on the asphalt was a huge task, and I want to give credit where credit is due to the guys that drove in those conditions, Dario and Memo. They drove in the conditions that were the most horrific out there, and just to stay in the game under those conditions is a huge challenge.”
Despite qualifying sixth, the #01 team started from pit-lane after making the late decision to change from wet weather tyres to slicks before the start. The move dropped the car all the way back to 18th, but Pruett and Montoya made short work of taking the team into the top five by the fifth hour of the race and, after that, the car never dropped outside of the leading quintet.
Once again, reliability played a part in the Ganassi success, with none of the drivers putting a wheel wrong as both the Lexus engine and car ran flawlessly. The team was never forced to pit for more than brake pads, fuel or tyres, despite the sometimes treacherously wet conditions, while all of its rivals fell away at some point in the course of the event.
"I think it's awesome that we came back here for three in a row, and it's exciting for me to be a part of two in a row," Pruett said, “Just like last year, we had zero problems. There's just one little mark on the car, otherwise it's totally clean. We didn't touch anybody, we didn't hit anybody. We could run fast without getting ourselves in trouble. Winning the 24 hours here is a true test of man and machine, and a big part of that is the Lexus engine. It just never missed a beat.
"Your last one is always your best, but this was tough. The conditions were pretty treacherous because it was rain, then it was dry, then it was a little bit of wet again. That makes for a really tough race, so I can't say enough for all of the Ganassi guys."
While the American veteran was able to celebrate a record-setting eighth Daytona class victory, Montoya was able to look back on his second straight win, while both Rojas and Franchitti claimed their first Rolex watches.