At 10pm local time, with six-and-a-half hours of the 2009 Rolex 24 at Daytona in the book, long-time pacesetters Brumos and Penske continued to hold sway in the Grand-Am season-opener.
The polewinning #58 Brumos Porsche Riley was back in front as the race moved into its second quarter, but still had the similar #16 Penske Racing entry for company, having swapped the lead back and forth in a game of automotive tag during the first four hours.
With team-mates Darren Law and David Donohue both having enjoyed stints out front, erstwhile IndyCar runner Buddy Rice now had the chance to sample top spot, before ending his shift by reporting that there was a lot of debris and dirt on track from other cars having gone off. Rice admitted that it was nice to be running at the front again, but urged caution after seeing similar situations turn sour in the past.
"We've led here the last three years when I've been in the car, but it's still very early, with a long way to go,” he noted, “It's going very well so far, but we need to stay out of trouble and keep putting the laps in. I'll get back in around 4am, and will get something to eat and play some video games before then - I can't sleep during a race like this."
The race has been safe so far, with no accidents or injuries, but that did not mean that it had been processional. By the end of hour six, there had been 16 lead changes among eleven drivers in six cars and, in the fifth hour alone, there had been several fresh faces at the front, however briefly.
First, the #59 Brumos car took the lead, with former Grand-Am champion Terry Borcheller at the wheel, for six laps, before another new leader, AJ Allmendinger, took the #6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley to top spot. Although he led for 14 laps, however, Allmendinger's effort came to naught as he coasted to a stop and was towed away into retirement while leading.
Brad Jaeger then retook the point for the Doran car – which team owner Kevin Doran revealed was a 2007 car clad in 2008 bodywork – before Brian Frisselle added to the list of different leaders by moving the #10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara into top spot. He was ultimately passed by Rice, who maintained the lead through the end of the opening quarter.
MSR wasn't the only high-profile team to suffer a premature exit, as Krohn Racing's #76 Ford Riley, which coasted to a halt on track in similar fashion to the Allmendinger machine, was retired with a crank sensor problem. Both cars were running the Ford engine, giving other users cause for concern….
The #2 Childress-Howard Motorsports Pontiac Crawford was also in trouble, with Casey Mears reporting that the car had had an electrical problem, and lost its charge and power with team-mate Rob Finlay at the wheel.