The Rolex 24 hours at Daytona kicked off the 2006 Grand American Sports Car Series this weekend, with wall-to-wall TV coverage in North America courtesy of SPEED Channel.
The headlining Daytona Prototype class fielded a record 31 entries, but lost about half that number to crash damage and mechanical problems. The well-deserved victory went to the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus-powered Riley (pictured above) of Dan Wheldon, Scott Dixon and Casey Mears, who turned a Daytona Prototype-record 734 laps.
More after the jump... A lap down in second place was the Lexus Riley driven by AJ Allmendinger, Justin Wilson, Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson.
It's safe to say that the star of the show was the third-place Alex Job Racing/Emory Motorsports Porsche Crawford, driven by Porsche factory drivers Lucas Luhr, Mike Rockenfeller and Patrick Long. Porsche obviously adopted a "go big or go home" strategy for Daytona, willing to settle for nothing less than a victory. With Le Mans-experienced Alex Job Racing called in from the American Le Mans Series to manage the effort, and a hot-shot team of drivers, Porsche seemed to have a winning combination.
The Porsche Crawford blew away the competition in qualifying, starting the race on pole, and was by far the quickest car in the race. Unfortunately, repeated, time-consuming stops to replace failed half-shafts on the Crawford dug the team a hole they couldn't (quite) climb out of. Erasing an 8-lap deficit after the first drive-shaft fiasco, the team charged to a 3-lap lead by the 18-hour mark, only to lose another bundle of laps when the replacement shafts also failed.
Even though the AJR Porsche Crawford ultimately finished third, after a punt from behind by Scott Dixon's Riley in the last half-hour led to a flat rear tire on the Porsche Fabcar of Darren Law, David Donohue and Sascha Massen, who were running in third at the time, a clearly disappointed Lucas Luhr couldn't muster much enthusiasm for the podium finish.
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In the GT class, the TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup (above) of Randy Pobst, Michael Levitas, Ian Baas and Spencer Pumpelly finished first in class, and a remarkable 9th overall, beating 23 Daytona Prototypes!
Full results and photo coverage at grandamerican.com.