In his ninth try at winning North America's most prestigious sports car race, team owner Michael Shank put his faith in a stock car driver. And that driver - A.J. Allmendinger - put in three grueling hours at the wheel of the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Ford/Riley Daytona Prototype to win the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Allmendinger, who recently signed to drive for legendary owner Roger Penske in the NASCAR Sprint Car Series and was in his seventh run in the 24 with Shank, outran second-place Ryan Dalziel in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Ford /Riley.
First-timer Felipe Nasr, the young Brazilian who until last December's test at Daytona had never driven a DP, finished third in the second Shank car, the No. 6 Ford/Riley. Nasr secured the ride by virtue of winning the Sunoco Rolex 24 at Daytona Challenge championship for competitors in five European series.
Allmendinger shared the winning ride with Ozz Negri, John Pew and Justin Wilson. And while the final time sheet shows a winning margin of 5.198 seconds, Allmendinger's closing stint was not without drama. He rubbed fenders with veteran sports car racer Allan McNish in the No. 8 Ford and later had to go 20 feet wide in turn one to avoid a GT car as the laps wound down.
Celebrating in Victory Lane he admitted the strain of the final run. "I'm so worn out," he said. "We wanted to win this for Shank. The motor was so fast. I am so drained.
"I knew those last three hours I was going to have to go flat out. It was fun. When Dalziel got in the car . . . I knew I was going to have to drive my (rear end) off. I pushed really hard to build up a gap and take those last 10 laps to manage that gap."
Juan Pablo Montoya finished fourth overall, one lap down, in the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Target/TELMEX BMW/Riley, marking the first time since 2005 that a Ganassi car was not on the podium. Defending race and series champion Scott Pruett finished sixth in the No. 01 TELMEX BMW/Riley, four laps down, after transmission problems surfaced late.
The GT class victory went to Andy Lally, John Potter, Richard Lietz and Rene Rast in the No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche.
"I absolutely knew we had the potential to do it," Lally said of the victory. "It was a pleasure to be able to join the team. It was absolutely epic to come home . . . on the top step, especially the 50th."
Second place in GT went to the No. 67 TRG while third place went to the No. 59 Brumos Porsche.
The race marked the debut of three makes of cars - Corvette in Prototypes and Ferrari and Audi in GT. The highest finishing Corvette - the No. 5 Action Express Racing entry of Darren Law, David Donohue and Christian Fittipaldi - came home fifth. The top finishing Ferrari - the No. 63 Risi Competizione entry - came home fifth in GT while the top placing Audi - the No. 51 APR entry - was 31st in GT.
The Corvettes experienced trouble early with the No. 5 losing a cylinder on the opening circuit. More telling was the engine failure in the No. 10 Sun Trust Racing entry that ran only 14 laps and was forced to retire with engine problems.
"It's really disappointing but at the same time this is what happens in this game," team owner Wayne Taylor said.
The team, which started second, finished 58th overall and 14th among the Prototypes. It will receive championship points being awarded to Angelelli and co-driver Ricky Taylor since Angelelli did his required 30-minute stint.
"Because of catastrophic failure the second driver automatically gets points," Taylor said adding the engine failure was the first the team had experienced since switching to Chevy engines last season.
Shank took the DP lead in the inaugural North American Endurance Championship presented by VISITFLORIDA.com with 16 points. Starworks is second with 14 and Ganassi's No. 01 team third with 12. In GT, Magnus leads with 16 points, Brumos is second with 15 and the No. 67 TRG team third with 13.
Points were awarded on a 5-4-3-2 basis at six-hour increments in the Rolex 24. The series continues in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen on July 1, and concludes with the Super Weekend at the Brickyard on July 27 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.