Rolex 24 At Daytona

January 30, 2012 by staff 

Rolex 24 At Daytona, The little team with no pedigree knocked off the big boys with all those championships. Michael Shank Racing did it with a pair of drivers hoping Sunday’s victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona is the kickoff to their career comebacks.

NASCAR driver A.J. Allmendinger closed out the twice-around-the-clock win by piloting the No. 60 Ford Riley for the final stint, a nearly three-hour drive that included some door-to-door banging with Allan McNish for the lead.

It was Allmendinger’s first win in a major series in almost six years, and comes about a month after he landed the job of a lifetime with Roger Penske’s NASCAR team.

“I feel very fortunate,” Allmendinger said. “This is one of the reasons why I love this race, because it really kicks off SpeedWeeks. It’s such a prestigious race. It’s one of those races you want on your résumé and you want to say that you were part of a victory.

“It’s amazing. I’m going to cherish this.”

IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson, meanwhile, turned in his own strong performance with a three-hour drive during the morning hours that proved he’s healthy – but more importantly, he’s still fast – after a six-month layoff because of a broken bone in his back. Wilson announced recently he’s reuniting with Dale Coyne Racing for the upcoming IndyCar season.

“Hopefully this is the start of a good season,” Wilson said. “We just have to work it out. I think it’s going to be an exciting year. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Allmendinger was suffering from severe leg cramps at the end of the race, and had to be helped from the car in Victory Lane. While waiting to start the post-race news conference, he rested his head on a chair with his eyes closed.

“I’m beat. I’m cramping all over,” he said nearly two hours after the race ended. “I’ve never felt anything like this. But it’s a good feeling.”

Wilson said he had cramping in his legs and lower back, but said it was unrelated to the broken vertebrae he suffered in an August accident at Mid-Ohio. He had to wear a protective shell for almost three months after the accident.

The two paired with Grand-Am regulars Ozz Negri Jr. and John Pew to give Shank its first win in one of the most prestigious sports car races in the world. Shank, who had a second entry that finished third, was nearly in tears in Daytona’s storied Victory Lane.

“I am just grateful,” he said of winning the 50th running of the 24-hour race. It was Shank’s ninth attempt to win Daytona.

Ryan Dalziel was at the wheel for Starworks Motorsport’s second-place finish, and Felipe Nasr was driving for Shank when he crossed the line in third. Ford swept the top three spots of the Daytona Prototype class, and won the race for the first time since 1999.

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