Traditionally the racing season’s starter event, the Rolex 24 at Daytona celebrated its 50th anniversary with plenty of nail-biting action on the track this past weekend. Mike Shank Racing from Pataskala, Ohio, took the checkered flag in the Daytona Prototype class, breaking NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger’s almost six-year dry spell as he completed the final stint of the race. This was the ninth try at the championship for Mike Shank racing, with other team members being Justin Wilson, Ozz Negri Jr. and John Pew.
With 2 hours and 8 minutes of the race remaining, Allmendinger took the lead in the MSR Ford-Riley, doing battle with defending champion Scott Pruett driving for Ganassi Racing. Allmendinger also managed to outrun Ryan Dalziel in the Starworks car as he headed for the finish line. Although it was Allmendinger who claimed the victory for the team, other team members had made the win possible with their driving skills earlier in the race. In fact, IndyCar driver Justin Wilson turned in the fasted lap of the race. Allmendinger took over from Negri, and had a close shave with Allan McNish in the Starworks car as he banked in turn four and connected bodywork with Allmendinger’s car. However, the latter was undeterred and continued in his pursuit for first place. With 19 minutes left of the race, and the Shank team enjoying a lead of 11 seconds, a GT car sliding into an inside wall caused some anxiety. Fortunately for the leading cars there was no call for a full course caution, which would have resulted in a bunched up field for the final sprint and Allmendinger crossed the finish line with a 5.198 second lead over second-place Ryan Dalziel in the Ford-powered Starworks car.
As runner-up in the 2011 Grand-Am championship, SunTrust Racing was well prepared for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, but unexpected engine trouble saw driver Max Angelelli enter the pits only 25 minutes into the race. The car entered the race five minutes later, only to return shortly after to be declared out of the race. Team owner, Wayne Taylor, noted that it was the first time they have had engine trouble since using Chevrolet, and as the race began their only concern was the traffic, the engine trouble had caught the team by surprise. Angelelli had started the race in second place, and will be awarded some points for completing 30 minutes of the race. While it was a disappointing start for SunTrust Racing, the season has just begun and anything can happen in the months ahead.