No doubt this weekend’s NASCAR Rolex 24 at Daytona was an emotional race for David Donohue who managed to follow in his late father’s footsteps (winner of the race almost forty years ago). The victory didn’t come easy and it was careful timing and skill that took Donohue to the front of the pack to cross the finish line just split-seconds ahead of other competitors.
Until now Chip Ganassi Racing seemed to have a strong competitive edge as the team has taken home the winner’s trophy for the past three races. In the end, however, it seems that some really sharp driving was all that was needed to end the winning streak. David Donohue started from pole position in a Brumos Porsche Riley when the race got underway on Saturday afternoon, with little hope of coming home with the winner’s trophy. He was facing the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya who replaced teammate Scott Pruett in the Ganassi Lexus Riley at some point during the race and it seemed that this much more experienced driver had the edge to keep the lead during the 53rd hour of the race. But Donohue was not to be outdone. Working with teammates Buddy Rice, Antonio Garcia and Darren Law, Donohue came out of the cockpits with 53 minutes to go in the No. 58 Porsche just behind Montoya. He struggled for a while, almost overtaking him or bumping Montoya a number of times over the course of several laps until finally he was able to take advantage of slower GT class traffic and slip ahead of Montoya’s Lexus, taking the lead on lap 711. Montoya wasn’t about to go down easy. He chased Donohue relentlessly for the remainder of the race, keeping him on his toes. But Donohue was clearly up for the challenge and Montoya ended up finishing just 0.167 seconds behind him. The victory was a new record, with the previous closest 1-2 finish being 30.879 seconds. Hurley Haywood finished third in a Porsche Riley.
Speaking about his victory, a teary Donohue said: “We’re just a small part of what this team could do. I’m just glad I could carry the flag.” What was especially interesting was that four of the new, sleek prototypes finished on the lead lap. This was the most ever, since no more than two cars had ever finished in this way before. To top it off, the four cars spent most of the final two hours of the race nose-to-tail, showing that the cars have incredible potential to dominate the season.