Photo courtesy IMSA

Ford GT, Alegra Porsche, Performance Tech secure Rolex 24 class wins

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While Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Cadillac DPi-V.R won the marquee Prototype class in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, two of the other three competing classes had exciting finishes as well in the 24-hour endurance race at Daytona International Speedway:

In GTLM, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 66 Ford GT brought home the checkered flag with Dirk Mueller behind the wheel, who teamed with Joey Hand and IndyCar driver Sebastien Bourdais.

Mueller held off the 911 Porsche GT Team’s Porsche 911 RSR, anchored by Patrick Pilet, winning by a 2.988-second margin.

“This is a stressful race,” Hand said. “You’ve got to be on your game. This race is all about the people we have behind us, the guys and gals for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Look what we did in one year. The first race (in the Ford GT) was one year ago with this car and look at what we’ve did in one year. We won Le Mans since then and now we’ve won Daytona.

“We did what we needed to do. Dirk was the man at the end, was in a tough situation and got it done. Thanks to my German brother from another mother (Mueller), he pulled through and it’s all over here.”

Added Bourdais, “I just couldn’t be any more prouder of these guys, Ford and Chip Ganassi Racing. It’s unbelievable the job (Mueller) did at the end to make it stick.”

In GTD, it was both a comeback and an anniversary for Alegra Motorsports. Team owner Carlos de Quesada won the Rolex 10 years ago. Sunday, de Quesada, along with son Michael, Daniel Morad, Jesse Lazare and anchor driver Michael Christensen came from behind to win in their No. 28 Porsche 911 GT3 R.

The 28 held off a strong last lap challenge, defeating the No. 29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 by a mere 0.293 seconds.

“It was quite exciting,” Christensen told Fox Sports. “We hadn’t been in the lead until the last hour, but that was all according to plan.

“Obviously it’s difficult to make that plan happen in such a long and tough race, but I had to take some deep breaths the last few laps and last caution as well just to keep everything intact and keep focus on. … It was quite intense.

Morad thanked Carlos de Quesada for bringing him onto the team and giving him his first career Rolex start.

“Two years ago, I wasn’t racing,” Morad said. “(Carlos de Quesada) believed in a young driver lineup. It’s only fitting the last hour of the race ended like that.

“This whole thing has been a dream. Allegra won this race 10 years ago. This is the 10-year anniversary. Carlos was running with his son. … Just all Cup champions from the IMSA Development Series. It couldn’t have worked out any better.”

Lastly, in the five-car Prototype Challenge field, the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09 – anchored in the final segments by Nicholas Boulle – cruised to an easy victory.

The No. 38 – which also included drivers James French, Patricio O’Ward and Kyle Masson – finished 22 laps ahead of its closest rival, the No. 26 Oreca FLM09 of BAR1 Motorsports.

NOTES: Sunday’s win in GTD marked the 77th class win for Porsche in the Rolex 24, while the GTLM win earned Ford its 27th class win.

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Alexander Rossi’s Grand Prix of Alabama gamble fails to pay off

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Alexander Rossi bobbled for the first time in 2018 with an 11th-place finish in the Honda IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.

And to add insult to injury, Rossi also lost the points lead as a result.

Rossi got off to about as great a start to the season as possible. He finished third at St. Petersburg and sat third in the standings. He finished third again at Phoenix and climbed to second in the points.

Rossi won the Long Beach Grand Prix after starting from the pole and leading 71 laps. That put him at the top of the standings after three races.

Then, as quickly as he climbed to the top, he got knocked down a spot after finishing off the podium for the first time in 2018.

Rossi not only missed the podium, he finished outside the top 10.

“We didn’t get the result that we wanted,” Rossi said after the race. “That remains a mystery. But at the end of the day it was about survival. We couldn’t make the tires last; we couldn’t really get a great fuel number.”

The biggest negative was the one factor that was mostly out of his control. Rossi gambled that he was facing only a brief shower when rain began to fall with about 15 minutes remaining. He was wrong.

“We tried to be pretty aggressive on the dry tires and stay out and survive the rain, hoping it would dry out,” Rossi said. “And it didn’t really work.

“Sometimes you’ll have those days.”