NASCAR: Menard, McMurray end seasons with top-fives

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Perhaps the unfortunate part of the last race of the season is that if you’re a driver who has a great race or great finish but isn’t in either win or championship contention, you get overlooked.

Witness Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray, who finished fourth and fifth to round out the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and finish the day the best two drivers who didn’t qualify for the Chase this year.

Menard qualified 16th but started from the rear of the field after being penalized for unapproved pre-race adjustments. But Menard was quickly into the top 25 by Lap 12, and methodically worked further forward the rest of the day despite having a cut rear tire. Menard’s fourth-place finish marked his fifth top-five and 13th top-10 finish of the season, both record highs, en route to a 21st-place finish in points in the No. 27 Richard Childress Racing entry.

“I’m proud of my guys and how hard they worked today to get us that fourth-place finish,” Menard said, via the team. “This year was good for us. We’ve made big gains and learned a lot. I’m looking forward to next year and what we can do as a team.”

McMurray started 19th and banked his seventh top-five finish of the year after another consistent run. He finished 18th in the points standings, one spot behind Chip Ganassi Racing teammate and 2014 top rookie Kyle Larson, but both drivers were better than their final standings would indicate. McMurray’s crew, led by crew chief Keith Rodden, brought the No. 1 team’s performance forward all season.

“We really struggled with the set up on our car tonight,” McMurray said, via the team. “Keith and all the guys did a great job making adjustments throughout the race and not giving up.  We took a gamble on a two tire stop in the closing laps and it worked out great for us.  The car really came to life and we were able to pull off a top-five finish to end our season.  I really want to thank all the guys on this team for everything this season and most importantly a huge thanks to all of our partners who have supported us throughout the year.”

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.