Ganassi’s No. 02 Riley-Ford Scores Rolex 24 Victory

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The all-NASCAR/IndyCar lineup of Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan have emerged victorious at the end of the 53rd Rolex 24 at Daytona, all co-driving the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford.

Dixon turned in an incredible performance from start to finish, either going longer on fuel stints or holding off the advances of the team car from CGR, Jordan or Ricky Taylor in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing and the defending champion No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP.

“It’s such a team effort,” Dixon told Fox Sports in Victory Lane. “We kept the car clean and tried to look after it as much as possible. Such a big thank you to my teammates. It was awesome. It’s great to be back in [Victory Lane] with Team Target and Ford Ecoboost.

“We just had the speed. It was a lot of pit work to get the transition and jump ’em in the pits there at one point. I’m just so happy for the team.”

Meanwhile, Larson, McMurray and Kanaan raised their respective games across the board with Larson in particular providing a star turn in his second Rolex 24 start.

“It’s crazy how much a year can do,” said Larson. “I hated this race after last year. I was terrible! But this year, coming back, I felt comfortable right off the bat and had a lot of fun…I’m just a dirt, oval guy, and to come here and race a sports car at Daytona on the road course is pretty awesome.”

As for Kanaan, he dedicated the win to his wife, Lauren, and newest son, Deco, who was born just a few weeks ago.

He was also glad to add another timepiece to his collection – in this case, a Rolex Daytona – without having to pay up.

“I love watches,” Kanaan said. “I’ve always bought them, so I finally got one for free today!”

Ganassi has won in three of the last five years, having also won in 2011 and 2013. Dixon’s win is his first since the last “star car” win with Casey Mears and the late Dan Wheldon in 2006; for the other three, its’ their first overall Rolex 24 triumph.

McMurray joins legends Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt as the only drivers to have won both the Daytona 500 and Rolex 24. However, he made sure to especially thank Dixon for the No. 02’s success.

“Really, it’s about Scott Dixon to me, today,” McMurray said. “He got in with three and a half hours to go and he really did an amazing job. I’m just so proud of him.

“Scott’s become a good friend of mine, and I’m honored to get to call him a friend.”

The Taylor’s hopes of winning 10 years after father Wayne did so in 2005 came undone in the final hour courtesy of a drive time miscalculation. Jordan was forced to get out of the car and Ricky brought the car home to the finish in an unrepresentative third, behind Action Express.

Corvette Racing (GTLM) and Riley Motorsports (GTD) were the GT class winners to make for an all-American triumph for Corvette’s C7.R and the Dodge Viper GT3-R.

The Corvette crew included Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Ryan Briscoe behind the wheel, with the GTD winners Kuno Wittmer, Dominik Farnbacher, Cameron Lawrence, Al Carter and Ben Keating.

Meanwhile PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports (Mike Guasch, Andrew Palmer, Andrew Novich, Tom Kimber-Smith) scored a shock, last-minute win in PC after CORE autosport went off course, then had a fire inside the last 25 minutes. Colin Braun was evaluated and released from the infield care center. The late-race incident cost the No. 54 Oreca FLM09 its second straight Rolex 24 win after a flawless drive.

Alexander Rossi remains the story in IndyCar in 2019

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ELKHART LAKE, Wisc. – Alexander Rossi’s greatness was on full display Monday at Road America.

He started on the outside of the front row, drafted behind pole sitter Colton Herta at the drop of the green flag, pulled out a perfectly timed move to race side by side with Herta going into Turn 1.

By Turn 2 of the first lap, Rossi’s No. 27 NAPA Honda was out front and drove away from the field, easily winning the REV Group Grand Prix of Road America by nearly 30 seconds over Team Penske’s Will Power.

Rossi was so good, it appeared he was running on a different race course than the other 23 competitors. There was some outstanding racing throughout the field with 191 total passes, including 175 for position, but none of those passes were at the front.

According to Rossi’s engineer, Jeremy Milles, there was just one thing kept Rossi’s race from being deemed complete perfection.

“It we had stayed out two laps longer on the last pit stop, we would have led every single lap instead of Graham Rahal leading one lap,” Milless told NBC Sports.com. “It’s good to see when we give him a proper car, he puts it to work.

“He’s not like a lot of drivers.”

Rossi led 54 of the 55 laps in the race and defeated Power by 28.4391 seconds – a huge margin of victory by today’s standards. Back in 1982, Hector Rebaque defeated Al Unser by a full lap at the 4.014-mile, 14 Road America road course, but those were far different times than today’s very deep field in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Although it was Rossi’s second victory of the season and the seventh of his career, the 27-year-old from Nevada City, California, has been the driver everyone talks about in 2019. The win snapped a four-race streak where he finished second three times and fifth in the other.

Simon Pagenaud won the 103rdIndianapolis 500 on May 26, but the fans and media were talking about Rossi’s bold, daring moves, including some wildly aggressive passes down the front straight and to the outside in Turn 1.

Rossi had a fantastic car the next week in the first race of the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle but was burned by the timing of a caution period for a crash as his main challenger, Josef Newgarden, dove into the pit area to make a stop just before pit lane closed because of the caution.

Rossi had to wait until the pits were reopened to make his stop, and that put him behind Newgarden and ultimately decided the race.

After a fifth-place finish the following day in Race No. 2, Rossi was once again standing up in his seat and on top of the steering wheel in a tremendous battle with Newgarden at Texas Motor Speedway on June 8. Rossi tried his best to make his car stick on the outside lane going into Turn 1, but when he discovered the risk was much higher than the reward, he had to begrudgingly settle for second, finishing 0.816 seconds behind the current NTT IndyCar Series points leader.

Rossi left no doubt on his Sunday drive through the Wisconsin woods as he never was challenged.

In just three short seasons, Rossi has developed into one of the greatest drivers in a generation in IndyCar. He doesn’t even have 10 victories yet, and he already had the makings of a legend.

“It’s almost like Juan Pablo Montoya, when he arrived as a rookie, he was great immediately,” Rossi’s team owner Michael Andretti told NBCSports.com after the race. “Juan is one of the greats, and I think as time moves on, Alex will prove to be one of the greats.

“He is very aggressive, very calm, very confident, everything you want in a driver. He wasn’t racing anybody all day; he was just racing himself not to make any mistakes.”

For Andretti, this is a very important time in his relationship with Rossi. The driver’s contract concludes at the end of this season, and he is the focal point of speculation on where he will race in 2020.

Before Pagenaud revived his career with a sweep of the major events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Month of May, Rossi looked like “Penske Material” as the driver that would take over the No. 22 Chevrolet. After Pagenaud won the Indy 500, team owner Roger Penske assured him he would be back on the team in 2020.

Rossi’s loyalties lie with Honda. Both he and his father, Pieter, share a close relationship with the engine manufacturer that helped the former Formula One test driver at Manor find a full-time home in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Andretti told NBCSports.com on Friday that he was “optimistically confident” that he will re-sign Rossi once a sponsorship agreement with NAPA is completed.

INDYCAR Photo by Chris Jones

Andretti remains confident after Rossi’s win on Sunday.

“We’re getting there,” Andretti said. “I think we’re getting there. We are feeling pretty good about it.”

There are others, however, that aren’t as optimistic.

If Roger Penske wants a driver, who turns down an opportunity like that? After all, Team Penske is far and away the winningest team in IndyCar history, including a record 18 Indy 500 wins.

Think of these scenarios.

What if McLaren makes a substantial offer to align with Andretti Autosport for a full-time NTT IndyCar Series team in the future after McLaren’s debacle in this year’s Indy 500?

In order for that to happen, though, Andretti would have to switch to Chevrolet, because Honda ‘s parent company in Japan will no longer do business with McLaren.

The last time Andretti considered leaving Honda for Chevy, Rossi was set to leave Andretti to join another Honda team, Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports in 2017.

If Andretti Autosports and McLaren joined together, that would also mean the Andretti-aligned Harding Steinbrenner Racing would become a Chevy operation.

Honda could keep Rossi as one of its drivers by leading him to Chip Ganassi Racing. Five-time Cup Series champion Scott Dixon remains on top of his game, but it’s unlikely he will be racing Indy cars 10 years from now.

Barring unforeseen circumstance, Rossi will still be in the cockpit and winning races in a decade, and that would position Ganassi’s team for the future. The team’s second driver is rookie Felix Rosenqvist, who is currently racing with a one-year contract.

Even Rossi knows his situation for next year is complicated, which is why he chooses not to talk about it. He has developed a strong bond with Milless as his engineer and Rob Edwards (white shirt on left) as his race strategist.

Do both of those key members end up on a different team with Rossi? Edwards is a key member of management at Andretti Autosport as the Chief Operating Officer.

Rossi is as cerebral as he is aggressive. After his victory, when pressed upon his next contract, he concluded the conversation perfectly.

“I have no considerations,” Rossi said regarding his contract status. “It’s in God’s hands.”