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

Photo courtesy IMSA

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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Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night / DB3 Inc.

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.

Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)