DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The little team with no pedigree knocked off the big boys with all those championships.
Michael Shank Racing did it with a pair of drivers hoping Sunday's victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona is the kickoff to their career comebacks.
NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger closed out the twice-around-the-clock win by piloting the No. 60 Ford Riley for the final stint, a nearly three-hour drive that included some door-to-door banging with the competition. It was Allmendinger's first win in a major series in almost six years, and comes about a month after he landed the job of a lifetime with Roger Penske's NASCAR team.
IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson, meanwhile, turned in his own strong performance with a three-hour drive during the morning hours that proved he's healthy — but more importantly, he's still fast — after a six-month layoff because of a broken bone in his back. Wilson announced recently he's reuniting with Dale Coyne Racing for the upcoming IndyCar season.
The two paired with Grand-Am regulars Ozz Negri Jr. and John Pew to give Michael Shank its first win in one of the most prestigious sports car races in the world. Shank, who had a second entry that finished third, was nearly in tears in Daytona's storied Victory Lane.
"I am just grateful," he said of winning the 50th running of the 24-hour race.
Ryan Dalziel was at the wheel for Starworks Motorsports' second-place finish, and Felipe Nasar was driving for Shank when he crossed the line in third. Ford swept the top three spots of the Daytona Prototype class, and won the race for the first time since 1999.
It required holding off the vaunted teams from Chip Ganassi Racing, which finished fourth and sixth after both cars had mechanical issues.
IndyCar driver Scott Dixon was driving during the middle of the night when the shifter broke in the No. 02 BMW Riley. It put that car four laps down during the repair time, and long green flag runs prevented the team from making up the laps fast enough to get back into contention.
NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya was behind the wheel when the "star car" — the lineup also included IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti and NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray — crossed the finish line one lap down, in fourth.
Meanwhile, the defending race winner group of Grand-Am champions Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, IndyCar driver Graham Rahal and sports car standout Joey Hand finished sixth, down four laps. Pruett was running inside the top three headed into the final hour, but a late gearbox issue took the defending champions out of contention.
"It was an epic race," Ganassi said. "We just weren't a part of it. We struggled the whole 24 hours to keep pace with the Fords. It was a stretch for us to do it."
The Ganassi drivers noted many times the Ford were far superior in horsepower, and it was obvious in how the competition drove away from a Ganassi car every time a battle for position reached the oval portion of Daytona's course.
"All you have to do is have a pair of eyes and see what's going on. We had a pretty big deficit in power," Pruett said. "We kind of knew where we were at a third, halfway into the race. They could have us. We couldn't match their pace. They were running a half mph faster than we were easily."
Andy Lally, NASCAR's rookie of the year last season in the elite Sprint Cup Series, marked his return to sports car racing with a victory in the Grand Touring class for Magnus Racing.