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Allmendinger lasts longest in 24-hour classic

AJ Allmendinger takes the checkers to give Michael Shank Racing its first victory in nine tries at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Associated Press

AJ Allmendinger takes the checkers to give Michael Shank Racing its first victory in nine tries at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

DAYTONA BEACH — The little team with no pedigree knocked off the big boys with all those championships in the Rolex 24.

NASCAR driver AJ Allmen­dinger closed out the race for Michael Shank Racing by driving the No. 60 Ford Riley for a nearly three-hour drive Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.

Allmendinger's first win in a major series in almost six years came about a month after he landed the job of a lifetime with Roger Penske's NASCAR Sprint Cup team.

"I feel very fortunate," Allmendinger said. "This is one of the reasons why I love this race, because it really kicks off SpeedWeeks. … It's amazing. I'm going to cherish this."

He teamed with IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, who had a strong performance in his own three-hour drive in his return from a six-month layoff because of a broken bone in his back.

"Hopefully this is the start of a good season," said Wilson, who is rejoining IndyCar's Dale Coyne team for 2012. "We just have to work it out."

The two paired with Grand-Am regulars Ozz Negri Jr. and John Pew to give Shank's team its first win in nine tries at the twice-around-the-clock classic.

"I am just grateful," he said of taking the event's 50th running.

Ryan Dalziel spent the last hour trying to chase down Allmendinger in his Starworks Motorsports Ford but wound up second, 5.198 seconds back — a remarkably close finish for an endurance race.

The top three cars completed 761 laps, or 2,709 miles.

The two vaunted teams from Chip Ganassi Racing had mechanical issues. The team's "star car" — featuring IndyCar champions Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti and NASCAR's Juan Montoya and Jamie McMurray — was a lap down in fourth.

Andy Lally, the 2011 Sprint Cup rookie of the year, marked his return to sports cars by winning the Grand Touring class for Magnus Racing. He, John Potter, Richard Lietz and Rene Rast ran 727 laps in a Porsche GT3.

Charles Espenlaub of Lutz, on the same No. 40 Mazda team as actor Patrick Dempsey, finished 21st overall, 10th in the GT class. Patrick Long of Belleair was part of a Porsche GT team that finished 26th.

NOTABLE: IndyCar's Marco Andretti, driving a Ford/Riley DP, was treated for dehydration after his final stint. … Brian Johnson, the longtime lead singer for rock band AC/DC who now resides in Sarasota, made his race debut. His team's BMW/Riley DP completed 672 laps.

.FAST FACTS

Speedweeks schedule

at Daytona International Speedway

Feb. 18: Budweiser Shootout (NASCAR Sprint Cup exhibition race) and Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 ARCA race

Feb. 19: Daytona 500 qualifying (Sprint Cup, sets top two positions only)

Feb. 23: Gatorade Duels, twin 150-mile qualifying races for the Daytona 500 (sets spots 3-43)

Feb. 24: NextEra Energy Resources 250 NASCAR trucks race (100 laps)

Feb. 25: Drive4COPD 300 Nationwide series (120 laps)

Feb. 26: Daytona 500 (200 laps)

Tickets: See daytonainter

nationalspeedway.com or call toll-free 1-800-748-7467 (PIT-SHOP)

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Allmendinger lasts longest in 24-hour classic 01/29/12 [Last modified: Sunday, January 29, 2012 11:06pm]
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