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Ganassi 'slams' door shut on field

DAYTONA BEACH — America's longest endurance race came down to a one-lap sprint.

No surprise, the winner ended up being the guy with more wins in the Grand-Am Series than anybody else.

Three-time and defending series champion Scott Pruett drove the last leg of the Rolex 24 at Daytona and held off Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon during a final restart.

Pruett's smooth restart helped him pull away from Dixon and third-place Joao Barbosa after the green-white restart and clinch the Daytona Prototype class by 2.42 seconds Sunday. It was Pruett's 32nd series win and fourth at Daytona (1994, 2007, 2008). It could be his most meaningful, too.

This one capped the "Ganassi Slam" as he became the only car owner to win America's four biggest races in a 12-month period. His drivers won the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400 last year.

"I don't drive the cars, I don't change the tires, I don't work on the engines. There's a lot of great competitors that it takes to make up a team," Ganassi said. "I'm just the guy that gets to stand up here and talk about it."

Pruett and co-drivers Memo Rojas, Joey Hand and Graham Rahal earned the driving spoils for Ganassi, whose cars finished second in the Rolex 24 the previous two years.

"There's a lot of should've, would've, could've," Pruett said. "I was right there the last two years. … I lived it. Chip as well."

The No. 01 car overcame setbacks. It lost two laps Saturday with a gearbox issue. Hand, who consistently clocked the event's fastest laps, hit a tire on pit road Sunday and got a drive-through penalty including a 30-second stop. He fell 51 seconds back, but made up 30 seconds under green-flag conditions.

Pruett drove the last 110 minutes and made up the rest of the ground by pitting earlier than the others on the lead lap and taking advantage of new tires.

His car held off the No. 02 Ganassi entry with the star-studded lineup of Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray.

Dempsey's 'McDreamy' spot on podium

Actor Patrick Dempsey's team finished third in the GT class at the Rolex 24 to cap one of his most memorable weekends.

The Grey's Anatomy star drove the No. 40 Mazda into the lead Sunday morning, but co-driver Tom Long spun with just under six hours left and the Dempsey Racing car fell four laps down. Charles Espenlaub of Lutz also co-drove the car along with Joe Foster. They finished four laps behind GT winners Steven Bertheau, Brendan Gaughan, Wolf Henzler, Andy Rally and Spencer Pumpelly.

It was the first time "McDreamy," who shed tears of joy after the race, led a race at this level. It came two days after he appeared at the Sundance Film Festival for the premier of Flypaper, a film he also produced.

.fast facts

Speedweeks

Feb. 12: Bud Shootout (NASCAR Sprint Cup exhibition race); Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 ARCA race

Feb. 13: Daytona 500 qualifying (top two spots only)

Feb. 17: Gatorade Duel at Daytona, twin 150-mile qualifying races for the Daytona 500 (spots 3-43)

Feb. 18: NextEra Energy Resources 250 trucks race (100 laps)

Feb. 19: Drive4COPD 300 Nationwide series (120 laps)

Feb. 20: Daytona 500 Sprint Cup race (200 laps)

Ganassi 'slams' door shut on field 01/30/11 [Last modified: Sunday, January 30, 2011 7:40pm]
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