DAYTONA BEACH — The new Action Express Racing team showed up at Daytona International Speedway this week simply looking to take its new engine for a test run. What a run it was.
Joao Barbosa powered the team to the 24 Hours of Daytona title Sunday, finishing an improbable victory in the organization's first appearance in the sports car endurance race.
"I think we would agree," teammate Ryan Dalziel said, "we didn't come into this thing thinking we had a realistic shot."
The new team avoided major mechanical problems and benefited from a late blunder by Chip Ganassi Racing to win by about 50 seconds. No one else was within four laps of the lead on the 3.56-mile road course.
"What can I say? I'm out of words," Barbosa said. "The teammates, the crew, they did a great job. Action Express rocks, and it's going to keep going through the year."
The group was formed in the offseason after Brumos Racing cut back to a one-car team. That prompted longtime Brumos affiliate Bob Johnson to assemble Action Express Racing, bringing some crew and drivers over.
"This is amazing," Johnson said minutes before the finish. "I can't even begin to describe it."
Barbosa, Dalziel, Terry Borcheller and Mike Rockenfeller deftly guided the No. 9 Porsche Riley through a rain-soaked start Saturday that caused cautions and spin outs for much of the field. They avoided accidents and poor pit stops that pushed so many others behind, and they didn't succumb to the pressure in the final hours.
Ganassi's Justin Wilson pulled the No. 01 BMW Riley into the garage with about three hours remaining after he said he heard a popping noise. The crew scurried about as they fell down a lap and didn't find anything wrong with the car. The difference was too much for teammate Scott Pruett to make up in the final two hours.
"I heard a loud clank, and the car kind of whacked," Wilson said. "I thought I'd blown a front tire or something like that, and being so close to the garage, I figured I'd pull it in."
That was the second disappointment for the favored Ganassi team.
Ganassi's No. 02 car retired in the early morning hours because of engine failure. Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon and Jamie McMurray had led a combined 139 of the opening 247 laps.
Formula One: The 2010 campaign gets under way with the first preseason testing session today in Valencia, Spain. Renault announced it will field the circuit's first Russian driver — Vitaly Petrov, 25, will partner with Robert Kubica — and it will return to the black and yellow colors it used from 1977 to 1985. Also, the sport welcomes back Michael Schumacher at Mercedes GP. He retired from Ferrari in 2006.