NASCAR STAR, INDYCAR VETERAN AND TWO SOUTH FLORIDA DRIVERS WIN AT DAYTONA

Dempsey Racing Mazda at Daytona

"Grey's Anatomy" star Patrick Dempsey joined Charles Espenlaub, Joe Foster and Charles Putnam in the No. 40 Mazda for a 21st overall finish and 10th in the GT class (photo courtesy: John Harrelson, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)

On his ninth attempt, team owner Michael Shank finally captured America’s most prestigious sports car race – the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona. The GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series heads to Barber Motorsports Park March 31 before shifting to Homestead-Miami Speedway for Round 3 April 27-29.

The team of South Florida residents Ozz Negri and John Pew, along with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver AJ Allmendinger and IZOD IndyCar Series veteran Justin Wilson in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley survived a tight battle for the lead in the final hours to take home the grueling twice-around-the-clock challenge.

Allmendinger, who recently signed with Roger Penske in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, drove the final stint in the No. 60 car. It was Allmendinger’s seventh time racing with Shank in the Rolex 24.

“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 such a prestigious race. It’s one of those races you want on your resume and you want to say that you were part of a victory. It’s amazing. I’m going to cherish this.”

Said Negri: “It’s a cool way to start the year. Being with Mike for such a long time, what makes it special is that he wants to win as bad as I do. It’s just so cool. To have a fiery AJ, a very calm and fast Wilson and John Pew on the team, I think we had a dream team this year.”

Finishing behind the No. 60 car was the Ft. Lauderdale-based No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Ford Riley driven by Ryan Dalziel, Alex Popow, Lucas Luhr, Allan McNish and Enzo Potolicchio.

ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA BY THE NUMBERS

(-1) – One lap shy of an all-time record for laps completed at the Rolex 24 (762 in 1992)
2 –South Florida residents (Negri, Pew) on the four-driver winning Michael Shank Racing team
3 – Ford-powered Riley chassis cars that finished in the top three slots in yesterday’s race
4 – The finish of Miami resident Juan Pablo Montoya and teammates Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon and Jamie McMurray for the No. 02 Target/TELMEX/BMW/Riley team
5 – Years since AJ Allmendinger has won a race
5.198 – Margin of victory in seconds
7 – Allmendinger’s seventh time racing with Shank in the Rolex 24
8 – Drivers with NASCAR ties
13 – Competing drivers in the 2012 Rolex 24 who reside in Florida, including seven from South Florida
21 – Countries represented in the 50th Rolex 24 At Daytona
35 – The cost in dollars for a two-day Grand Prix of Miami Weekend ticket
53 – Lead changes during the race
59 – Combined race victories for Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, which includes victories for their Chip Ganassi Racing team in the last two Grand Prix of Miami races.  (The duo also won in Miami in 2008.)
89 – Days until the Grand Prix of Miami (April 29) at Homestead-Miami Speedway
126.3 – The average speed in mph of the winning No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley team
165 – Total number of minutes for the upcoming Grand Prix of Miami (Sunday, April 29)
761 – Laps completed (one shy of the all-time record set in 1992)
2,709.16 – Miles driven by the winning team, nearly equivalent of a trip from Daytona Beach to Los Gatos, Calif., Allmendinger’s hometown
1,177.9 – Laps required if the winning team’s miles driven were converted to the 2.3-mile, 11-turn road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway

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