Indianapolis 500 winners Alexander Rossi and Helio Castroneves added overall Rolex 24 At Daytona victory to their career honors list Sunday, as teammate Filipe Albuquerque resisted intense pressure in the final stint to take the checkered flag for Wayne Taylor Racing.
2016 Indy winner Rossi and three-time “500” winner Castroneves became the 14th and 15th champions of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” to also win the twice-around-the-clock endurance sports car racing classic at Daytona International Speedway.
Albuquerque, Rossi, Castroneves and Ricky Taylor combined to win the 24-hour race by 4.704 seconds in their No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 over the No. 48 Ally Cadillac Racing Cadillac shared by 2016 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion and 2019 Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud, NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie and seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Rockenfeller.
It was the third consecutive victory for Wayne Taylor Racing in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) marquee race. WTR switched from Cadillac to Acura after last season but didn’t miss a beat on the 3.56-mile roval that combines an infield road course with sections of the high-banked oval at Daytona.
Castroneves joined WTR for the Rolex 24 after winning the IMSA Daytona Prototype International (DPi) last season for Acura Team Penske, which withdrew from IMSA after 2020.
“What an incredible opportunity to be driving for Acura again and to keep rolling what we had last year,” Castroneves said. “This was the toughest one, with the conditions we were under. This guy (Albuquerque) was definitely on it. I can’t thank enough Wayne for getting this group, and the entire organization. They did an amazing job to prepare the car. I saw the process, and it paid off.”
Teams with INDYCAR drivers took the top two spots on the podium. The No. 55 Mazda shared by Harry Tincknell, Oliver Jarvis and Jonathan Bomarito finished third, but it looked like INDYCAR drivers would be on all three steps of the podium with 10 minutes remaining in the race.
Albuquerque led but faced intense pressure from Renger van der Zande in the No. 01 Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac, shared with six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon and Kevin Magnussen. Van der Zande trimmed a six-second gap with 30 minutes remaining and was on Albuquerque’s rear bumper with 15 minutes left.
Van der Zande stayed within eight-tenths of a second for the next seven minutes, as it appeared that a photo finish could be in the works after 24 hours of intense action.
But with just under eight minutes left, the right rear tire of van der Zande’s car punctured just before the pit entrance, ending Ganassi’s chance for victory. The car ended up fifth, behind the podium finishers and the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura that included two-time Indy 500 winner and 1999 CART champion Juan Pablo Montoya in its driver lineup.
It was the second time a cut tire hurt the Ganassi team, as Dixon also suffered a flat while charging toward the leaders with two and one-half hours to go.
“This is unbelievable,” Rossi said. “Three of the best (teammates) here. It’s just a pleasure to be able to do it. We couldn’t have done it without this guy, though, Filipe. Phenomenal. Just thrilled right now.”
The other Daytona Prototype International (DPi) team including an INDYCAR standout, the No. 5 Mustang Sampling/JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac with four-time INDYCAR SERIES champion Sebastien Bourdais, ended up last of the seven DPi cars in the field and 34th overall after getting tangled in an accident before the halfway point.
Bourdais led at the six-hour mark, but trouble struck for the team at the start of the 10th hour. INDYCAR and Indy 500 veteran Tristan Vautier was behind the wheel and made contact with a Porsche in the slower GT Daytona class in Turn 1, requiring lengthy repairs in the garage.
A tussle also prevented 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year Rinus VeeKay from any driving in the race. Just 80 minutes into the race, VeeKay’s teammate Rob Hodes went wide in Turn 1 due to a deflating tire in the No. 81 DragonSpeed USA Oreca Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class car, hitting the tire barrier and inducing enough damage to force the car to retire soon thereafter.
In the GT Daytona class, the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW team that included Colton Herta placed sixth in class and 27th overall, the best result among the two teams carrying NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers. The No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari that included Ed Jones was 14th in class and 39th overall.
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES season starts Sunday, April 18 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama.