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DAYTONA, Fla. – Historic events are often filled with special moments, and the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 was no exception. Ford powered cars managed to sweep the podium of North America’s greatest endurance test at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday to kick off the 2012 season of the Grand-Am Rolex series.
Michael Shank Racing's No. 60 Daytona Prototype claimed the checkered flag, followed by Starworks Motorsport's No. 8 DP and the MSR No. 6 DP, giving the Blue Oval its first DP victory at Daytona since 2003, and its first overall victory in the 24-hour marathon event since 1999.
"I always feel like I have to prove myself, because I came from nothing," Michael Shank said. "I've had great relationships with people like Ozz Negri and John Pew that have taken our business to another level."
A.J. Allmendinger piloted across the finish line seconds ahead of pole winner Ryan Dalziel, and Filipe Nasr soon followed to complete the impressive feat.
"That Ford motor was the best, most powerful engine I've ever had," Allmendinger said, noting that when anyone challenged him during that final three-hour period, "the engine pulled like no other I've ever had. It was great."
Ford also swept the podium in 1966, one of four victories for the manufacturer in the 24-hour version of the race, which includes three overall victories -- 1966, 1997 and 1999.
"What a historic moment for all of Ford Motor Company and its fans around the world," Jamie Allison, director, Ford Racing, said. "In the hands of our long-time partners at Michael Shank Racing and our new friends at Starworks Motorsport, we are proud to have captured this special 1-2-3 finish at the 50th running of the iconic Rolex 24 at Daytona. Without so many people, a moment like this would never be possible. The support from Roush Yates, who support all of our teams in Grand-Am, under the leadership of John Maddux and Doug Yates is critical to our success."
The accomplishments of the weekend were also special for John Maddux of Roush Yates engines.
“We’ve had some really fast cars in the past, but we’ve never had it come together,” Maddux said. “We had two really strong teams and they put it all together there today. A huge thanks to Robert and Doug Yates and Jack Roush for believing in the fact that we could make a commercial business out of sports car racing. It’s been great.”
Each of the three Ford teams on the podium led at least one lap, including a race-best 295 by the No. 8 and 249 by the No. 60. The three teams combined to pace 545 of the 761 completed laps.
"A grueling 24-hour race is a culmination of team work, perseverance and flawless execution, and that came at the hands of all 12 of our Ford drivers," said Allison.
The No. 60 DP, piloted by Allmendinger, Ozz Negri, John Pew and Justin Wilson, and the No. 8 DP, manned by Dalziel, Lucas Luhr, Allan McNish, Alex Popow and Enzo Potolicchio, each showed long stints of dominance at various points in the race, and the crew of the No. 6 DP, driven by Jorge Goncalvez, Michael McDowell, Felipe Nasr, and Gustavo Yacaman, made critical strides to come back from a lap down in the late stages of the event.
Winning the Rolex 24 is a special victory, but claiming the checkered flag on the 50th anniversary of the event makes it a moment many will never forget.
"Being there for the weekend festivities to celebrate the history of this marquee event, with the leadership of Jim France and his team in Grand-Am, make this victory even sweeter," Allison said.
The Grand-Am Rolex season continues March 31, at Barber Motorsports Park.