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Penske’s winning Porsche, record crowd adds to ‘WOW’ factor at Rolex 24 at Daytona

Winning team of Felipe Nasr, Dane Cameron, Matt Campbell, Josef Newgarden use strategy, fast prototype to win sports car marathon

By Don Coble don@claytodayonline.com
Posted 1/28/24

DAYTONA BEACH – It takes a lot to impress Roger Penske.

The man racing called “The Captain” has been to Victory Lane 19 times as the winning car owner at the Indianapolis 500. …

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Penske’s winning Porsche, record crowd adds to ‘WOW’ factor at Rolex 24 at Daytona

Winning team of Felipe Nasr, Dane Cameron, Matt Campbell, Josef Newgarden use strategy, fast prototype to win sports car marathon


Posted

DAYTONA BEACH – It takes a lot to impress Roger Penske.

The man racing calls “The Captain” has been to Victory Lane 19 times as the winning car owner at the Indianapolis 500. He also owns the current NASCAR Cup Series team with driver Ryan Blaney. But he said Sunday’s victory at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona will always be special.

“If you look at RP (Penske), I think he had a tear in his eyes,” driver Dane Cameron said after he joined Felipe Nasr, Matt Campbell and Josef Newgarden in the winning Porsche 963.

The jubilation that follows the twice-around-the-clock sports car race is unlike any other race. And this one was no different. The infield was sold out and bustling with activity. The race featured 59 cars and a lot of fuel and tire strategies.

“This is the biggest crowd here for a sports car race,” Penske said. “My hat’s off to IMSA. “I’ll tell you, this goes down as one of the biggest wins we’ve had.”

Penske had a class victory at Daytona in 1966 and an overall win in 1969. It took 55 years, but Penske was finally back on the most sacred ground at Daytona – Victory Lane.

The difference for the winning Porsche was a final pit stop with 43 minutes remaining. The Porsche got better fuel mileage, so it didn’t take as long on pit road

as the Cadillac V-Series.R prototype driven by Tom Blomqvist. Time saved getting gas allowed Nasr to make what proved to be the winning pass on pit road.

“The race really came down to the wire at the very final stop,” Nasr said. “It was pretty much all about the fuel numbers. Each one was the energy numbers we were reaching. I just have to say that was a great call from the team, from Porsche Penske Motorsports, just to give me the opportunity to be in the lead again in that final part of the race, and then it was down to me to hit the numbers and keep the 31 (Blomqvist) behind.”

“It all came down to a fuel game,” Penske said.

Not only was it Penske’s first 24-hour win in 55 years, but it was the 19th “official” time Porsche took the checkered flag at America’s most iconic sports car race. (A Porsche-powered Riley won the race in 2010, but since it had a unique eight-cylinder engine, Porsche doesn’t list it as one of its winning cars.)

With new tire rules, both Penske cars waited until the night and cooler temperatures on Sunday to turn up the heat. GTP teams were limited to 25 sets of Michelin tires for the entire event, including practice, and only 20 sets for the race. That meant they had to run two and three stints on the same set, which really made the cars difficult to control – especially with the unseasonably hot temperatures on Saturday.

Nasr hinted at his team’s strategy less than four hours after the race started at 1:40 p.m. on Saturday.

“In the heat of the day, (Cadillac) seems to have an advantage, especially under braking and traction,” he said. “They seem to handle better in those two areas. They have the upper hand now, but ask me in a few hours, and we might have a different answer.”

In fact, neither of Penske’s cars led during the first five hours. Campbell took the lead on Lap 594 and stayed out front for 155 laps after daybreak, but Blomqvist steered the Cadillac into the lead for 19 laps until his car was passed during the final pit stop. Nasr led the final 24 laps.

The Porsche and Cadillac were the only leaders in the final 354 laps.

Blomqvist, who Pipo Derani and Jack Aitken joined in the Chip Ganassi-owned Cadillac, got as close as three car lengths with less than 10 minutes remaining, but Nasr pulled ahead to win by nearly 150 yards.

The Acura ARX-06 for Jordan Taylor, Filpe Albuquerque, Brendon Hartley and Marcus Ericcson finished third.

The GTP class used common hybrid powertrains that take kinetic energy gained in braking and store it in the batteries. The three other classes are slower because they don’t utilize that kind of technology.

The team of Dwight Merriman, Ryan Dalziel, 17-year-old Conncer Zilisch and Christian Rasmussen were 24 laps behind the overall winner, but they won the

slower LMP2 class in an ORECA. Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, Daniel Serra and Davide Rigonwon GTD Pro in a Ferrari 296 GT3 and Russell Ward, Philip Ellis, Indy Dontje and Daniel Morad were first in GTD in a Mercedes AMG GT3.

The next IMSA race is March 16 at the Sebring Raceway.