Top 10 NASCAR moments in Rolex 24
By Staff report | Wednesday, January 22, 2020
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10. When it comes to racing, it seems there's nothing Kurt Busch won't try. So it was of little wonder that Busch, who has competed in an NHRA Pro Stock car, wanted to give sports cars a try in the sport's biggest race. He ran the 2005 Rolex 24, months after accepting the 2004 championship trophy, finishing 15th in the DP class during his debut. He answered that showing with an impressive third place overall with the Penske Taylor Racing joint effort in 2008 teaming with three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe.
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9. Fans may not realize it, but seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champ Jimmie Johnson is a seven-time starter in the Rolex 24, with two runner-up finishes (in 2005 and 2008) driving a Pontiac. Perhaps the most newsworthy Rolex outing for Johnson had less to do with his driving talent than a freak accident, however. In 2009, he had to get stitches on the middle finger of his left hand after he cut himself trying to modify his driver's suit with a knife. He had healed by the time the season started two weeks later, and went on to win his fourth NASCAR championship.
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8. Casey Mears wisely joined sports car's mighty Ganassi Racing team for the 2006 Rolex 24 and promptly made history as the first full-time NASCAR driver to win overall.
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7. Three-time Cup champ Tony Stewart competed in five Rolex 24 races and twice finished in the top five, but the race that stands out for him -- and for fans -- occurred in 2004 when he teamed up with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and sports car champion Andy Wallace. In the 24th and final hour, with Stewart behind the wheel and the field solidly behind the car for the previous 17 hours, the left-rear tire suddenly came off the rim nearly spinning Stewart into the wall with 17 minutes remaining. Because the car had held such a big lead, the trio still earned a podium position in third place in their group. Stewart equaled the finish the next year, in less dramatic fashion.
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6. Fan favorite Mark Martin came heartbreakingly close to winning the Daytona 500, but the NASCAR Hall of Famer owned Daytona International Speedway's Victory Lane in the 1990s, winning four GT class titles for Ford Racing in the Rolex 24. Perhaps the most memorable victory came in 1995 when he co-drove with Academy Award-winning actor Paul Newman and sports car veterans Tommy Kendall and Michael Brockman. The Ford Mustang wore No. 70 in honor of Newman's age, and he became the oldest winner in the event's history, taking the title for the GTS-1 class.
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5. In 2012, only weeks before he would make his debut as driver of Penske Racing’s No. 22, AJ Allmendinger helped underdog Michael Shank Racing pull one of the biggest upsets in Rolex 24 history, beating factory-backed teams to earn first place overall in the 50th anniversary of the event.
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4. Juan Pablo Montoya helped Chip Ganassi continue his dominance in the event in 2007 and 2008. Not only did the former Rookie of the Year become the first NASCAR driver to win multiple Rolex 24 titles, but Ganassi's stellar driver lineup made the team the first -- and only -- to win three consecutive Rolex 24 titles.
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3. After 24 hours, 740 laps and 2,634.4 miles, the 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona came down to a seven-minute, 30-second sprint to the checkered flag that saw the Chip Ganassi-backed group of Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan soar to the Prototype class and overall win. It was the first win for McMurray and Larson. The victory made Ganassi the winningest team owner in the history of the race, and allowed McMurray to join A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti as the only drivers to have won the Rolex 24 and the Daytona 500.
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2. Four-time Cup champ Jeff Gordon joined the ranks of NASCAR winners in 2017 with one of the most thrilling Rolex finishes ever. Gordon, Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli benefited from a no-call as their No. 10 Cadillac made late contact with the No. 5 Cadillac, which ended with the No. 10 passing for the lead and win. 'I haven't been this emotional for a win and an experience like this for a very long time,' Gordon said. 'The reason is because I know what this means to this team. Oh my gosh. This is amazing.'
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1. Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt only competed in the Rolex 24 one time, but his 2001 debut was worth his while. Teaming up with his son Dale Jr. and sports car veterans Andy Pilgrim and Kelly Collins, the group's No. 3 factory Corvette finished runner-up in the GTS category. Heavy and frequent rain tormented the competitors throughout the two days of racing, but Pilgrim insisted that the seven-time champ Earnhardt was as quick as his experienced teammates after only a couple stints on the challenging track. Pilgrim fondly recalls a moment on the podium while the drivers were awaiting their trophy, when Earnhardt leaned over to him and whispered, 'Second sucks, don't it, son?'