By: Spencer Neff
January 27, 2019 | 2:30 PM
In contrast to last year’s record pace, this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona was plagued by two red flags and several caution periods.
With rain hampering the race during the Sunday morning hours, visibility and drivability became major issues during the day. Several drivers spun during the ensuing restarts.
The checkered flag would fly less than 11 minutes before the scheduled finish as the track was not dried in time. In the end, it was Wayne Taylor Racing who came out on top overall.
Check out our review of the 57th Rolex 24 at Daytona for some of the IndyCar headlines from this past weekend.
Alonso’s Triumph Adds to Resume
After he stepped away from Formula 1 at the conclusion of the 2018 season, Fernando Alonso has shifted to sports cars and IndyCar. First on the calendar for the 2017, Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year would be a return to the Rolex 24.
After a disappointing 2018 debut, Alonso joined Wayne Taylor Racing. This year, the spainard teammed with Jordan Taylor, Kamui Kobayashi and Renger van der Zande. Aided by his spectacular late-night run, the team made it to the front.
Leader Felipe Nasr went wide in a turn late in the race. Upon Nasr’s mistake, Alonso took advantage and never looked back. The win also gives WTR their third overall win in the Rolex 24 (2005 and 2017).
With victories in the world’s biggest 24-hour races, Alonso will return to the Indianapolis 500 in May looking to add to his record.
Electrical Issues Doom Mustang Sampling’s Chance for Repeat
This was headlined as 1995 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Christian Fittipaldi’s swan song. The Mustang Sampling Cadillac VR-DPi driver and teammates Joao Barbosa and Filipe Albuquerque fell short of a repeat in his final race.
The 2018 overall winners endured a trying week that saw Albuquerque fail to record a qualifying time.
Former IndyCar driver Mike Conway was also scheduled to race with the team, but visa issues left unable to make it to Florida in time to race.
As the team raced their way up to seventh, electrical issues plagued the team. Byt the third hour of the race, their chances of a repeat had gone away.
The team returned to the trac to finish ninth overall (seventh in class), albeit 20 laps down.
Acura Team Penske Endures Trying Day
As was the case in their 2018 return to the Daytona 24, Acura Team Penske experienced the highs and lows from both DPi cars throughout the race.
Mazda Team Joest took the pole and in the process broke the track record set back in 1993 by P.J. Jones. When the race started, Penske flashed their speed.
Although two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya led the race early on, sump issues sent the team (co-driven by 2016 IndyCar Champion Simon Pagenaud and Dane Cameron) to the garage with less than five hours to go.
By race’s end, the team finished sixth in class (eighth overall), 17 laps down.
Montoya’s teammates would endure a similarly frustrating day. During one of the numerous yellow flags, Ricky Taylor fell ill and was replaced by three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves. At the time, the car was in the overall lead.
2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi helped bring the team home in third overall.
Herta Continues to Impress in Winning RLLR Effort
The No. 24 car and co-driver Alex Zanardi made the lion’s share of the headlines before and during this weekend. By race’s end, it would be his teammates who earned victory in GT Le Mans.
The No. 25 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing BMW, driven by Augusto Farfus in the final stint, took home the class win (10th place overall).
Joining Farfus on the top step of the podium would be Phillipp Eng, former Star Mazda driver Conor de Philippi and 2019 IndyCar rookie Colton Herta.
Herta, who will join Indy Lights champion Pato O’ Ward at Harding Steinbrenner Racing for the NTT IndyCar Series season.
Two-time CART champion Alex Zanardi made his highly-anticipated return to racing in America.
Zanardi and the No. 24 team of Jesse Krohn, John Edwards and Chaz Mostert finished ninth in GT Le Mans (32nd overall), 18 laps behind their teammates.
Meyer Shank Racing Falls Short of Victory Despite Historic Efforts
Part-time IndyCar entrant Meyer Shank Racing looked to build upon last year’s runner-up finish in the GT Daytona class. Although the team’s two-car effort fell short of victory, drivers in both entries managed to make history.
2012 Rolex 24 winner and 2004 ChampCar World Series Rookie of the Year A.J. Allmendinger was able to lead during the race. In doing so, Allmendinger extended his streak of races led to 14 before finishing fifth in class (21st overall).
The No. 57 car, led by former IndyCar drivers Katherine Legge, Simon de Silvestro and Bia Figuerido (Ana Beatriz), finished 13th in class (33rd overall).
Teaming with Danish racer Christina Nielsen, the four drivers led an all-female effort for Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian.
- Former IndyCar driver Sebastien Saavedra also notched a class win this weekend. Driving the No. 18 Oreca LMP2 car for DragonSpeed, Saavedra notched the class win with former ChampCar driver Roberto Gonzalez, along with Ryan Cullen and Pastor Maldonado. DragonSpeed will be making their IndyCar debut at the St. Petersburg race on March 10.
- Ben Hanley, who will be driving the team’s IndyCar entry, finished third in class. Joined by Nicolas Lapierre, James Allen and Henrik Hedman, the No. 81 car finished third in class, 15 laps back of their teammate.
- Road to Indy mainstay and part-time IndyCar entrant Juncos Racing also entered the race. In the DPi category, their No. 50 Cadillac VR finished eighth in class (30th overall). The team employed 2018 IndyCar drivers Kyle Kaiser and Rene Binder to race with Augusto Canapino and Will Owen.
- Lamborghini earned consecutive GT Daytona victories with the combined efforts of Christian Englehart, Rik Breukers, Mirko Bortolotti and Rolf Ineichen.
- AIM Vasser Sullivan finished third in GT Daytona class with NBC IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell and 2016 Pro Mazda Champion Aaron Telitz. The team is the leading full-season entrant in class.
Header image courtesy of Daytona International Speedway