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Penske gets first overall Rolex 24 win since 1969 with Porsche team

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Felipe Nasr held off Tom Blomqvist over a heated final half hour to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona, giving the No. 7 Porsche team owner Roger Penske his first overall win in the event since 1969.

Indeed, there were four classes participating in this year’s Rolex 24, not one, and with them came four sets of winners, four sets of runners-up, four sets of Rolex watches and four storylines full of their own drama.

So let’s take a look at Nasr and Porsche, as well as the champions in the LMP2, GTD Pro and GTD classes as the 62nd running of the twice-round-the-clock international racing opener came to an end Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.

Felipe Nasr, Tom Blomqvist battle to the checkered flag in the GTP Class

Podium: 1. No. 7 Porsche (Felipe Nasr, Matt Campbell, Josef Newgarden, Dane Cameron); 2. No. 31 Cadillac (Tom Blomqvist, Jack Aitken, Pipo Derani); 3. No. 40 Acura (Jordan Taylor, Louis Deletraz, Colton Herta, Jenson Button)

The battle waged between Nasr and Blomqvist over the final stretch will likely live on in Rolex 24 lore for quite some time.

Blomqvist seemed positioned to put the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac Racing entry in Victory Lane and give himself a third consecutive overall win in the process. But a caution flag flew when the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus caught fire at the end of pit road on an out lap, bringing out a final full-course caution.

Having pitted three laps later on the last stint, Nasr turned in a shorter stop and reclaimed the lead and somehow held Blomqvist at bay over a chaotic final 30 minutes.

“Man, 24 hours of racing to be going that way, it does give you a lot of emotions in the end,” Nasr admitted. “I just knew it was not over yet. I just kept the focus until the finish line.

“I just have to say, great call from Porsche Penske Motorsports to give me the opportunity to be in the lead again in the final part of the race and it was down to me to hit the numbers and keep the 31 behind.”

Blomqvist added that passing was extremely difficult and that Nasr never made the mistake to give him the necessary window to pass.

“Unfortunately, that yellow ended our chances, really,” Blomqvist said. “At the end of the race we had pace but it was difficult to pass. The Porsche was strong on the straight, we were really good on the infield.

“Huge hats off to them, they were fantastic.”

The No. 01 Cadillac, which had similar speed as the 31 and was near the front throughout most of the first half of the race, suffered mechanical failure and finished 368 laps down.

Era Motorsport hangs on for LMP2 win

Podium: 1. No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA (Christian Rasmussen, Ryan Dalziel, Dwight Merriman, Connor Zilisch); 2. No. 04 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA (George Kurtz, Colin Braun, Toby Sowery, Malthe Jakobsen); 3. No. 74 Riley ORECA (Gar Robinson, Felipe Fraga, Josh Burdon, Felipe Massa)

Christian Rasmussen pulled away again after the late yellow flag put what seemed like a formality back into question, and finished off a dominant morning run for the No. 18 Era Motorsport Oreca.

After being grouped back up, Rasmussen was able to put 6.8 seconds of space between himself and the second-place finisher, the No. 04 CrowdStrike Racing ORECA driven by Malthe Jakobsen. The third-place finisher in class, the No. 74 Riley, was 17.9 seconds back.

Rasmussen was joined by drivers Dwight Merriman, Ryan Dalziel and Connor Zilisch, who at 17-years-old, picked up a class win in his first endurance race start.

‘It was just a pleasure honestly, coming here and racing with Era Motorsports,’ Zilisch, recently signed a contract with Trackhouse Racing, said. ‘I didn’t really feel like I had much pressure on me. I feel like I performed well and did my job.’

Risi Competizione Ferrari finishes on lead lap by itself in GTD Pro

Podium: 1. No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari (Daniel Serra, Davide Rigon, Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado); 2. No. 77 AO Racing Porsche (Laurin Heinrich, Seb Priaulx, Michael Christensen); 3. No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW (Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, Neil Verhagen, Sheldon van der Linde)

While the caution flag added some drama in the other three classes, by the time the last couple of hours arrived, it was little more than a Sunday cruise for Daniel Serra as the No. 62 Ferrari lapped the field.

The No. 77 Porsche was the only car even one lap down with the Paul Miller Racing BMW finishing third, two laps back. That car had been a contender for the win but a brake problem a couple hours before the finish proved to be the team’s undoing.

Daniel Morad drives Winward Racing Mercedes to GTP Class win

Podium: 1. No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes (Russell Ward, Philip Ellis, Indy Dontje, Daniel Morad); 2. No. 21 Af Corse Ferrari (Simon Mann, Francois Heriau, Miguel Molina, Kei Cozzolino); 3. No. 34 Conquest Racing Ferrari (Manny Franco, Albert Costa Balboa, Alessandro Balzan, Cedric Sbirrazzuoli)

Daniel Morad was able to hold off all comers after the late caution erased a big advantage, completing a massive rally for the No. 57 Mercedes AMG.

The team qualified 53rd out of the 59 entries but the drivers of the team went to work from the start, reaching podium position within the first couple of hours and staying there as several other competitors fell by the wayside as the hours drew on.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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