Despite the excitement of the previous 23 hours it was this hour that was the most important, everything up to this point was a matter of endurance and making sure you got this far.
AJ Allmendinger was one of those that made it through but it almost ended at the start of the final hour after a misunderstanding with a Flying Lizard Porsche entering in to the first corner, thankfully for the #60 driver there was plenty of run off area to run wide on to; Ryan Dalziel in the #8 Starworks Motorsport car gave chase 5 seconds behind while Felipe Nasr on his sportscar debut was pushing hard in third, lapping faster than the two cars in front of him. In the GT class Richard Lietz headed a Porsche 1-2-3 with Wolf Henzler and Marc Lieb in tow.
52 minutes remaining the #59 Porsche of Lieb came in for a pit stop knowing that unless a full course yellow was thrown they would have to pit again before the end of the race.
Back in the DP class Juan Pablo Montoya was sitting in fourth place and hoping for a full course yellow, if this happened he would be on the lead lap and able to challenge for a top three position.
A pit stop for the #8 Starworks car would drop Dalziel down to third briefly while Nasr slotted in to second, a short-fill from the team showed just how close they were running to the limit and how every little bit of time that could be gained was important. Nasr would take the lead briefly while #60 of Allmendinger stopped for the last time, a lap later and the #6 would be in to take its last stop too. A busy time in the pit lane also saw the #44 of Richard Lietz pit from the lead of the GT class.
With the final 30 minutes approaching Dalziel was pushing hard and trading times with Allmendinger up front. Despite the older machinery and being 40 seconds off the lead Nasr continued to match the lap times of the two lead cars.
In the GT Class the #44 of Richard Lietz remained at the front but the race was still any one of the top five positions as Wolf Henzler, Marc Lieb, John Edwards and Olivier Beretta pushed hard towards the end of the race.
Allmendinger was full of confidence in to the last 20 minutes, opening up a gap to second to 11 seconds to give himself a buffer should any problems occur.
The #51 Audi R8 of Jim Norman caused worry as he spun in to the bus stop and off the track, eyes focused on the start/finish line as the double yellows were readied. As a worried Michael Shank watched the monitors there was relief when the recovery truck appeared from behind the barrier to pull the stricken Audi away.
Another scare would come from Michael Waltrip as he put the #56 Ferrari in to the tyres, once again hearts skipped a beat before he managed to find a gear and pull away once again.
The #60 Michael Shanks Racing Riley Ford DP would take the chequered flag and steer the Ford to victory lane for the first time in 30 years. Dalziel would cross the line just 5 seconds behind while sportscar rookie Felipe Nasr took third place in his Daytona debut.
Richard Lietz lead the #44 Magnus Racing Porsche GT3 across the line in a Porsche 1-2-3 with Henzler and Lieb following him home. The Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GT.R and the Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 would both finish on the lead lap.
50th Rolex 24 at Daytona DP class standings after Hour 24
1. #60 Michael Shank Racing – Allmendinger/Negri/Pew/Wilson
2. #8 Starworks Motorsport – Dalziel/Luhr/McNish/Popow/Potolicchio
3. #6 Michael Shank Racing – Goncalvez, McDowell/ Nasr/Yacaman
4. #02 Chip Ganassi Racing – Dixon/Franchitti/McMurray/Montoya
5. #5 Action Express Racing – Donohue/Fittipaldi/Law
50th Rolex 24 at Daytona GT class standings after Hour 24
1. #44 Magnus Racing – Lally/Lietz/Potter/Rast
2. #67 TRG – Bertheau/Bleekemolen/Goossens/Henzler/Pumpelly
3. #59 Brumos Racing – Davis/Haywood/Keen/ Lieb
4. #57 Stevenson Motorsports – Bremer/Edwards/Liddell
5. #63 Risi Competizione – Bruni/Fisichella/Matos
Full results and analysis will follow this week…