Ryan Hunter-Reay finished on the podium at the Rolex 24 at Daytona on Sunday afternoon, making the Andretti Autosport driver the highest placing Verizon IndyCar Series entrant in the biggest national sportscar race.
Hunter-Reay drove the final stint in the No. 90 VisitFlorida.com Racing car to secure a third overall (and third in Prototype class) finish in the race, which was won by the No. 2 Honda HPD Ligier piloted by impressive young driver Pipo Derani. The win marks Honda’s first overall victory at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Other IndyCar drivers started strong when the race began Saturday afternoon, but struggled through the night and ultimately had difficult finishes. Next highest after Hunter-Reay was Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, whose No. 31 Action Express Racing entry finished sixth overall and sixth in class after overcoming a cockpit fire during the evening stint.
Defending IndyCar champion Scott Dixon brought the No. 02 Ford EcoBoost Riley DP home seventh in class and 13th overall. Dixon had rallied the car back to as high as seventh overall after repeated brake problems, then a crash on the part of NASCAR driver Kyle Larson, had put the No. 02 more than 20 laps down as it strove to repeat its victory from last January.
KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais and former Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver Ryan Briscoe both had problems in their two Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT entries. Bourdais’ No. 66 finished 31st overall and seventh in the GT Le Mans class, 19 laps down, while Briscoe’s No. 67 was scored 40th overall and ninth in class, a whopping 176 laps down.
“All four cars had sort of gremlins,” Dixon said in a post-race interview with IndyCar. “The last thing you want to do is go into a corner at 190 miles an hour and not have any brakes. And I think that happened to all the drivers in the 02 except for Jamie [McMurray]. I’m just glad everybody got away safe.
The No. 100 BMW co-piloted by Graham Rahal didn’t finish the race after a technical failure, which was also the case for former IndyCar driver Katherine Legge, who at one point had led the race in her No. 0 DeltaWing. Mikhail Aleshin, who led the race to green by virtue of capturing the fastest Prototype class time in qualifying, wound up 38th overall and multiple laps down.
The Rolex 24 at Daytona is the first round of IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, but it also attracts drivers from motorsports leagues all over the world who want to test their mettle over a day-long event. While it would have been nice to see better results for the IndyCar stars on Sunday, they certainly gave it their best and Hunter-Reay can add a 2016 Rolex 24 podium finish to his IndyCar title and 2014 Indianapolis 500 victory.
You can check out photos of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers at the Rolex 24 by using the slideshow included with this article.
For more on the Rolex 24 at Daytona, visit IMSA.