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Verizon INDYCAR Series

Ex-IndyCar Stars Lead Action Express To Daytona 24 Romp

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Christian Fittipaldi and Mike Conway have transferred the road course skills learned in the Verizon IndyCar Series to the world of sports car racing. This past weekend at Daytona Beach, Florida, they put them to perfect use, leading Action Express Racing to a one-two finish in the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Piloting a pair of the dominant Cadillac DPi V.Rs, Fittipaldi’s No. 5 and Conway’s No. 31 machines withstood a serious challenge from Team Penske at the midway point of the event. Following the Captain’s fading from contention due to various woes, the pair of Gary Nelson-owned entries cruised to the Sunday afternoon checkered flag.

Fittipaldi, who earned 1995 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year after finishing second in the Greatest Spectacle, won his second career Rolex 24 overall victory, backing up his initial triumph with AXR in 2014. Sharing the Mustang Sampling-sponsored ride with Joao Barbosa and Filipe Albuquerque, the V-8 powered prototype completed 808 laps of the 3.56-mile roval layout, eclipsing a distance record that had survived since 1992.

Conway meanwhile, a four-time race winner on the Verizon IndyCar Series circuit, drove an equally solid event this weekend in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering-backed vehicle to take runner-up honors. Teamed with Felipe Nasr, Eric Curran, and Stuart Middleton, the squad stayed in contention with its sister ride up until the 18-hour mark, when an overheating issue created a gap between the two Cadillacs that would not be made up.

While Action Express Racing’s IndyCar-tied pilots enjoyed the time of their lives this weekend in Florida, others in the manufacturer-supported Daytona Prototype International class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship suffered some major headaches. As Action Express’ Cadillacs romped, Tristan Vautier’s Spirit of Daytona GM-supported marque fell by the wayside after six hours due to a blown engine. After starting from the pole position, Ryan Hunter-Reay’s Wayne Taylor-prepared machine would also fail to make the finish on Sunday, a victim of multiple tire failures, a common issue plaguing several top division runners from start to conclusion.

Nissan drivers Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel, who featured in both IndyCar and ChampCar respectively in years past, were delayed by gearbox problems during the overnight hours, while new car blues held back Mazda Racing’s Spencer Pigot from earning a high placement on Sunday.

The biggest disappointment from the IndyCar ranks at Daytona however, was Team Penske. Featuring four pilots with previous Indy 500 experience, the organization placed one of its brand-new Acura ARX-05s on the front row for Saturday’s start. After leading the event when rain found the World Center of Racing during the overnight runs, the No. 7 machine driven by Helio Castroneves and Graham Rahal, lost precious laps in the garage with accident damage. Meanwhile, a myriad of collisions and mechanical gremlins ended the hopes for the No. 6 car of Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud likewise.

For several of these open-wheel tied drivers, the chance for redemption will take place in two months time at the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, where Action Express Racing will seek to continue Cadillac’s recent control of America’s two biggest endurance tests.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

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Matt Embury

An auto racing writer for over five years, Matt Embury's interest in auto racing was influenced from his father's side of the family. His first recollection of live racing attendance was in the early 1990s watching winged sprint car action at Butler Motor Speedway in Michigan with his uncle and dad.

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