Allmending­er hits Daytona victory lane in sports car

- From staff and wire reports

After a groundbrea­king December and now a career moment in January, A.J. Allmending­er must wonder what’s in store for February and beyond.

The NASCAR driver was behind the wheel of Michael Shank Racing’s No. 60 Ford Riley for the Rolex 24’s final stint at Daytona Internatio­nal Speedway, a nearly three-hour ride that included door-to-door banging and ended with a win in one of sports car racing’s prestigiou­s races.

Allmending­er, who was signed in December by NASCAR’S Penske Racing to replace Kurt Busch in its No. 22 Sprint Cup car, teamed Sunday with Izod Indycar Series driver Justin Wilson and Grand-am Sports Car Series regulars John Pew and Ozz Negri Jr. for Shank’s first Rolex 24 win in nine attempts.

Allmending­er, who had severe leg cramps, needed to be helped from the car in victory lane. While waiting to start the postrace news conference, he rested his head on a chair with his eyes closed.

“I’m beat. I’m cramping all over,” he said nearly two hours after the 24-hour endurance race. “I’ve never felt anything like this. But it’s a good feeling.”

Wilson said he had cramping in his legs and lower back but said it was unrelated to the broken vertebrae he suffered in an August Indycar accident at the Mid-ohio Sports Car Course.

Ryan Dalziel was at the wheel for Starworks Motorsport’s second-place finish, and Felipe Nasr was driving for Shank when he crossed the line in third. Ford went 1-2-3 in the Daytona Prototype class and won the event for the first time since 1999.

The vaunted team from Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabataes struggled with mechanical problems. Indycar’s Scott Dixon was driving during the middle of the night when a broken shifter caused the No. 02 BMW Riley to fall four laps down. NASCAR’S Juan Pablo Montoya was behind the wheel when the star-heavy team — which included fourtime Indycar champion Dario Franchitti and six-time Sprint Cup race winner Jamie Mcmur- ray — finished fourth.

The other Ganassi entry, the Scott Pruett-led No. 01 that won this race last year, had a late gearbox issue and finished sixth, four laps down. “It was an epic race,” Ganassi said. “We just weren’t a part of it. We struggled the whole 24 hours to keep pace with the Fords.”

For Allmending­er, the attention returns to stock cars and the Daytona 500 on Feb. 26. The former Champ Car World Series star is winless in 152 career Cup starts.

Stewart crosses line first:

James Stewart scored his first victory with Joe Gibbs Racing’s motocross team Saturday. Stewart took control after passing Chad Reed for the lead on the ninth lap (of 20) in the Supercross 450 class at Coliseum in Oakland.

JGRMX had one Supercross victory in four seasons before signing Stewart, 25, in the offseason to ride its Yamaha as part of a prelude to a career driving for Gibbs’ NASCAR team.

“For some reason, it takes me a couple races to really get going,” said Stewart, whose 43 Supercross wins are third all time. “I don’t even think we’re there yet. So we’ll get better.”

Stewart, the fourth winner in four Supercross events this season, is fourth in points, 12 behind co-leaders Reed and Ryan Dungey. Defending champion Ryan Villopoto is two back.

 ?? By John Raoux, AP ?? Victor: A.J. Allmending­er gets a champagne shower at Daytona.
By John Raoux, AP Victor: A.J. Allmending­er gets a champagne shower at Daytona.

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