DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Action Express Racing led a Corvette podium sweep in the prestigious Rolex 24 at Daytona, where Joao Barbosa held off Max Angelelli on a restart with 8:23 remaining Sunday to preserve the team’s second overall win in four years.
Barbosa had driven the No. 5 Corvette to a 13.1-second lead when a full-course caution with 21 minutes remaining put the victory in jeopardy. The field was bunched and Angelelli had one final chance to give Wayne Taylor Racing the win.
But Barbosa easily pulled away to get the win for teammates Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais. It’s the second overall victory for Barbosa, third in class. Fittipaldi was part of the winning 2004 team, and it’s Bourdais’ first victory.
Action Express’ second entry finished third for an outstanding day for the Bob Johnson-owned organization. Action won its first Rolex in 2010, and Barbosa was part of that team.
“The first event in 2010 that happened to turn into a win was — I probably expected that the least of anybody,” Johnson said. “But this one wasn’t unexpected. This one we expected to win.”
It wasn’t easy as Barbosa was black-flagged for avoidable contact while running second Sunday morning, a penalty he called “really harsh” at the time. But the team recovered and worked its way back into contention.
The caution nearly unraveled the comeback. While Angelelli thought there was enough debris to warrant the caution, Barbosa disagreed.
“Max, he said he saw a lot of debris that I really didn’t see,” Barbosa said. “I was really surprised by that caution, but it’s racing, and we just had to deal with it. But we’re here, we won the race.”
Wayne Taylor Racing finished second for the second consecutive year.
Co-owner Wayne Taylor came out of retirement to drive for the first time since 2010, seeking a chance to share the seat with Angelelli and sons Ricky and Jordan. The 58-year-old Taylor drove one stint Saturday and then retreated to the pit stand to strategize for what he hoped would be a third — and most memorable — victory.
Action Express’ second car, with drivers Brian Frisselle, Burt Frisselle, John Martin and Fabien Giroix, was third.
Chevrolet was the top manufacturer standing at the end of the twice-around-the-clock endurance race.
Two Nissan teams took the next two places in the top-tier Prototype class as Ford was shut out in its debut of its new EcoBoost engine as the manufacturer stepped into the new unified Tudor United SportsCar Championship supporting teams for the first time.
The race was the first for the new United SportsCar Championship, which merged Grand-AM and the American Le Mans Series and created the a unified sports car series for the first time since 1997. It made for a crowded 67-car field with teams spread across four cluttered classes.
Slower cars created a terrifying wreck about three hours into the race Saturday.
Memo Gidley broke his back and needed surgery on his left arm and leg after slamming into Matteo Malucelli’s Ferrari at nearly full speed. Gidley, driving for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, was trying to avoid a slowed car when the crash happened. He had to be cut out of the No. 99 Corvette, which crumpled like an accordion upon impact.
Both drivers remain at nearby Halifax Health.