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Ganassi bidding for third straight endurance race victory

1/26/2008 - NASCAR

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Chip Ganassi Racing got a strong
start in its bid for an unprecedented third straight victory in
America's premier sports car endurance race despite a prerace
strategy glitch.

The Lexus Riley co-driven by former IndyCar Series champions
Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon, along with Salvador Duran and Alex
Lloyd, was out front Saturday after three hours in the Rolex
24-Hour race at Daytona International Speedway.

Rain fell sporadically during prerace activities and the two
Ganassi entries were among 10 Daytona Prototype cars that changed
from rain tires to racing slicks during the pace lap. All of those
cars had to start the race from the pits and then work their way
through heavy traffic in the early going.

Dixon and Scott Pruett, part of last year's winning team with
Duran and Juan Pablo Montoya, both took the green flag near the
rear of the 25-car prototype contingent, but quickly worked their
way forward, with Dixon driving into the lead midway through the
second hour on the 3.56-mile road circuit.

Pruett gave way to Montoya, NASCAR's top 2007 rookie, after two
hours, with that entry running 12th, a lap behind the leaders.
IndyCar champion and NASCAR newcomer Dario Franchitti and Memo
Rojas are also part of that team.

"I've been having a little problem locking up the front, so I
had to do a couple of pit stops because we're being overly
cautious," Pruett explained. "But our car is running well
otherwise. I just need to find that fine line between carrying good
speed and avoiding locking it up."

A.J. Allmendinger, another 2007 NASCAR rookie, started in his
team's Ford Riley, passing Michael Shank Racing teammate and
pole-winner Oswaldo Negri Jr. at the start to take the lead.

He was just one of nine leaders in the early going as the 66-car
field, including 41 of the slower GT class cars, remained tightly
bunched and there were a series of full-course caution flags.

"With the rain and everything, overall, I think we need to find
a little more grip out there," Allmendinger said. "It's very
slippery. A lot of guys are going off out there."

Asked about the traffic, Allmendinger made a face and said,
"It's brutal. It's so bad out there right now, it's a struggle.

"It's worse than I remember in past years. We were catching GT
cars in groups of 10 out there, and I don't remember that happening
before."

The twice-around-the-clock race began at 1:30 p.m.