Action Express Racing wins prestigious Rolex 24

Joao Barbosa(L), Sebastien Bourdais(C) and Christian Fittipaldi(R) drivers of the # 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP celebrate on the podium after winning the ROLEX 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 26, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

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After more than 2,400 miles and 23 1/2 hours of racing, the most prestigious North American sports car race came down to eight minutes and a final five-lap sprint.

The first race of the unified United SportsCar Championship — the NASCAR-owned and IMSA-sanctioned series born from the merger between American Le Mans and Grand-AM — ended with a NASCAR flair. A late, full-course caution swallowed Joao Barbosa’s 13-seccond lead and gave Max Angelelli a last-ditch chance to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Barbosa never gave him a chance, pulling away on the restart with 8:23 to race Sunday to give Action Express Racing its second victory in four years.

It gave Barbosa his second overall win and third in class. Co-driver Sebastien Bourdais won the Rolex for the first time, while Christian Fittipaldi won for the second time.

Action Express’ second entry finished third — and Chevrolet’s new Corvette swept the podium — in an outstanding day for the Bob Johnson-owned organization. Action won its first Rolex in 2010, and Barbosa was part of that team.