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The Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona ended abruptly Feb. 28, an unexpected occurrence in a timed endurance race, and IMSA has now explained why. IMSA, which is owned by NASCAR, admits it made an “officiating error” ending the race a lap short.

“Due to an officiating error in race control, IMSA inadvertently announced and subsequently displayed the white flag with under three minutes remaining in the race,” the statement says. It explains the No. 7 Penske Porsche GTP car received the checkered flag 95 seconds before the race reached the 24-hour mark. The announcement further explains IMSA regulations mandate that if the checkered flag is displayed before a race’s “prescribed time” has been completed, “the race is nevertheless deemed ended when the flag is displayed.”

The oddness of the situation was apparent to anyone viewing it at home and those in the paddock.

Felipe Nasr was leading overall in the Porsche Penske GTP with Tom Blomqvist about one second behind in the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac. Nasr apparently took the white flag, but the NBC display noted there were two laps left, which seemed accurate given the time remaining left in the race. As Nasr approached the start-finish line again, the checkered was quickly displayed, ending the race and Blomqvist’s chances for possible last-lap heroics.

The sequence threw off more than media covering the race. Nasr’s fellow drivers, Dane Cameron, Matt Campbell and Josef Newgarden, were shown looking on anxiously instead of in celebration after the checkered flag was displayed. Nasr appeared to run another lap at full-race tilt, either unaware the race had ended or not taking any chances if it was incorrectly shown. Of course the latter was true, but by that time he had already won the endurance event according to IMSA’s rules.  

Ultimately, the race’s premature ending may not have impacted the results. Nasr was beginning to create a larger gap of the Cadillac V-Series.R behind him. The gap in the LMP2 Class was over six seconds and over 30 seconds in the GTD Pro Class. The GTD Class race featured several cars within 20 seconds of the leader. However, the No. 62 Risi Competizione appeared to have the win reasonably secured at race’s end.

Still, the ending was strange enough that IMSA has obviously made efforts to explain the decision.

To note, IndyCar star Josef Newgarden’s win in the Penske Porsche marks the second time in less than a year he has won one of global motorsport’s most prestigious races after an unexpected sequence of events ended the race.

Newgarden won the 2023 Indy 500 after completing a last-lap pass on Marcus Ericsson following the third red flag in the race’s final 10 laps. Ericsson appeared to have captured the win when a wreck brought out the caution with a few laps remaining. However, IndyCar chose to display the red flag, setting up a one-lap shootout for the win. Newgarden passed Ericsson with about half a lap remaining to capture his first win in the illustrious race.