In fact he had already helped, as he revealed later. The Joest strategy had been to run the number 6 car hard from the start—with number 7 hanging on—in an effort to break the Nissans and the Jag.
It worked. By 6 a.m., the number 7 Porsche had taken the lead, and the Nissans were darting in and out of the pits with a series of problems. But as dawn broke over the backstretch—bright, clear and mercifully dry—an unexpected challenge developed. Once as low as 33rd place, a full 17 laps behind, the Andretti car had climbed to within a lap of the lead. At 9:15, Michael screamed into first.
With just over six hours remaining, the stage seemed set for a classic dogfight, but it never materialized. The Andrettis' car lost fourth gear and could no longer keep up whenever it entered the high-speed parts of the track. Then at 10:28, when Mario brought the car in for a routine stop, it wouldn't restart. He spent an hour and a quarter in the pit, the crew working frantically to replace a shattered starter motor. The car went back out only to return again and again. In the final hour Mario was reduced to dueling for fourth place with a GTO-division Mustang driven by Robby Gordon. Gordon came out on top, and with 13 minutes to go, Mario parked the Porsche. "Overheating," read the official results sheet—perhaps describing the former world champion and not the car.
By that time the leading Joest Porsche was on cruise control, having left the remaining Nissan far behind. The only scare in the closing stages came with 20 minutes left. Monitoring the car from the pits by means of a computer telemetry system, the crew noted a "hot spot" on the left side of the engine, similar to the one that had led to its mate's overheating almost half a day earlier. Winter brought the number 7 in for an insurance stop, the crew sealed a small coolant leak, and out he went again.
In the Joest pit, Haywood shook hands with Wollek, then rested an arm on his teammate's shoulder: "Congratulations, and thanks," said Haywood, a 42-year-old Midwesterner who left a family-owned agricultural business to move to Florida and race cars. Wollek, looking quite youthful, smiled. Together, they joined Pescarolo, Jelinski and a crowd of grimy but beaming mechanics at the pit wall to watch the finish. By 3:30, number 7 had covered 719 laps (2,559.64 miles) at an average speed of 106.663 mph. The Nissan of Geoff Brabham, Chip Robinson and Derek Daly was second.
Said Haywood, "Every win I've had here—every big-distance win—has been in a Porsche. It's the best long-distance car in the world."
For another 24 hours, at least.