A couple weeks ago, we started the year off with a Roar in Daytona. The teams for the Rolex 24 tested and I ventured into my first legitimate SportsCar-focused piece. I think it went pretty well and I appreciated all the feedback from you, the readers! Time to bring the spotlight back on these drivers and teams in Daytona… the green flag drops in just nine days and I don’t know about you, but my DVR is already set and I’m in the process of memorizing the car numbers of my favorite drivers. Given that the entry list was officially released this week, I decided to take a closer look at it – comparing it to the Roar entries and seeing what additions we have to look forward to. It’s also worth noting that as I scrolled through my Twitter feed this week, a couple tweets stood out to me and I felt a sense of duty to my fellow #racingfamily members, to acknowledge and emphasize even, the link between IndyCar and SportsCar racing at the Rolex 24. Honestly, it’s nearly impossible to ignore – we have a ton of drivers from my favorite series at the helm in Daytona next weekend… so let’s find out who they are, who they’re driving for and what they’ll be racing!
Starting from the top of the Prototype Class, we have Indy Lights driver, Gabby Chaves joining the DeltaWing team as co-driver #4. Gabby was a rookie last season in Lights, finishing 2nd overall, taking home a win at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and making the podium 9 other times during the 2013 season. For those of you adding that up – that means he was on the podium for all but 2 races all season. Not too shabby, Chaves. Not too shabby at all.
Heading over to Scott Sharp’s Extreme Speed Motorsports team, he will be in the #1 car while Simon Pagenaud lends his talents to the co-driving responsibilities in the Honda HPD-ARX-03b, donning the #2.
The Action Express Racing team will include two drivers with IndyCar ties – Brazil-native, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais from France. Christian raced in the CART/Champ Car series in the 90’s and also has a 24 Hours at Daytona win under his belt, from 2004. Sebastien was also a very accomplished driver in CART, winning the Championship 4 years in a row. He also completed his first full season with the IndyCar series, producing eight Top 10 finishes in 2013, 3 of them being podiums. These two will absolutely bring consistency to the table, or track rather, in Florida next weekend.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was excited when I read about this next addition to the driver entries list. The Mayor of Hinchtown himself, will be sharing driving duties in the #70 SpeedSource Mazda, with Sylvain Trembley (team owner & Rolex 24 winner in 2010) & Tom Long (Continental Tire Series). Even though I didn’t get my wish of him in the #27 with Patrick Dempsey, I will take the fact that James Hinchcliffe will be racing next weekend as a victory… albeit it far before the waving of the checkered on Sunday, January 26th. Go Hinch!
The SpeedSource team will also have Mazda car #07 on the track and Tristan Vautier, IndyCar’s only full-season rookie in 2013, will make his debut in SportsCar racing behind the wheel of it, in Daytona.
Sticking with the theme of big names in IndyCar… let’s look at Chip Ganassi Racing. I believe this team’s roster has changed the most significantly between the Roar Entries & the Rolex 24 Entries. While Scott Pruett is still at the wheel of the #01, he will be trading that seat with 3 other drivers including 2013 Indy Lights Champion, Sage Karam. The other Ford EcoBoost Riley DP – car number 02 – will be the vehicle assigned to Scott Dixon (2013 IndyCar Series Champion), Tony Kanaan (2013 Indianapolis 500 Winner), Marino Franchitti (younger brother of recently retired IndyCar legend, Dario Franchitti) and Kyle Larson (2013 Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Nationwide Series). I am sure the media and fan base alike, expect to see some pretty impressive racing from this team and truthfully, so do I.
In the Prototype Challenge Class, we find Alex Tagliani and Conor Daly in the RSR Racing ORECA FLM09 Chevrolet. Alex, a seasoned driver with the IndyCar series recently announced that he signed on to drive the full season with Rocketsports Racing in the TUDOR Championship. Indiana’s own Conor Daly, made single appearances in both the IndyCar & Indy Lights series in 2013, but spent the majority of race season in the European GP3 series where he finished in 3rd place overall! Bruno Junqueira (IRL, CART & IndyCar) will also be driving in Daytona with the RSR team, but he will be in the #09 car.
The GT LeMans class has added one more IndyCar driver since Roar. In addition to Ryan Briscoe and Graham Rahal (Corvette C7.R and BMW Z4 GTE, respectively), Ryan Hunter-Reay is getting in on the 24 hours of fun! He will be racing with SRT Motorsports in the SRT Viper GTS-R. Ryan was the 2012 IndyCar Series Champion and stayed consistent on the ovals (with 4 podiums including 1 win) yet again this past season.
The last class to examine is the GT Daytona group. James Davison, an IndyCar Series rookie in 2013, raced both at Mid-Ohio Sport and Sonoma. He finished both circuits a little more than halfway through the pack. It is also worth noting that in 2009, he claimed 2nd place overall in the Indy Lights series. James will be driving the Aston Martin V12 Vantage for team TRG-AMR.
Going through this rundown gets me pumped up for the 2014 race season. I am so anxious, as I know many of you are, to have the season kick off next weekend. I also want to thank you all for encouraging me as I continue to learn as much as I can about the SportsCar united series… a series, by the way, that I am already falling in love with!
Of course with that love of racing, come my thoughts and prayers for another safe & healthy season – no matter what your preferred series. Between the caliber of drivers, the technology of the vehicles, the expertise of the teams and the passion of the fans… the kick off to this 2014 season with the Rolex 24 at Daytona will certainly make a race weekend to remember & set a standard across the board for the entire year.