Last year around this time, I ventured into my first article on the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship – I did so by looking at an aspect of it that crossed paths with my passion, IndyCar. I profiled the IndyCar drivers of past and present that were entered to test at the Roar Before the 24 in Daytona. I had a good time with that article and it’s still one of my favorites when I look back – from the research and the organizing to the writing and editing.
I decided to do it again this year but only looking at the IndyCar drivers that contested in the 2014 season of the Verizon IndyCar Series, whether that competition spanned the entire year or just one iconic Sunday in May. So here is a quick breakdown for you IndyCar fans, on who to watch for this weekend in Florida as well as a synopsis of their past year and a history of how they’ve fared in this endurance race in years past.
Class: Prototype (P)
Sebastien Bourdais drove for KV Racing throughout last season in the Verizon IndyCar Series, landing two pole positions, tallying up another win & finishing 10th in the overall points standings. That all of course, coming after his victory with the Action Express Racing team at the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Will the current Champion reign for another year? We won’t know until the end of the month – but testing this weekend could give us a clue…
Charlie Kimball is another IndyCar race winner with a lovely Rolex on his wrist. Kimball took the top of the podium with his team in 2013 as they claimed the class and overall win with Chip Ganassi Racing. He had a successful weekend in Detroit last season, taking 3rd place on the IndyCar podium in the Motor City.
Sage Karam will be returning for his 2nd consecutive stint at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, looking to continue his good impression on not only the fans, but on the man most likely to get him a full-time ride in IndyCar this coming season, Chip Ganassi. Who can forget his first attempt at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing this past May (and first time competing in an IndyCar), finishing in 9th place?! We are sure to see this rookie do big things, and I hope we have that opportunity at all the tracks on the IndyCar circuit this year.
Scott Dixon’s list of accolades in his professional driving career is far too lengthy to list within this short synopsis – but let’s look at the most recent accomplishments by this Aussie: two IndyCar race wins and one Verizon P1 Award in 2014. It’s worth noting that one of those wins was the 4th win in Lexington, OH… they don’t call him Mr. Mid-Ohio for nothing! This weekend will be spent testing at Daytona, in pursuit of another victory with Chip Ganassi Racing. He won the 24 at Daytona back in 2006 with this team and the likelihood of history repeating itself is not a far-fetched idea.
Tony Kanaan will also drive for Chip Ganassi this weekend, testing the car and getting it ready for 24 hours of incredible racing the last weekend in January. The last race Kanaan ran was the MAVTV 500 in Fontana, CA this past August. He also happened to win it. It was the first and only victory for the Indy 500 champ in 2014, but he certainly ended the year in style and undoubtedly looks to continue that track success this month.
Class: Prototype Challenge (PC)
Jack Hawksworth won the PC class victory at the Brickyard Grand Prix in 2014 and also landed the PC pole at Road Atlanta for Petit Le Mans to finish off the season. He did all this with RSR Racing, in his first few competitive experiences behind the wheel of a Sports Car. He will test with that team again this weekend. His rookie year in IndyCar found him a podium in Houston with Bryan Herta Autosport; Hawksworth will continue his IndyCar career in 2015, piloting this time around for none other than the legendary AJ Foyt, Jr., and his self-titled racing team.
Martin Plowman, who ran in the Inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis 500 for AJ Foyt Racing this past year, will be in Florida this weekend. The Englishman will be preparing for the first endurance race of 2015 with BAR1 Motorsports.
Class: GT Le Mans (GTLM)
Ryan Briscoe finished 10th with Corvette Racing at the 24 at Daytona last year and returns to race for them again on the Florida coast this year. Briscoe had what looked to be a building year in IndyCar in 2014, but sadly does not look to have a full ride this coming year. Hopefully we will still see him on track throughout 2015, even if not in our favorite open-wheel series.
Simon Pagenaud had a stellar season with one Pole and two wins during the IndyCar season and has had an active off-season as well with the announcement of his move from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to Team Penske. While the GP of Indy winner has competed in the 24 Hours at Daytona multiple times, this will be his first year with Corvette Racing. His testing and feedback this weekend could help them in their goal of a victory, 2 weeks from now.
Graham Rahal won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2011 with his Chip Ganassi Racing team. He returns this year with BMW Team RLL to contest for a win and a watch in the annual classic. Rahal had a decent season in IndyCar, with the highlight being one heck of a show in Detroit for Race 1, resulting in a 2nd place season-high finish for the newly-engaged Ohio native. As of now, he will compete in 2015 as the only driver for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Class: GT Daytona (GTD)
Townsend Bell, 2014 Indy 500 driver and IndyCar commentator, returns in the Ferrari 458 Italia – the same car he ran in the series for AIM Autosport last year but piloting for Scuderia Corsa this time around. Last year in the 24 at Daytona, Bell and his fellow drivers were the center of a controversial last lap which initially resulted in another team being declared the winners of the GTD class. Hours after the race concluded however, it was ruled that the Level 5 team was awarded with the win, when their penalty was revoked. They received the Rolex’ they deserved at a later date, as they were not able to take part in the live podium celebration or watch distribution.
James Davison will be sharing testing duties this weekend in the Aston Martin V12 Vantage (No 007) for TRG-AMR Racing. He drove for KV Racing in the 2014 Indy 500 this past May and completed the 200 laps in 16th place.
Last year, we saw more IndyCar drivers added to this endurance race roster between the Roar weekend and race weekend itself, and I expect the same to be true of this year. Exactly how many is yet to be determined but with this much open-wheel talent in the field, IndyCar fans are sure to enjoy the kick off to the 2015 race season on January 25th, as much as anyone else! Happy New Year, indeed.
Are you connecting with us on social media?
Follow the links below to like, follow and be a part of the conversation!
* * * * *