Photo: Team Ganassi drivers Sage Karam, Jamie McMurray, Tony Kanaan
"I think it's great for IndyCar that its drivers are doing other types of racing. It just shows the world how good they are." -- Bobby Rahal
An IndyCar Series competitor has co-driven the winning overall entry in the Rolex 24 At Daytona the past 3 years and 5 of the past 10. In 2013, series drivers swept the podium, with Charlie Kimball (first, Chip Ganassi/Felix Sabates Riley-BMW DP), Ryan Hunter-Reay (second, Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP), and Justin Wilson (third, Michael Shank Racing Riley-Ford DP).
More than a dozen IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy drivers will compete in the 52nd race this weekend on the 3.56-mile circuit at Daytona International Speedway, including reigning IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon (#02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford DP), with 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan as a co-driver, and 2012 series champion Hunter-Reay (#91 SRT Motorsports SRT Viper GTS-R).
"The (Rolex 24) lineup of drivers has evolved over the years," said Dixon, who co-drove the winning entry in 2006. "When I first started in '04, I might have been one of the few IndyCar Series drivers that did the 24. The last four or five years there's been more of a mix of IndyCar drivers going over, which is good for both series. It's a great way to start the year and really shows the all-around skills of IndyCar drivers."
Wilson co-drove the winning car in 2012, while Graham Rahal was a member of the 2011 winning team. Both are entered this year, with Wilson rejoining Michael Shank Racing in its prototype car and Rahal competing for BMW Team RLL in the GT Le Mans category.
Rahal, who won the event 30 years after his father, said winning the race is a career highlight. "To be an ultimate driver, to be one of the greats, you need to be a part of races like this," said Rahal, who enters his second IndyCar Series season with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. "If I look at a guy like Scott Dixon, where he separates himself from others is not only is he incredibly quick in an IndyCar but you get him in a sports car and he's instantly the quickest of all those guys, too."
Simon Pagenaud, who finished third in the IndyCar Series championship standings last year, will make his second start in the race, driving the #2 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b with Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek, and Anthony Lazarro.
Other IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy drivers from 2013 and confirmed for 2014 competing are:
• Four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais (#5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP).
• James Hinchcliffe (#70 SpeedSource Mazda Diesel), who won three races in 2013.
• Ryan Briscoe (#3 Corvette Racing C7.R E85 GTLM), who has seven IndyCar Series victories and returns to Chip Ganassi Racing full time in 2014.
• Mikhail Aleshin (#72 SMP/ESM Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GTD) of Russia, who will drive the No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car in his rookie season.
• Sage Karam (#01 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford DP), the 2013 Firestone Indy Lights champion, making his 24-hr race debut.
• Tristan Vautier (#07 SpeedSource Mazda Diesel), the 2013 Sunoco Rookie of the Year.
• Conor Daly (#08 RSR Racing Oreca FLM09 PC), a Firestone Indy Lights winner who made his Indianapolis 500 debut in 2013.
• Alex Tagliani (co-driving with Daly), who competed for Barracuda Racing and Target Chip Ganassi Racing in 2013.
• James Davison (#007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage V12 GTD), a Firestone Indy Lights winner who made his IndyCar Series debut in 2013.
• AJ Allmendinger (#60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian Riley-Ford DP), who competed in six races for Team Penske.
• Townsend Bell (#555 Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GTD), an NBCSN announcer who made his seventh Indianapolis 500 start in 2013.
• Gabby Chaves (#0 DeltaWing Racing Cars DWC13 Elan), the 2013 Firestone Indy Lights championship runner-up.
• Katherine Legge (co-driving with Chaves), who made her second Indianapolis 500 start in 2013.
You can see a preview of the 2014 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona below.
And here, an explanation of the Tudor Championship Classes
The Top 4 qualifiers in the each class: Prototype (P), Prototype Challenge (PC), GT LeMans (GTLM), GT Daytona:
1. 1:38.270; #99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP; Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty, Memo Gidley, Darren Law
2. -0.217; #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP; Richard Westbrook, Michael Valiante, Mike Rockenfeller
3. -0.255; #78 Starworks Motorsport Riley-Dinan DP; Scott Mayer, Alex Popow, Brendan Hartley
4. -0.388 #5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP; Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, Sebastien Bourdais, Burt Frisselle
1. 1:41.777; #54 Core autosport Oreca FLM09; Jon Bennett, James Gue, Colin Braun, Mark Wilkins
2. #8 Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09; Mirco Schultis, Eric Lux, Renger van der Zande, Sam Bird
3. #09 RSR Racing Oreca FLM09; Duncan Ende, Bruno Junqueira, David Heinimeier Hansson, Gustavo Menezes
4. #38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09; Ryan Booth, Raphael Matos, Tomi Drissi, Gabriel Casagrande, Julio Campos
1. 1:44.506; #91 SRT Motorsports Viper GTS-R; Dominik Farnbacher, Marc Goossens, Ryan Hunter-Reay
2. #911 Porsche North America 911 RSR; Nick Tandy, Richard Lietz, Patrick Pilet
3. #93 SRT Motorsports Viper GTS-R; Robert Bell, Jonathan Bomarito, Kuno Wittmer
4. #4 Corvette Racing C7.R; Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Robin Liddell
1. 1:46.973; #48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS; Bryce Miller, Rene Rast, Christopher Hasse, Matthew Bell
2. #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia; Alessandro Balzan, Jeff Westphal, Toni Vilander, Lorenzo Case
3. #46 Fall-Line Motorsports Audi R8 LMS; Charlie Putman, Charles Espenlaub, Oliver Jarvis, James Walker
4. #65 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia; Francisco Longo, Daniel Serra, Xandinho Negrao, Marcos Gomes