The RVs are moving in, the Daytona International Speedway infield is filling up, and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams are ready to get through two more days of on-track action before the start of the 62nd Rolex 24 At Daytona. Fifty-nine cars are slated to start the race that begins at 1:40pm on Saturday and finishes 24 hours later. But that’s only the beginning of the tale. Wrapped in that overall story arc are hundreds of subplots, each a fascinating allegory in its own right. Here are a few of them.
Star power: The aces of sports car racing are certainly stars. But guys like Jordan Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque, Nick Tandy, Pipo Derani and Ryan Dalziel are preaching to the choir, so to speak. Drawing new eyes to endurance sports car racing are the drivers from other disciplines — IndyCar, Formula 1 and NASCAR. This race draws them all.
Some, like Josef Newgarden, who joins Porsche Penske Motorsport in the No. 7 963, are relatively new to this side of the sport. On the other hand, Scott Dixon is an old hand at this, having done his first endurance sports car race 24 years ago. While he notes moving back and forth between IndyCar and sports cars isn’t as easy as it used to be given the current crop of more complex GTP machinery, he relishes the chance to jump into the No. 01 Cadillac Racing V-Series.R fielded by his IndyCar Series team, Chip Ganassi Racing.
“It’s always the competition. I think it’s always very difficult … I’ve done plenty of these Daytonas and only won four them,” Dixon says, as if four victories at Daytona is nothing. “What is tricky is that you can go to bed, you might be leading by a lap, and you wake up and you’re 10 laps down or be in the situation where you have the failure. So many times I think we’ve had races here where you think it’s gonna be a good race and you definitely have a shot at winning, and it can be taken away pretty quickly. So a lot of times, it’s the disappointment that drives you.”
In all, 15 NTT IndyCar Series are scheduled to participate in the Rolex 24, most in GTP or LMP2. Three former Formula 1 drivers are on the entry list, including Romain Grosjean who falls into both open-wheel categories and will drive the No. 60 Iron Lynx Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo2 in GTD PRO; Jenson Button in the No. 40 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06 in GTP, and Felipe Massa in the No. 74 Riley Motorsports ORECA in LMP2. In addition, a few NASCAR stars are set to compete in the Michelin Pilot Challenge Race on Friday in the No. 23 Smooge Racing Toyota Supra GT4 Evo – Bubba Wallace, John Hunter Nemechek and Corey Heim.
A record number of woman racers: Nine women are slated to race in the Rolex 24, a record for female participation. That include the four women in the Iron Dames Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo 2 in GTD — Rahel Frey, Sarah Bovy, Michele Gatting and Doriane Pin. Pin missed the Roar Before the 24 last weekend because the 20-year-old from France was racing in the Formula 4 UAE championship, with a best finish of sixth. Gradient Racing returns with Sheena Monk and Katherine Legge, who qualified the No. 66 Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 third, now with Tatiana Calderon joining the team for endurance races. Ashton Harrison is racing with Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti for its new GTD program with a Lamborghini, and Lilou Wadoux is in the No. 88 Richard Mille AF Corse ORECA in LMP2.
But that’s only the 24-hour race. Taylor Hagler will be in the Michelin Pilot Challenge event on Friday with Bryan Herta Autosports, and Whelen Engineering MX-5 Cup has two women drivers, Sally Mott and Heather Hadley. If you then go into the women on crews, in engineering, team and manufacturer management… well, it’s a very long list.
Pit palaces: The days of strategists sitting on top of a rolling tool box with a stopwatch and a clipboard are long gone. Today’s pit stalls are big enough to house a family of four.
That’s especially true for Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti’s new pit setup. Expanding from one GTP car to two Acura ARX-06s and a Lamborghini GTD car, its pit area has magnified more than accordingly.
“On the timing stand, we have 66 TV screens and 32 workstations. We have 85 employees — 12 drivers, another 40 people from [Honda Racing Corporation] for this event, which makes us without a doubt the biggest team,” says team principal Wayne Taylor.
Ben Keating, who starts on the LMP2 class pole, will also race in GTP with the No. 85: JDC-Miller MotorSports, Porsche 963. Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images
Double dippers: Several drivers are competing in more than one race this weekend. And one driver is tackling two different classes and cars within the 24 hour itself.
The latter is, of course, Ben Keating, who competed in both LMP2 and DPi two years ago. This year he’s running his full season car, the No. 2 United Autosports ORECA in LMP2, plus getting time in the No. 85 JDC-Miller MotorSports Porsche 963 in GTP. That means his minimum drive time is 6h30m between the two classes.
Beyond Keating, nine drivers are racing in both the Michelin Pilot Challenge BMW M Endurance Challenge at Daytona and the Rolex 24 — Stevan McAleer, Trent Hindman, Spencer Pumpelly, Jack Hawksworth, Daniel Morad, Corey Lewis, Aaron Telitz, Kenton Koch and Robby Foley — and Connor Zilisch is racing in Whelen Engineering MX-5 Cup in addition to driving the No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA in the Rolex 24.
Broadcast schedule: The entirety of the Rolex 24 At Daytona will be streamed live on Peacock. Sixteen-and-a-half hours will be on television, with the start and finish on NBC. USA Network will carry the race from 2:30 to 8pm ET, and 10pm to midnight ET. Coverage begins again at 6 am ET on USA, continuing to noon ET. NBC will carry the finish of the race from noon ET until 2pm.
Weather: Two years ago we were talking about the bitter overnight cold. This year, it’s about the warmth, especially compared to the Roar Before the 24 weekend. The race is expected to begin under sunshine in the mid-70s F. Overnight lows are predicted for the mid-60s, and Sunday will head to low 70s with a good chance of rain.