Daytona ready for historic Rolex 24

Unprecedented Field in American Sports Car History Set for Historic Rolex 24 At Daytona DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Jan. 27, 2005) - Drivers representing more than 100 major auto racing championships and a record 29 Daytona Prototypes will make up the...

Unprecedented Field in American Sports Car History Set for Historic Rolex 24 At Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Jan. 27, 2005) - Drivers representing more than 100 major auto racing championships and a record 29 Daytona Prototypes will make up the strongest starting grid in American sports car history for the 43rd anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona on Feb. 5-6 at historic Daytona International Speedway.

"Without exaggeration, you would have to say this is probably the best depth of a field that I've ever seen, even in the GTP heyday when there were probably 15 or so (Porsche) 962s. There weren't this many cars within this tight of a group," said Butch Leitzinger, a three-time Rolex 24 champion who'll co-drive the No. 4 Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford. "If you're a little bit off in the setup, as we've seen on the time sheet (during testing), instead of being fourth, you're all of a sudden 16th. It's going to be something where the team is going to have to work incredibly hard and the driver is going to have to work incredibly hard just to keep on pace with everyone."

The list of drivers features high-profile names such as five NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champions - Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart and Bobby and Terry Labonte - open-wheel stars Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti and 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice.

The field also includes Academy Award-winning actor Paul Newman, two more Champ Car World Series champions (Cristiano da Matta and Sebastien Bourdais) and two Indy Racing League IndyCar Series champions (Scott Sharp and Scott Dixon).

Sports car stars looking to guard their home turf include five-time Rolex 24 champion Hurley Haywood, 2004 Daytona Prototype co-champions Scott Pruett and Max Papis, Leitzinger, Andy Wallace, Terry Borcheller, Boris Said, Wayne Taylor and Rob and Chris Dyson.

"This is without a doubt a star-studded cast of drivers and cars," Speedway President Robin Braig said. "We're thrilled that our newly renovated infield will serve as the backdrop to a competitive Rolex 24 that will surely go down as a historic weekend in the sports car world."

And unlike previous Rolex 24 events, the elite drivers competing in this year's twice-around-the-clock challenge will be spread out among the 29 entries in the Daytona Prototype class, the premier division of the Grand American Rolex Series.

"I recognize a lot of faces for sure from all different areas in the world," said Franchitti, an Indy Racing League IndyCar star who'll co-drive the No. 2 CITGO Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford in his first Rolex 24 start. "I think to have them all here in one place *you just look through the entry list, it's pretty intimidating but I'm looking forward to the challenge. Just look at any of the cars, you're going to see one or more guys in there that have done amazing things in their careers."

Said Haywood: "This is undoubtedly the best driver lineup I've seen for a 24-hour race, anywhere. It has representation from all of the different fields of motorsports and it's going to be a heck of a show."

One of the most exciting Rolex 24s will be presented in front of a festival atmosphere in the new Daytona International Speedway infield. Last July, the Speedway underwent a multi-million dollar, multi-faceted infield renovation, which included new garages, new Turn 1 tunnel, new Gatorade Victory Lane, waterfront specialty vehicle parking and a uniquely designed FanZone.

Besides enjoying the thrilling side-by-side racing on Daytona's legendary 3.56-mile road course, sports enthusiasts attending the Rolex 24 will also enjoy the largest Ferris Wheel on the East Coast in the Midway, a screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, car corrals and a wine and cheese tasting and participate in the Daytona 5K run.

Tickets to the Rolex 24 At Daytona are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or call 1-800-PITSHOP.

-dis

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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Andy Wallace , Matt Kenseth , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Butch Leitzinger , Boris Said , Kurt Busch , Scott Sharp , Max Papis , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Scott Pruett , Wayne Taylor , Terry Borcheller , Hurley Haywood , Paul Newman , Sébastien Bourdais , Buddy Rice , Chris Dyson , Cristiano da Matta