Chip Ganassi Racing announced Monday its driver lineup for next month's Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, the opening round of the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series season. The two-car attack featuring drivers from the team's three racing programs will be gunning to make Daytona history. No team has ever won the 24-hour race overall in three consecutive years.
Scott Pruett returns to the No. 01 Lexus Riley, paired with Memo Rojas for the entire season. The duo will be joined by NASCAR drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Dario Franchitti for the 24-hour race. IndyCar pilots Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon as well as Salvador Duran and Alex Lloyd make up the driving strength in car No. 02.
These eight drivers boast an incredible resume, combining to earn three Indianapolis 500 wins, five open wheel championships and two Daytona Prototype titles. Five of the drivers are former Rolex 24 winners.
"Everyone knows how special this race is and how much of a team effort it takes to win at Daytona," said Team Owner Chip Ganassi. "I'm extremely proud of the effort put forth by our organization the last two years, and we have another great opportunity this year with the addition of Dario and Alex to the lineup. It is a tremendous feeling to know that we have this many talented drivers on our teams to pick from."
Pruett, the 2004 Rolex Series Co-Champion, is the most winningest driver in Daytona Prototype history. He along with Montoya and Duran are defending champions of the 24-hour race. After that monumental victory, Pruett was paired with rookie Memo Rojas for the remainder of the season. The duo won at Iowa Speedway in July, and Pruett finished second in the driver's championship.
Rojas made his series debut at the Rolex 24 last year but crashed out late in the race after running inside the top five. Once paired with Pruett for the remainder of the season, the young Mexican was on unequal points to his teammate. Therefore, he finished behind Pruett in the standings, in fourth. This year, Rojas and Pruett will be co-driving together for the full season.
Montoya won two races in his rookie season in NASCAR, but one of those victories came with controversy. Pruett, who was making a guest appearance in a stock car, was spun out by Montoya while battling for the lead in the Busch Series race in Mexico City. The Columbian went on to take his first- ever stock car win while the California-native had to settle for fifth. Now, the two will be back behind the wheel together for the first time since that incident.
Franchitti rounds out the lineup in the No. 01 Lexus Riley. The reigning IndyCar and Indianapolis 500 Champion moves to Ganassi's NASCAR operations full-time in 2008, following the route carved by Montoya. The 34-year-old Scot competed in six stock car races late this year in preparation for a busy 2008 schedule which includes the Cup and Nationwide Series. Franchitti will be making his third Rolex 24 start.
The No. 02 entry is headed up by open wheel veterans Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon. The duo, along with Casey Mears, won the 2006 race. Dixon finished runner-up in the IndyCar championship to Franchitti, after losing the championship in the final race due to running out of fuel. The New Zealand- native earned four wins in 2007, including three in a row.
Wheldon endured a more challenging season, finishing fourth in the standings with two wins. The 2005 Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Champion suffered five DNFs, including a 22nd place finish at the Brickyard.
Duran moves to the No. 02 entry after teaming with Pruett and Montoya in last year's winning car. The 22-year-old Mexican spent much of 2007 competing in the World Series by Renault championship. He returned to the Rolex Series at the season-ending Sunchaser 1000k as a third driver to Pruett and Rojas.
Lloyd, like Franchitti, is a newcomer to the CGR team. The young Englishman won the 2007 Indy Pro Series championship, driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. With 10 wins, Lloyd is the most successful driver in IPS history. Last October, he was signed to CGR's driver development program.
Both cars are expected to be present in the upcoming Test Days at Daytona on Jan. 4-6 in preparation for the 24-hour road racing classic.