Wayne Taylor Racing announced Monday that it has formed a partnership with Penske Racing to field a Daytona Prototype in the 2008 Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona on Jan 26-27. Racing superstars Helio Castroneves, Kurt Busch and Ryan Briscoe will pilot the No. 9 Toshiba-sponsored Penske-Taylor Racing Pontiac Riley in the season-opening round of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series.
This announcement coincides with earlier news released today that Canadian hot shoe Michael Valiante will drive the team's No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac with Max Angelelli in the entire 14-round Rolex Series season. Wayne Taylor and son, Ricky, are expected to round out the driving force in that car for the Rolex 24.
"I think, certainly from a team standpoint, if you have an opportunity to run a second car, I can't imagine having it any better than being associated with Roger Penske's organization," said Wayne Taylor. "It's going to be a big deal for everybody involved. There's a lot of work, obviously, in getting this all together."
Penske, who fields teams in NASCAR, IndyCar and the American Le Mans Series, will now have another stab at tackling the Rolex 24, the crown jewel race of the Rolex Series. The last and only time a Penske Racing sports car was crowned champion of the 24-hour classic came in 1969 when Mark Donohue and Chuck Parsons co-drove a Lola T70 Mk IIIb-Chevrolet to victory lane.
"On behalf of Penske Racing, I am thrilled to be returning to the Rolex 24 At Daytona next month," Roger Penske said. "I want to thank Wayne Taylor, Toshiba and SunTrust for allowing us this opportunity. We could not be more pleased to have our Penske Racing teammates, Ryan, Kurt and Helio, driving for us at this event."
The all-star cast of Penske drivers comes from the team's NASCAR and IndyCar efforts. Castroneves, a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, made his Rolex 24 debut in 2007, driving for Michael Shank Racing. The energetic Brazilian will be trading in his dancing shoes for a new pair of driving gloves. Castroneves recently made the celebrity headlines by winning the ABC reality series "Dancing with the Stars".
Busch will also be making his second career Rolex 24 start, having taking part in the 2005 edition. The 2004 NASCAR Cup Champion has 17 series wins to his credit including two from 2007. The Las Vegas-native finished seventh in this year's Chase for the Nextel Cup driving the No. 2 Dodge Charger.
Briscoe will climb back behind the wheel of a DP for the first time in two years. The 26-year-old Australian drove three races for SunTrust Racing in 2006, claiming two podium finishes. He also earned the pole for the 2005 Rolex 24, piloting a Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley. Briscoe spent 2007 in Penske's Porsche RS Spyder program in the ALMS. He and co-driver Sascha Maassen scored three class wins, two of which being overall victories. The 2008 season sees him take over the reigns of Penske's second IndyCar, replacing Sam Hornish Jr., who leaves for NASCAR.
"The driver lineup and the team Roger has put together are really strong," Taylor added. "There are three drivers from three different racing disciplines. Ryan's driven with us before, so we know him very well. Helio, well, the guy's a superstar. And Kurt Busch, he's a NASCAR champion and a very good road racer. It's certainly a lineup that will draw a lot of attention. And, without question, gives us two strong contenders for the race win."
Both the No. 9 and No. 10 Pontiac Rileys will be at the annual three-day Daytona Test on Jan 4-6, preparing for the twice-around-the-clock road racing classic.