Star-Studded Cast Provides Rolex 24 at Daytona Preview in Annual Daytona Test Days This Weekend
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 4, 2005) -- Boasting an entry list that features worldwide sports car racing greats as well as superstar drivers from other forms of motor racing, the annual Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Test Days at Daytona International Speedway this weekend will provide a glimpse into what is expected to be an all-star lineup for February's 43rd Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The three-day test will allow the sports car regulars to reintroduce themselves to the 3.56-mile road circuit at the "World Center of Racing," which has been undergoing extensive infield changes since the Rolex Series' last visit to Daytona for the Paul Revere 250 presented by Brumos Porsche last July. While the course layout is the same as it has been in the past, virtually the entire infield has been renovated since July and there is a new tunnel located underneath Turn 1. The official grand opening of the new, fan-friendly infield will be the Rolex 24 At Daytona on February 3-6.
This weekend's test sessions will also provide several drivers with their first exposure to the Daytona International Speedway road circuit as they prepare for the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona. The 57-car entry list features 30 Daytona Prototypes, 27 GT machines, and a host of changes since the 2004 season finale at California Speedway last October.
One of the most significant changes for 2005 involves the driver lineup of the 2004 Daytona Prototype championship-winning No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley. Co-champion Scott Pruett returns to the familiar red and white machine, but he will now share the ride with Mexican hotshoe Luis Diaz.
Pruett's 2004 co-driver Max Papis, with whom he also shared the championship, has moved on to drive the new No. 66 Krohn Racing/TRG Pontiac Riley alongside Germany's Jorg Bergmeister and England's Oliver Gavin. The team will also field the No. 67 Pontiac Riley to be driven in the Rolex 24 At Daytona by owner/driver Tracy Krohn, Nic Jonsson, 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series-bound Boris Said.
Said will be joined at Daytona Test Days by many NEXTEL Cup Series stars, with whom he will become more familiar in 2005. Entered for this weekend's Test Days and the Rolex 24 At Daytona are the last two NEXTEL Cup champions, Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth, along with their Roush Racing teammate Greg Biffle and Canadian sports car standout Scott Maxwell in the No. 49 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Multimatic.
2004 NEXTEL Cup Series runner-up Jimmie Johnson returns for a second-straight run in the twice-around-the-clock race in the No. 4 Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford alongside sports car greats Butch Leitzinger and Elliott Forbes-Robinson. Tony Stewart, the 2002 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion, is expected to join sports car stars Andy Wallace and Jan Lammers in the No. 20 CITGO Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford for the Rolex 24 At Daytona, but will not be present at Daytona Test Days. The No. 4 and No. 20 Howard-Boss Motorsports teams will meet the press at 12:00 Noon during Sunday's final day of testing.
Also listed on the Test Days entry are 2000 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte and two-time NEXTEL Cup Series champion Terry Labonte, who will drive the No. 27 Doran Racing Pontiac Doran. In addition to its No. 01 machine, CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing has entered NEXTEL Cup Series standout Jamie McMurray for the test in the No. 02 Lexus Riley, and NEXTEL Cup rising star Casey Mears will share the team's No. 03 machine with IRL IndyCar Series drivers Darren Manning and 2003 IndyCar Series champ Scott Dixon. CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing will participate in a news conference at 12:00 Noon on Saturday.
Manning, Dixon and Rice are among a large contingent of drivers from the open-wheel ranks expected to participate in Daytona Test Days as well as the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Paul Tracy, the 2003 Champ Car World Series champion, has joined the defending Rolex 24 At Daytona-winning No. 54 Kodak EasyShare Bell Motorsports Pontiac Doran team alongside 2003 Daytona Prototype champion Terry Borcheller, car owner/driver Forest Barber, and former open-wheel standout Christian Fittipaldi. Fittipaldi will be joined in the Test Days field by one of his former Champ Car owners, as Academy Award winner Paul Newman is entered alongside Michael Brockman in the No. 79 Newman Racing Ford Crawford. Other open-wheel personalities are expected to enter the fray, many of whom will be announced this weekend.
While a surplus of stars from NASCAR and open-wheel racing will undoubtedly raise the profile of the Rolex 24 At Daytona among fans of those forms of motorsport, the sports car faithful will have plenty of their own to root on as well.
Five-time Rolex 24 At Daytona winner Hurley Haywood returns to the cockpit of the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar and he will share the car during this weekend's Test Days with his co-driver of the past two years, JC France. Driving the No. 58 Red Bull-Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar once again will be David Donohue and Darren Law.
Car owner/driver Wayne Taylor, who was the 2004 Daytona Prototype runner-up, returns to action this weekend in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley alongside co-drivers Max Angelelli and Emmanuel Collard. Milka Duno, a top-five finisher in the 2004 Rolex Series point standings, is entered for Test Days as the driver of the No. 2 CITGO-sponsored Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford, and Duno's co-drivers will be announced in a news conference at 12:00 Noon ET on Friday.
After getting a taste of the Daytona Prototype during the Hoosier Tire Introduction Test at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Rob and Chris Dyson will be back behind the wheel of the No. 5 Essex Racing Ford Crawford this weekend with co-drivers Harrison Brix and James Gue. Jim Matthews also returns this weekend in the No. 39 Orbit Racing Pontiac Riley with co-drivers Marc Goossens, Guy Smith and Joel Camathias.
Daytona Test Days will also see the public unveiling of the Infiniti Daytona Prototype powerplant, as the No. 9 Hyper Sport Infiniti Doran hits the track with the driving quintet of Rick Skelton, Joe Foster, Brad Nyberg, David Donner and Mike Culver.
While the Daytona Prototype field for Daytona Test Days and the Rolex 24 At Daytona figures to be outstanding, so too does the lineup of cars and drivers in the newly-reconfigured GT class.
Defending GT champions Prototype Technology Group has entered a pair of BMW M3s for Daytona Test Days, and plans to announce its driver lineup in the coming days. The Racer's Group, which claimed an overall and GT class victory in the 2003 Rolex 24 At Daytona will feature a six-car lineup that includes a trio of 16-year-olds, an all-Canadian team and an all-Japanese team.
Also driving TRG Porsches will be 2004 Rolex 24 At Daytona GT class winners Jay and Joe Policastro, who will share the No. 64 Porsche GT3 Cup with Portugal's Miguel Amaral and Pedro Couceiro, as well as the No. 65 entry of team owner/driver Kevin Buckler, Hugh Plumb, Carlos de Quesada and 2004 Rolex Series Super Grand Sport (SGS) co-champion drivers Marc Bunting and Andy Lally. The 2004 SGS champion team will also be present and accounted for in the new GT class, as TPC Racing has entered three Porsche GT3 Cup machines.
The GT field will also feature the No. 08 Mazda RX-8 entered by Goldin Brothers Racing and driven by Steve and Keith Goldin and Scott Finlay, the No. 11 JMB Racing USA Ferrari 360 of Matt Plumb, Anthony Pinto and Jim Michaelian, the No. 23 Horizon Motorsports Pontiac GTO of Charles Espenlaub and Kris Szekeres and Chevrolet Corvettes from Michael Baughman Racing (No. 46, to be driven this weekend by Michael Baughman) and the No. 55 ASC Motorsports Corvette of Zach Arnold.
The complete Daytona Test Days entry list was distributed today and is available at www.grandamerican.com.
On-track activity gets underway Friday at Daytona International Speedway beginning with Rolex Series practice at 9:00 a.m. ET. The Rolex Series and Grand-Am Cup Series will alternate sessions throughout the three days of testing. Friday's sessions will include night practice for the Rolex Series from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. ET. Saturday's sessions run from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET, while Sunday's on-track activity is scheduled from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. ET. All of the sessions are open to the public.
Tickets for the 43rd Rolex 24 At Daytona are available by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or by visiting www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.