Rolex 24 at Daytona to Feature "Who's Who" of Worldwide Auto Racing Champions and Race Winners DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 18, 2005) -- Drivers representing more than 100 championships and dozens of future Hall of Famers have been entered in ...
Rolex 24 at Daytona to Feature "Who's Who" of Worldwide Auto Racing Champions and Race Winners
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 18, 2005) -- Drivers representing more than 100 championships and dozens of future Hall of Famers have been entered in the 43rd Rolex 24 At Daytona at Daytona International Speedway, February 3-6, as Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series officials today announced a 62-car entry list for the twice-around-the-clock race.
The 2005 Rolex 24 field boasts a Rolex Series-record 29 Daytona Prototypes and 33 GT machines. The entry list features its regular complement of top sports car racers from all over the globe, as well as five NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champions representing six NEXTEL Cup titles, the past three Champ Car World Series champions, two Indy Racing League IndyCar Series champions and the reigning Indianapolis 500 winner.
NEWMAN TEAM SET TO RETURN WITH PAIR OF CHAMP CAR CHAMPIONS
After the No. 79 Newman Racing/Silverstone Racing Ford Crawford driven by Oscar-winner Paul Newman caught fire following a spin during Daytona Test Days on January 8, some may have questioned whether or not the team would return for the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Not only is the team returning, it's bringing in a pair of ringers to share the car with Newman and Michael Brockman. Cristiano da Matta, the 2002 Champ Car World Series champion, will be making his return to North American racing after spending 2003 and 2004 in Formula One. Da Matta drove for the Newman/Haas Racing Champ Car team that Newman co-owns with Carl Haas during his championship-winning 2002 campaign.
The fourth member of the team will also be a Newman/Haas Champ Car champion, as 2004 titlist Sebastien Bourdais has also joined the fray. Bourdais got in a handful of test laps in a Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford during Daytona Test Days after the fire on the No. 79 car, and is no stranger to 24-hour races with a victory in the 24 Hours of Spa in 2002 and the fact that he was born in Le Mans, France.
Paul Tracy, the 2003 Champ Car champion is also entered to drive the No. 54 Kodak EasyShare Pontiac Doran for the 2004 Rolex 24 overall-winning Bell Motorsports team. Tracy joins former Champ Car pilot Christian Fittipaldi, 2003 Daytona Prototype champion Terry Borcheller, car owner/driver Forest Barber and Germany's Ralf Kelleners on the five-driver lineup.
The Rolex 24 At Daytona field will have 15 drivers with at least one start in Champ Car World Series competition.
"NEXTEL NINE" AND INDYCAR STARS READY TO RACE
Nearly one-quarter of the full-time 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver lineup will participate in the 2005 Rolex 24 At Daytona, as nine drivers have signed-on to participate. Leading the way will be the past three NEXTEL Cup Series champions, Kurt Busch (2004) and Matt Kenseth (2003)--who will share their No. 49 Crown Royal Ford Multimatic with fellow NEXTEL Cup competitor Greg Biffle and sports car ace Scott Maxwell--and 2002 NASCAR champion Tony Stewart.
This will be Stewart's second-consecutive run in the Rolex 24, as he joined sports car star Andy Wallace and fellow NEXTEL Cup competitor Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the 2004 event. In fact, the trio came within 20 minutes of winning the race only to have a mechanical failure bring their race to a premature end. This year, Stewart will again be paired with Wallace, as well as another sports car racing standout, Jan Lammers, in the No. 20 CITGO Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford.
Running in a team car to Stewart will be rising NASCAR star Jimmie Johnson. The 2004 NEXTEL Cup Series runner-up also returns for another run at the Rolex 24 and will once again share the No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford with a pair of sports car aces in Elliott Forbes-Robinson and Butch Leitzinger.
A third Howard-Boss Motorsports entry, the No. 2 CITGO Pontiac Crawford will be piloted by two-time 2004 Daytona Prototype race-winner Milka Duno, as well as Indy Racing League IndyCar stars Dan Wheldon and Dario Franchitti. The Rolex 24 will be somewhat of a family affair, as Dario will be joined on the No. 2 team by his brother, Marino, who has previous success in Rolex Series competition.
The Franchittis will not be the only set of brothers to share a Daytona Prototype in the Rolex 24. Bobby Labonte, the 2000 NEXTEL Cup Series champion, will join his brother, two-time NEXTEL Cup Series champ Terry Labonte, as well as IndyCar standout Bryan Herta and sports car ace Jan Magnussen in the No. 44 Doran Racing Pontiac Doran. The No. 44 team will be joined by a second Doran Racing entry, the No. 77 Lexus Doran of former Rolex Series champion Didier Theys and Italians Fabrizio Gollin and Matteo Bobbi.
Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates NASCAR teammates Jamie McMurray and Casey Mears will play central roles in a three-car attack for the defending Rolex Series Daytona Prototype championship team. The team's championship-winning No. 01 CompUSA Lexus Riley will be shared by 2004 Daytona Prototype co-champion Scott Pruett, Mexican pilot Luis Diaz and Australian Ryan Briscoe, while McMurray will share the No. 02 New Century Mortgage Lexus Riley with sports car veterans Cort Wagner and Stefan Johansson. Mears joins the team's Target-sponsored IndyCar drivers, Darren Manning and 2003 IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, in the No. 03 Target Lexus Riley.
Another IndyCar Series champion, Scott Sharp--the 1996 IRL co-champion--is set to share the No. 39 Orbit Racing Pontiac Riley with Jim Matthews, Guy Smith and Marc Goossens, while 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice will co-drive the No. 67 Krohn Racing/TRG Pontiac Riley with car owner/driver Tracy Krohn, Nic Jonsson, and NASCAR-bound Boris Said. Krohn Racing/TRG will field two entries in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, with 2004 Daytona Prototype co-champion Max Papis--also a veteran of Champ Car and IndyCar competition--joining Jorg Bergmeister and Oliver Gavin in the team's No. 66 Pontiac Riley.
SPORTS CAR STARS SET TO SHINE
Not to be overlooked in the Rolex 24 field are several sports car racing superstars who will provide a formidable challenge to the NASCAR and open-wheel racing invaders.
When looking for favorites to win the Rolex 24, one need look no further than 2004 Daytona Prototype runner-up, the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley team with drivers Max Angelelli, Wayne Taylor and Emmanuel Collard. The No. 10 machine won the most recent Rolex Series race at Daytona in the Paul Revere 250 presented by Brumos Porsche last July, and the No. 10 was routinely at or near the top of the time charts during Daytona Test Days.
While outright speed is one thing, keeping the car on track for 24 hours is something else, and nobody does that better than five-time Rolex 24 winner Hurley Haywood, who will share the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar with regular co-driver JC France and Porsche factory pilots Mike Rockenfeller, Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas. Brumos Racing brings a three-car assault to Daytona, with David Donohue, Darren Law, Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen sharing the No. 58 Red Bull Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar, and Brady Refenning sharing the No. 29 Porsche Fabcar with Tim, Josh and Jake Vargo.
Returning to Rolex Series competition in the Rolex 24 At Daytona will be Rob and Chris Dyson, who will share the No. 5 Essex Racing Ford Crawford with James Gue and Harrison Brix. Rob Dyson claimed an overall Rolex 24 victory in 1997 and looks to score a second overall with his son as one of his co-drivers.
Also returning is the Michael Shank Racing team with drivers Paul Mears Jr., Mike Borkowski, Larry Connor and Duncan Dayton sharing the No. 6 Mears Motor Coach Pontiac Riley; the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Pontiac Crawford of co-drivers Doug Goad, Stephan Gregoire, Bob Ward and Roberto Moreno; the No. 8 Synergy Racing BMW Doran of Burt and Brian Frisselle, Tommy Erdos and Mike Newton; the No. 86 Synergy Racing BMW Picchio of Steve Marshall and Peyton Sellers; and the No. 3 Cegwa Sport Lexus Fabcar of Darius Grala, Mark Patterson, Bohdan Kroczek and Quentin Wahl.
The Rolex 24 At Daytona will also see the debut of Daytona Prototype newcomers Ten Motorsports, Hyper Sport Engineering, Westernesse Racing and Robinson Racing. Open-wheel standouts Memo Gidley, Michael McDowell, Michael Valiante and Jonathan Bomarito will share the No. 19 Ten Motorsports BMW Riley, while Hyper Sport introduces the Infiniti Daytona Prototype powerplant in its No. 9 Doran that will be co-driven by Rick Skelton and Joe Foster. Dominic Cicero, Chad McQueen and John Bender will share the No. 25 Westernesse Racing Ford Crawford, and Robinson Racing will see George Robinson, Wally Dallenbach, Paul Dallenbach and Johnny Unser taking turns in the No. 74 Lexus Riley. The Robinson outfit has extensive sports car racing experience, but will be making its first Daytona Prototype start in the Rolex 24.
NEW DAY DAWNS FOR GT CLASS AT ROLEX 24
The newly-reconfigured Rolex Series GT category looks to get off to a successful start as 33 high-performance production-based sports cars have entered the fray. Leading the charge in GT will be 2003 overall Rolex 24 winners TRG, which will field six Porsche GT3 Cup machines for 28 drivers, including owner/driver Kevin Buckler, 2004 Super Grand Sport (SGS) co-champions Marc Bunting and Andy Lally, and 16-year-olds Brad Coleman, Colin Braun and Adrian Carrio.
Also returning for 2005 is the two-car Prototype Technology Group BMW team, which looks to avenge one of its only disappointments from a GT championship-winning campaign in 2004. Sharing the No. 21 Team PTG BMW M3 will be 2004 GT champion Bill Auberlen, Joey Hand, Chris Gleason and Ian James, while the No. 22 BMW will be co-driven by Justin Marks, RJ Valentine, Tom Milner and Kelly Collins.
TPC Racing, which took the SGS team title in 2004, moves into the new GT category at the Rolex 24 with owner/driver Michael Levitas, Randy Pobst, John Littlechild, Spencer Pumpelly and Jean-Francois Dumoulin sharing the No. 36 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup and Manuel Matos, Mike Fitzgerald, Emil Assentato and Nick Longhi slated to drive the No. 37 machine.
Also making the leap into the brave new world of GT competition is ORISON-Planet Earth Motorsports, which scored two SGS class victories in 2004 with driver Wayne Nonnamaker. The team has entered three cars, but thus far, only Wayne, Joe and Will Nonnamaker have been entered to drive. Likewise, the No. 73 Mesco Building Solutions Porsche of Jack Baldwin, Jim Tafel, Craig Stanton, Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis is gearing up for the GT victory in the Rolex 24 after a successful 2004 in SGS.
Based on their Daytona Test Days performance, the No. 75 Flying Lizard Motorsports driver quintet of Johannes van Overbeek, Lonnie Pechnik, Seth Neiman, Jon Fogarty and Patrick Long will also be among the teams to watch. The Flying Lizard machine topped the GT time charts in the three-day test on the weekend of January 7-9.
In addition to Porsches and BMWs, the GT field will include a Mazda RX-8, a Pontiac GTO, three Ferrari 360s and three Corvettes.