Daytona 24: Atlantic series racers preview

ATLANTIC SERIES STANDOUTS BOLSTER STRONG FIELD FOR DAYTONA'S ROLEX 24-HOUR RACE INDIANAPOLIS (January 26, 2006) -- Some of the world's most talented road racers will be battling twice-'round-the-clock at this weekend's Grand-Am Rolex 24...


INDIANAPOLIS (January 26, 2006) -- Some of the world's most talented road racers will be battling twice-'round-the-clock at this weekend's Grand-Am Rolex 24 endurance race at Daytona and a remarkable number of drivers in this year's field helped develop their skills in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama.

A total of 27 past or present Atlantic series drivers will participate in the 24-hour sports car race at the 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway with seven former Atlantic champions, including the last two multiple titleholders in the rich 32-year history of the series, highlighting the 70-car, talent-laden field.

One particular Rolex 24 team actually features four Atlantic championships and two runner-up series finishes as the 2004 Toyota Atlantic title-winning Pacific Coast Motorsports team features four former series drivers competing in the Daytona Prototype (DP) class this weekend. Canadian David Empringham, who captured back-to-back Atlantic championships in 1993 and '94, will drive for PCM along with American Jon Fogarty, who wore the Atlantic crown in both 2002 and 2004. Scotland's Ryan Dalziel, who finished as series runner up in both 2003 and '04, will also be behind the wheel for the team along with American Alex Figge, who competed in Atlantics from 2002-04.

In addition to Empringham and Fogarty, five more winners of the Atlantic crown will also be in action at Daytona. AJ Allmendinger, the record-setting 2003 series champ, has joined his Champ Car World Series teammate Justin Wilson on the Michael Shank Racing team that will also compete in the DP class. Patrick Carpentier of Canada, the 1996 Atlantic champ, is part of the Cheever Racing DP squad. American racers Buddy Rice, winner of the 2000 series crown running for Finlay Motorsports this weekend, and Alex Barron, 1997 Atlantic titleholder racing with the Playboy/Uniden Racing DP team, will test the limits of the Daytona circuit starting on Saturday and continuing through to Sunday morning. And Johnny O'Connell, the 1987 Atlantic West Coast Champ, will drive in the GT class for the TRG team.

Series notables Bryan Herta of the USA and Canadian Michael Valiante have partnered with Rice on the Finlay Motorsports DP team, while Memo Gidley of the U.S. joins Barron in the Playboy/Uniden lineup.

The Gainsco/Blackhawk Racing DP squad features three well-known American Atlantic graduates in former Champ Car champion Jimmy Vasser along with Rocky Moran Jr. and Alex Gurney. Series veterans Ken Wilden and 2003 Champ Car champ Paul Tracy are also teamed together on the Graydon Elliot Fusion Racing/MSR DP car.

One of the newest members of the Atlantic family is one of only four Atlantic drivers that will be competing in the GT class at the Daytona 24. American Graham Rahal, the 17-year-old son of racing legend and Atlantic series grad Bobby Rahal, will be driving for the new Mi-Jack Conquest Racing Champ Car Atlantic team and he'll drive for the talented Tafel Racing team this weekend. Joining Rahal and O'Connell in GT are Bryan Sellers of the U.S., running for the SAMAX team, and Peter MacLeod who will compete for the Sigalsport BMW GT team.

Two Atlantics grads that earned international acclaim after their respective performances in last May's Indy 500 are also in action at Daytona. Race winner and IRL champ Dan Wheldon will race a DP entry for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, while Danica Patrick joins the Howard-Boss Motorsports DP effort. Luis Diaz of Mexico will drive for the strong CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing DP team.

A pair of American drivers who competed the last two seasons in the Atlantic series return to Daytona to drive in the popular road race. Chris Dyson will drive another Howard-Boss DP entry, while Tom Nastasi will help pilot the Blackforest Motorsports DP car. Atlantic vet Tony Ave will drive for CyberSpeed Racing while Paul Dallenbach will help guide the Robinson Racing GT effort.

Practice and qualifying for the Rolex 24 will take place on Thursday and Friday with the race scheduled to get underway Saturday at 12 noon ET. SPEED will provide television coverage live from Daytona.

The Champ Car Atlantic Championship continues to be the premier open-wheel development series in North America. Beginning its 33rd season in 2006, the championship is noted for its long history of graduating its stars into Champ Car competition and has helped produce past Champ Car champions Paul Tracy, Jimmy Vasser, Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti and Jacques Villeneuve. 2005 Champ Car competitors Alex Tagliani, Andrew Ranger and Ronnie Bremer are also established Atlantic graduates along with 2004 Champ Car Rookie of the Year and 2003 Atlantic champ A.J. Allmendinger. Competing in newly-designed Swift 016.a chassis powered by a 2.3-liter Cosworth engine riding on Yokohama ADVAN Racing Slicks, 2006 competitors will fight for the 12-race championship and the unique $2 million Champ Car series champion's bonus. For more information on the Atlantic series, please visit


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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Alex Gurney , Ryan Dalziel , Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Memo Gidley , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Bryan Herta , Jon Fogarty , Johnny O'Connell , Graham Rahal , Tony Ave , Michael Valiante , Rocky Moran Jr. , Alex Barron , Luis Diaz , Dan Wheldon , Danny Sullivan , David Empringham , Tom Nastasi , A.J. Allmendinger , Alex Figge , Ken Wilden , Ronnie Bremer , Chip Ganassi , Bryan Sellers , Andrew Ranger , Paul Dallenbach , Michael Shank , Chris Dyson , Danica Patrick
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Conquest Racing , Michael Shank Racing