Daytona Beach, Florida (August 17, 2006) -When the 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve season finale was announced to be a nine-hour extravaganza at the state-of-the-art Miller Motorsports Park near...
Daytona Beach, Florida (August 17, 2006) -When the 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve season finale was announced to be a nine-hour extravaganza at the state-of-the-art Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City, Utah, most of the attention was duly focused on the awesome 4.5-mile, 24-turn track configuration.
As the Discount Tire Sunchaser draws near, however, the driver lineup set to take on this daunting challenge is shaping up to be the most star-studded collection of auto racing royalty to visit Miller Motorsports Park in its inaugural season. The unique nine-hour event has opened up the opportunity for several bona fide superstars to take a driving stint alongside the Rolex Series stars that compete on a full-time basis.
Representing the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series will be 2003 champion Scott Dixon and 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice.
Dixon -- who claimed an overall victory alongside co-drivers Dan Wheldon and Casey Mears in the 2006 Rolex 24 At Daytona -- has been named to share the No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley with Rolex Series perennial front runners Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz. Pruett and Diaz are currently tied for third in the Daytona Prototype driver standings, and are likely to be fighting for the championship in the Discount Tire Sunchaser.
"I'm obviously looking forward to getting back into the Daytona Prototype, especially after what we were able to accomplish for Target and the guys back in January," said Dixon, a native of New Zealand. "The 24 Hours was an example of one of the big races this team strives for every year, but I think the season finale will prove to be just as important as I expect Scott and Luis to be in contention for the championship."
Rice, meanwhile, has been tabbed to co-drive the No. 58 Red Bull Porsche Riley with David Donohue and Darren Law for Brumos Racing. The American is no stranger to Rolex Series competition, having raced in six previous Rolex Series events, including the last two Rolex 24s At Daytona. He will look for his first Rolex Series victory alongside Donohue and Law, who finished sixth in the Crown Royal 200 at The Glen for their best result since a fourth-place performance in the season-opening Rolex 24.
American Champ Car World Series stars A.J. Allmendinger, Jimmy Vasser and Ryan Hunter-Reay will also compete in the Discount Tire Sunchaser.
Allmendinger, who last weekend earned his fourth Champ Car victory of the season in his adopted hometown of Denver, will co-drive the No. 89 Vonage/Playboy/Palms Casino Pontiac Riley with Scotland's Ryan Dalziel and American Alex Figge. Allmendinger is a familiar face to Dalziel and Figge, as he competed against both drivers in his championship-winning 2003 Toyota Atlantic season. He finished second in the 2006 Rolex 24 At Daytona with co-drivers Oswaldo Negri Jr., Mark Patterson and Champ Car star Justin Wilson in the No. 60 Flight Options Lexus Riley for Michael Shank Racing, but joins Pacific Coast Motorsports for this event.
"I'm pretty excited to be doing this race and competing alongside Alex and Ryan," Allmendinger said. "I've raced against them in the past and they're good friends not to mention great drivers. I'm also looking forward to hooking up with my former Toyota Atlantic engineer, Burke Harrison. PCM is such a great team to race for and the Figges and Tyler Tadevic have always been supportive of me since we first met."
Vasser, the 1996 Champ Car champion, will make his third Daytona Prototype start of the season in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley. He will share the car with fellow Americans Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, who have finished inside the top-eight positions in six of their last seven Rolex Series feature races. Gurney also started from the pole position for the Crown Royal 200 at The Glen last Friday and led the first 32 laps before a problem during their pit stop and a later penalty on Fogarty relegated the No. 99 duo to a 13th-place result.
Hunter-Reay also has a quality ride for the Discount Tire Sunchaser, as he was named last week to co-drive with 2005 Daytona Prototype co-champions Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley. It will be Hunter-Reay's first-ever Daytona Prototype start, but the two-time Champ Car race winner has made two starts in the Rolex Series GT class this season. Hunter-Reay will look to aid Angelelli in his quest for the Daytona Prototype driver championship as well as the No. 10 team's bid for team honors.
"I'm honored SunTrust, Wayne Taylor and team partner Bill Riley have selected me to drive the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley in the Rolex Sports Car Series," said Hunter-Reay. "SunTrust Racing is the defending series champion, and it looks like this year's championship may come down to the last race at Miller. World-class sponsors, teams and drivers make the Rolex Series one of the most competitive in the world. I realize how crucial driver selection is, and I'm very grateful for this opportunity. I've been looking for the right situation to make my debut, and this is it. I could not ask for anything better than the SunTrust Racing Team and co-driving with two of the best drivers in the series - Wayne Taylor and defending driver champion Max Angelelli."
Champ Car and Formula 1 veterans Roberto Moreno and Stefan Johansson will also return to the Rolex Series for the Discount Tire Sunchaser. Moreno has been tabbed to share the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley with JC France and sports car legend Hurley Haywood, while Johansson is set to co-drive the No. 11 CITGO Racing by SAMAX Pontiac Riley with Milka Duno and Marc Goossens.
In addition to open-wheel racing stars, a few more road racing greats have signed on to race at Miller Motorsports Park.
Tommy Kendall, a multi-time Trans-Am and IMSA champion, will co-drive the No. 98 Ironclad/Wine Country Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R with David Empringham. It will Kendall's second-consecutive Rolex Series event, as the popular Californian will make his 2006 debut in the Pacific Coast Motorsports GTO.R with Burt Frisselle in the Sonoma 250 at Infineon Raceway next weekend.
Canadian sports car ace Ron Fellows will also return to the Rolex Series for his first appearance since the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. Fellows, who boasts several sports car championships in addition to victories in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and the NASCAR Busch Series, has been entered alongside Randy Ruhlman and Jim Derhaag in the No. 40 Preformed Line Products/Key Bank Pontiac Riley for Derhaag Motorsports.
While the aforementioned list of drivers is impressive, there is a strong possibility that a few more big names will find their way onto the entry list before official practice gets underway for the Discount Tire Sunchaser on Thursday, August 31.
Tickets for the Discount Tire Sunchaser can be purchased on line at www.millermotorpark.com or by calling 801-325-SEAT (7328).