Grand-Am – Rolex 24 at Daytona Preview

Take a good look, because this will likely be the singular time that we cover the Grand-Am series. The general consensus amongst the three of us here at Openpaddock is that the Grand-Am series is junk, a glorified version of NASCAR. Furthermore, its our humble opinion (ok, perhaps not so humble) that the Daytona roval is also junk. Having said all that, however, the Daytona 24 is the first major motorsports even of the year in the US, and even if its not the best form of racing, we at least get to see cars racing around a track and hear race engines growling in anger after the long winter off-season. Because of its placement in the year’s schedule, many drivers from across the motorsports landscape make the trip to Florida in order to do a one-off event and take advantage of an opportunity to get behind the wheel again.

Of course the regular Grand-Am drivers will be there, and although we may bash the series, there are some seriously talented drivers in the Daytona Prototype class. Drivers from a variety of other series will also be there including NASCAR, IndyCar, and SCCA World Challenge. Here’s a breakdown of who will be driving for whom:

Dario Franchitti
Scott Dixon
Justin Wilson
Raphael Matos
Buddy Rice
Jimmy Vasser
Roger Yasukawa

SCCA World Challenge:
Jason Saini
Charles Espenlaub
Eric Foss
Andrew Aquilante
Andy Pilgrim
Charles Putnam
Randy Pobst
James Clay

Jamie McMurry
Juan Pablo Montoya
AJ Allmendinger
Jimmy Johnson
Max Papis

Personally, it makes me happy to see Yasukawa in a race car again, and don’t rail of me if I’ve missed a couple of names. Just mention my omissions in the comments section below.

Qualification was on Thursday with night practice on Thursday night. The big surprise wasn’t who was on the front row, but who was absent. Neither Ganassi/Sabates car set a qualifying speed, and as result, they will be starting in 32nd and 33rd position. Of course, this is a 24hr race, so a lot can happen, but its certainly not where you want to start your biggest race of the year. Here’s the first two rows.

Pos No. Class PIC Drivers Team/Car Best Lap Time Best Speed Sponsors
1 59 DP 1 Donohue / Haywood / Law / Leitzinger / Matos Brumos Racing / Porsche Riley 1:41.586 126.159
2 9 DP 2 Barbosa / Borcheller / Dalziel / Rockenfeller Action Express Racing / Porsche Riley 1:41.870 125.807
3 99 DP 3 Fogarty / Gurney / Johnson / Vasser GAINSCO/ Bob Stallings Racing / Chevrolet Riley 1:42.462 125.080 GAINSCO Auto Insurance
4 77 DP 4 Gidley / Gollin / Jaeger / Johnston Doran Racing / Ford Dallara 1:42.716 124.771 McDonald’s Racing

The companion race to the Rolex 24hr is the Fresh From Florida 200, a distance race for Grand Sport and Sport Touring cars that participate what used to be called the Koni Challenge and now is sponsored by Continental Tires. Many of the SCCA World Challenge drivers will be participating in this race including OpenPaddock favorite, Mazda driver Jason Saini who will pilot the Team MER Mazda RX-8. You can watch the Rolex 24 pretty much all day on Saturday and Sunday morning on Speed. The Continental Tire Fresh From Florida 200 will take place later today, but won’t air on Speed until Feb 13th. …bummer. At any rate, we get a full day of live racing action tomorrow, and its so very welcome after the long dark winter even if it is only Grand-Am racing.

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