James Hinchcliffe, a man known for four IndyCar Series victories and a runner-up effort in last year’s "Dancing with the Stars" competition, is back in the Rolex 24 At Daytona for the fifth time, trying to embellish his resume as part of Mazda Motorsports’ two-car effort.
Thanks to an 11-week run on the popular television show, Hinchcliffe is physically prepped for a 24-hour race. He called the training he went through for "Dancing with the Stars" a "24-7" experience. It’s important to note that his "Dancing" stint came on the heels of an extensive, successful rehabilitation period necessitated by a serious accident during practice for the 2015 Indianapolis 500.
Hinchcliffe obviously likes the big stages. A year after his accident he returned to the Indy 500 and captured the pole position. Now he’s focused on winning a race that he says is "on everyone’s bucket list" – the Rolex 24, which will be run for the 55th time Jan. 28-29 on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course.
"Hinchtown," the immensely popular internet community of which Hinchcliffe is the self-proclaimed mayor, is likewise focused on DIS this weekend, during the Roar Before The Rolex 24 test sessions. Hinchcliffe is co-driving the new No. 55 Mazda DPi with Spencer Pigot, Tristan Nunez and Jonathan Bomarito. They will compete in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s headlining Prototype class at the season-opening Rolex 24.
Hinchcliffe is only part of the star power entered in the Rolex 24, an aspect of the event he enjoys.
"I was just walking [through the garage] with Jeff Gordon," Hinchcliffe said. "You don’t get to do that sort of thing everywhere. I remember when I was here [for the first time] at the 50th Rolex 24, seeing so many drivers from different disciplines, seeing so many legends and guys I’d idolized for years.
"To be part of this is something special. This race is on everyone’s bucket list. It’s the history of it; you can’t buy history and this place is steeped in history."
Saturday’s fastest lap during a rainy morning session belonged to Gordon’s co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 10 Cadillac DPi – 1 minute, 51.854 seconds (114.5 mph). Under clearing, cooler conditions Saturday afternoon, the best lap was turned by Neel Jani, in the No. 13 ORECA LM P2 Prototype for Rebellion Racing – 1:39.017 (129.4). Jani had the two fastest laps on Friday, the opening day of the Roar.
Testing concludes Sunday, with sessions from 9 a.m.-3:45 p.m. The Roar also is open to teams in the production-based IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, which will open its season on Jan. 27 at DIS with the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge.
Infield-only tickets for the Roar Before The Rolex 24 are $15 (garage access included), with children ages 12 and under admitted free. Tickets can be purchased online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or at the gate.
Tickets and camping packages for the Rolex 24 At Daytona are on sale by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or visiting www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.
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