- Defending Champion Team on the Pole, Former Formula 1 Champion in the Field
- Roger Penske Returning to Sports Car Racing, 5-Time Rolex 24 Champion Scott Pruett Retiring
- BMW Endurance Challenge Won by Dillon Machavern and Spencer Pumpelly in Porsche Cayman
When the green flag drops for the 56th Rolex 24 At DAYTONA on Saturday, there will be no shortage of storylines involving the world-class field of drivers in 50 exotic sports cars negotiating the famed 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course.
The Rolex 24 starts at 2:40 p.m. (ET, FOX), opening the season for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which is riding a wave of momentum coming into the “World Center of Racing.” Increased manufacturer involvement is combining with an illustrious list of drivers at IMSA’s most prestigious race.
Everywhere you look, there is news:
- Last year’s Rolex 24-winning team, the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi Prototype of Wayne Taylor Racing, is on the pole. New WTR driver Renger van der Zande is joined in the superlative lineup by reigning WeatherTech Championship co-champion Jordan Taylor and former Indianapolis 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay.
- Two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso is co-driving the No. 23 Ligier LMP2 Prototype, after qualifying the car 13th.
- Legendary car owner Roger Penske has returned to the Rolex 24 – and to sports car racing fulltime. Penske has his own powerhouse teams that include former Indy 500 champions Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya plus the other reigning series co-champion, Ricky Taylor, and 2016 Prototype co-champion Dane Cameron. Castroneves and Taylor are joined by IndyCar Series regular Graham Rahal; the team starts the No. 7 Acura DPi second. Montoya and Cameron will share driving time with 2016 IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud in the No. 6 Acura DPi; Montoya is seeking his fourth Rolex 24 victory.
- Scott Pruett, who has won the Rolex 24 five times – an all-time record he shares with Hurley Haywood – is racing for the final time after 50 years of competition. Pruett is co-driving the No. 15 Lexus RC F GT3, competing in the production-based GT Daytona class and looking to extend his other all-time record of 10 class victories in the Rolex 24.
- In the glamorous GT Le Mans class, one of the most iconic sports cars of the last 20 years, the bright yellow No. 3 Corvette C7.R of Corvette Racing, is on the pole and starts 18th overall. Corvette Racing has won the Rolex 24 three times in the last four years, including 2017.
On Friday, the final Rolex 24 practice session was led by the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi. Mike Conway posted the fast lap of 1 minute, 36.865 seconds (132.301 mph).
Also Friday, the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge opened its season with the 4-hour BMW Endurance Challenge. The series features sports cars from worldwide manufacturers, straight from the showroom floor with only minor modifications.
The RS1 team of Spencer Pumpelly and 2017 Grand Sport (GS) champion Dillon Machavern co-drove the No. 28 Porsche Cayman GT4 MR to the overall victory, also topping GS. Their car started on the pole. In the new Touring Car class, Tom Long and Britt Casey Jr. won in the No. 77 Audi RS3 LMS. In Street Tuner, Nick Galante and Devin Jones took their pole-sitting No. 81 BMW 328i to Gatorade Victory Lane.
“This is huge for two reasons,” Pumpelly said. “One, our guys were working really hard in the off-season and the teams has a lot of momentum coming off last year’s championship with Dillon. It’s also big because a lot of these teams have new cars and I don’t think we’ll have the same advantage when those guys get up to speed. We need to get the points while we can.”
Added Machavern: “We kind of had a leg up. We unloaded really well and all the other teams were just kind of getting used to their cars that don’t have many miles on them. It was a huge advantage for the RS1 team.”
Tickets for the 56th Rolex 24 At DAYTONA the 60th annual DAYTONA 500 and other Speedweeks events can be purchased online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat, and by downloading Daytona International Speedway’s mobile app, for the latest Speedway news throughout the season.