- Mazda Prototypes lead 4 of 7 Rolex 24 At DAYTONA Practices
- Special Qualifying Session Determines Rolex 24 At DAYTONA Pit Assignments
- Contingent of NASCAR Drivers Adding to Rolex 24 ‘All-Star’ Appeal
British driver Harry Tincknell posted the fastest practice lap of the Roar Before the Rolex 24 on Sunday, underscoring Mazda’s dominance of the three-day test at Daytona International Speedway as teams prepared for the 57th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA on Jan. 26-27, the season-opening race for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Mazda entries in the WeatherTech Championship’s headlining DPi class posted the fastest laps in four of the seven practices over the weekend. Mazdas also finished 1-2 in a special qualifying session held to determine pit stall selection for the Rolex 24.
Tincknell rang up a lap clocked at 1 minute, 34.224 seconds (136.009 mph) on the 3.56-mile road course in the sixth practice, in the No. 55 Mazda DPi of Mazda Team Joest.
For the second year in a row, IMSA has spiced up the Roar schedule by adding that most unique qualifying wrinkle. On Saturday, Acura driver Bia Figueiredo put the all-female driving lineup from Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian atop the GT Daytona speed chart.
Sunday’s top qualifiers in the other three WeatherTech Championship classes:
- In GT Le Mans, the No. 3 Corvette Racing entry with Jan Magnussen at the wheel;
- In LMP2, the No. 52 Oreca LMP2 with Gabriel Aubry driving;
- And in the DPi class, the No. 77 Mazda DPi driven by Oliver Jarvis. Jarvis posted a lap of 1:33.398 (137.212 mph), exceeding the race qualifying record set in 1993 by a Toyota prototype. The No. 55 Mazda qualified second with Tincknell driving, also exceeding the 1993 race qualifying mark.
Integral to the Rolex 24’s appeal – and legacy – is the involvement of drivers from racing disciplines other than sports cars. Throughout the race’s storied history, NASCAR drivers have been in the thick of that mix.
This year is no different.
Two drivers familiar to NASCAR fans are driving in the GT Daytona class. One is AJ Allmendinger, who co-drove to the 2012 overall Rolex 24 championship with Michael Shank Racing. Allmendinger is making his 12th appearance in the Rolex 24, this time in the Shank-owned No. 86 Acura NSX GT3.
“I’ll probably never do it without Michael Shank [involved],” said Allmendinger, who has made 371 starts in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. “He’s like a big brother to me. He’s one of my best friends and doing it with him and his race team is what makes this race special to me.”
Something else making it special: Allmendinger will debut as a television commentator during the Rolex 24, joining the NBC team in the booth when he’s not on the track.
Also in GT Daytona, full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Austin Cindric is co-driving the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3. Cindric is making his third appearance in the Rolex 24; his best result was last year’s sixth (overall) with JDC-Miller Motorsports.
Several other NASCAR drivers are crossing over for the Rolex 24 weekend, racing in the production car-based IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, which will open the season at DIS with the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge on Jan. 25.
For the second straight year, Cole Custer will team up with former NASCAR Xfinity Series Roush Fenway Racing driver Ty Majeski and sports car veteran Scott Maxwell in the No. 15 Ford Mustang GT4 for Multimatic Motorsports; in 2018 the trio finished on the podium with a third-place run.
“We’re trying to get the basics down for road course racing” said Custer, who wheeled the No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford to a second-place finish in the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship standings last year. “These cars are definitely a lot different but you still get the same characteristics, like braking and doing left and right turns.”
In addition, Cindric and fellow NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Chase Briscoe will join veteran road racer Billy Johnson in Multimatic’s second Ford Mustang GT4.
Tickets for the 2019 Rolex 24 At DAYTONA 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.