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Rolex 24 At Daytona Field Features Strong Ties to IMS Veterans

The Rolex 24 At Daytona has become the unofficial green flag of the North American racing season and also an all-star race, featuring top drivers from nearly every major series based on this continent.

So it should come as little surprise that this year’s Rolex 24 field of 50 cars includes 23 drivers who have made at least one career start in major races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway: the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, INDYCAR Grand Prix, Big Machine Brickyard 400 or United States Grand Prix.

The 56th Rolex 24 At Daytona starts the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season at 2:40 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Jan. 27 on the 3.56-mile “roval” at Daytona International Speedway, which includes an infield road course section and part of the high-banked oval. The twice-around-the-clock endurance classic ends at 2:40 p.m. Sunday.

Thirteen drivers with major-event IMS experience are racing in the elite Prototype class, which features the fastest, most exotic sports cars in the field. Drivers currently active in the Verizon IndyCar Series, who race in the Indianapolis 500, have enjoyed great recent success in the Rolex 24. Scott Dixon was part of the overall winning team in 2006 and 2015, Sebastien Bourdais was an overall winner in 2014, and Graham Rahal shared overall honors in 2011.

Two major storylines in the Prototype class include Indianapolis 500 champions and stars.

Two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso is making his first Rolex 24 and IMSA start in the No. 23 United Autosports Ligier as he prepares for his first career start this June in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Alonso, from Spain, electrified the racing world last May by leading four times for 27 laps in his first Indianapolis 500 start before retiring from the race with 20 laps to go due to a mechanical failure.

Team Penske’s return to sports car racing also is capturing headlines in Daytona. The winningest team in Indianapolis 500 history is fielding two Acura prototypes. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya is sharing the No. 6 Acura Team Penske entry with two-time INDYCAR Grand Prix winner Simon Pagenaud and Dane Cameron, while three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves is driving the team’s No. 7 entry with Indianapolis 500 veteran standout Rahal and Ricky Taylor.

Ryan Hunter-Reay also is an Indianapolis 500 winner in the Prototype field, as the 2014 “500” champion is sharing the No. 10 Cadillac with Jordan Taylor and Renger Van Der Zande. That car will start from the pole after Van Der Zande edged Castroneves for the top spot by just .007 of a second in qualifying Thursday, Jan. 25.

The GT Le Mans class features the highest-performance street-based GT cars in the field, with all-professional driver lineups and factory backing. Three drivers with Indy 500 ties are racing in that ultra-competitive class.

2008 Indianapolis 500 winner Dixon and “500” and INDYCAR Grand Prix veteran Ryan Briscoe are sharing the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT with Richard Westbrook.

Indianapolis 500 and INDYCAR Grand Prix veteran Bourdais will share the team’s sister No. 66 car with Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller.

The GT Daytona class features race cars that most resemble their street counterparts and also include mixed driver lineups of professional and semi-pro drivers. That combination usually attracts the biggest car count of any of the three classes at the Rolex 24, and this year is no exception.

Seven drivers with starts in major races at IMS will compete in GTD this Saturday and Sunday at Daytona. Among that contingent is 2002 Indianapolis 500 pole winner Bruno Junqueira, 1989 Indianapolis 500 co-Rookie of the Year Scott Pruett and Indianapolis 500 veteran and current NBC Sports Network IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell. Pruett, 57, is retiring from competitive driving after an illustrious career, with the Rolex 24 as his final career start.

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2018 Rolex 24 Prototype Drivers with IMS Major Event Starts

•Indianapolis 500: Helio Castroneves*, Mike Conway, Christian Fittipaldi, Ryan Hunter-Reay*, Juan Pablo Montoya*, Simon Pagenaud, Spencer Pigot, Graham Rahal, Sebastian Saavedra, Scott Sharp, Tristan Vautier

• INDYCAR Grand Prix: Helio Castroneves, Mike Conway, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud*, Spencer Pigot, Graham Rahal, Sebastian Saavedra

• Brickyard 400: Brendan Gaughan

• Indianapolis 500, United States Grand Prix: Fernando Alonso

2018 Rolex 24 GT Le Mans Drivers with IMS Major Event Starts

• Indianapolis 500 and INDYCAR Grand Prix: Sebastien Bourdais, Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon*

2018 Rolex 24 GT Daytona Drivers with IMS Major Event Starts

• Indianapolis 500: Townsend Bell, Jack Hawksworth, Bruno Junqueira, Katherine Legge, Scott Pruett

• INDYCAR Grand Prix: Jack Hawksworth

• Brickyard 400: Andy Lally

• Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400: AJ Allmendinger

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