|Jeff Gross / Getty Images|
NASCAR drivers part of impressive Ganassi lineup for 24-hour race
Lining up for a group photo were drivers Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jamie McMurray - and team owner Chip Ganassi.
GRAND-Am Road Racing got one of those cards.
Tuesday, GRAND-AM - and its fans - got a belated Christmas gift from Ganassi's group, in the form of a star-studded lineup for the upcoming (Jan. 29-30) Rolex 24 At Daytona, one encompassing two cars, eight drivers, three racing disciplines and a return appearance by McMurray, the reigning Daytona 500 champion.
Pruett and Rojas, the reigning Rolex Series Daytona Prototype co-champions, will be joined in the No. 01 Target/TELMEX BMW/Riley prototype by GRAND-AM veteran Joey Hand and Graham Rahal, the latter recently announced as a new Ganassi driver in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
In the No. 02 TELMEX/Target BMW/Riley, last year's Daytona team returns intact: McMurray, two-time Rolex 24 champion Montoya and two IndyCar vets - two-time series titlist Dixon and the series' reigning champ, Franchitti.
Collectively, those two teams have won 12 series championships, eight Rolex 24s, one Daytona 500 and four Indianapolis 500s.
Happy Holidays indeed, belated or not.
Ganassi clearly is pulling out all the stops to get a fast start on the 2011 season - and a fast follow-up to a memorable 2010. Last season arguably was the greatest by any race car owner in any series.
- Pruett and Rojas dominated the GRAND-Am Rolex Series season en route to winning the DP championship for a second time.
- McMurray won the marquee event in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the Daytona 500, plus the Brickyard 400.
- Franchitti won the Indy 500 for a second time and the IndyCar series title for a third time.
"The Rolex 24 At Daytona is always exciting for our team, especially because it involves so many of our drivers from all different series," Ganassi said. "There are so many elements out of the drivers' hands that need to come together, in order to have a shot at winning this event. That's what I love about it. You have to not only be good, but you also have to have a little bit of luck on your side to succeed in a race that lasts 24 hours."
Ganassi's No. 02 DP team dominated the race's first eight hours last year before mechanical problems forced an early retirement of the car. Pruett and Rojas went on to finish second, teamed with two other drivers.
McMurray was involved in a recent test session at Daytona International Speedway; both NASCAR stock cars and GRAND-AM sports cars turned laps on the new DIS pavement for the first time.
"They did a really nice job with the paving project, so I expect the racing to be really good for the 24-hour race," McMurray said. "I'm certain that we'll bring good cars for the race, as Chip and his GRAND-AM guys do each and every year. It's great to have the opportunity to once again drive for Chip in one of the most prestigious motorsports events out there."
Testing for the Rolex 24 At Daytona - the "Roar Before the Rolex 24" - is Friday-Sunday at Daytona International Speedway. The 49th running of the endurance classic is set for 3:30 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, Jan. 29.