The Grand Am Rolex 24 at Daytona is traditionally the first big race in North America each year. The Rolex is in late January, while IndyCar doesn’t start its season until mid-March. This works well for the Rolex, and for IndyCar drivers: this year, 10 IndyCar stars will be driving in the Rolex.
The IndyCar drivers get track time, have some fun, and possibly earn the prestige of winning North America’s longest endurance race. The year 2012 being the 50th anniversary of the Daytona 24, a win this year brings even more glory.
Whatever the reasons, 10 different IndyCar drivers have rides in prototypes or GT cars in the 2012 Rolex.
Target-Ganassi pilots Graham Rahal, Scott Dixon, and Dario Franchitti will, logically, drive in the Telmex-Target-Ganassi Daytona Prototypes. These cars, with the identical driver lineups, finished 1–2 in 2011. Also Scott Dixon co-drove the 2006 winner and Dario Franchitti, the 2008. These two cars have to be considered the favorites.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, and EJ Viso will team up in the No. 2 Starworks DP. All three have Rolex 24 experience; Viso drove for Starworks in 2011.
Ryan Briscoe has five Rolex 24s on his resume, two with SunTrust, the team he will represent again in 2012.
Justin Wilson will return to drive with Michael Shank Racing—he has done three Rolex 24s with MSR.
Two IndyCar drivers will join GT teams for the 2012 Rolex.
Raphael Matos got the nod from veteran Ferrari campaigners Risi Competizione. Matos won the Rolex 24 GT class in 2008, his best finish among the four he has contested. Risi has won just about everything in endurance racing: one overall and two class wins at Le Mans, two at Petit Le Mans, three at Sebring, and a class win in the 2002 Rolex. Matos in the Risi car has a very good chance of repeating his GT class win.
IndyCar Rookie of the Year James Hinchcliffe will also be getting a good ride, in the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8. SpeedSource won the Rolex 24 GT class in 2008 and 2010, and are usually near the top of the championship points. Hinchcliffe has no Rolex 24 experience, but he has driven a Daytona Prototype at Daytona in the 2006 Brumos Porsche 250.One part-time IndyCar driver will also be at Daytona: John Andretti, who has been driving one or two IndyCar races a year for the past several years, will compete in his second Rolex, driving for Yellow Dragon Motorsports in a Mazda RX-8. Andretti will be co-driving with his 18-year-old son Jarrett.