Tony Kanaan

INDYCAR will have significant star power this week at the 53rd Rolex 24 At Daytona as 14 of the 33 starters from the 98th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race will compete in the first endurance race of the IMSA-sanctioned schedule at Daytona International Speedway.

A Verizon IndyCar Series competitor has co-driven the winning overall entry in the Rolex 24 At Daytona the past four years. Sebastien Bourdais joined Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa last year in winning in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Daytona Prototype. In 2013, series drivers swept the overall podium, with Charlie Kimball (first), Ryan Hunter-Reay (second) and Justin Wilson (third). Wilson co-drove the winning entry in 2012, while Graham Rahal was a member of the 2011 winning team.

In the past decade, other Verizon IndyCar Series drivers who have co-driven to the victory include Juan Pablo Montoya (2013, 2008, 2007), Buddy Rice (2009), Dario Franchitti (2008) and Dan Wheldon (2006).

“The 24 kind of kicks off the year and has become part of my calendar,” said Hunter-Reay, the reigning Indianapolis 500 winner and 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion. “I always look forward to it before the start of the (Verizon IndyCar Series) season. It definitely helps you get in race shape after a long layoff.

“With the (Honda aerodynamic bodywork kit) testing we’ve been doing, you stay sharp so being constantly behind the wheel is important. You can spend all the time you want in a gym, but when it comes to race craft and racing it really matters about how much time you have behind the wheel.”

The diverse 17-race Verizon IndyCar Series schedule commences March 8 with the Brasilia Indy 300 in the capital city of Brazil and will include aerodynamic bodywork kits introduced by Chevrolet and Honda at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 27-29.

There are 53 entries for the race on the 3.56-mile, 12-turn course: 16 Daytona Prototypes, eight Prototype Challenges, 10 GT Le Mans and 19 GT Daytona cars.

“The (Rolex 24) lineup of drivers has evolved over the years,” said three-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, who co-drove the winning Rolex 24 entry in 2006. “When I first started in ‘04, I might have been one of the few IndyCar Series drivers that did the 24. The last four or five years there’s been more of a mix of INDYCAR drivers going over, which is good for both series.

“It doesn’t relate to what we’re doing in INDYCAR, but any seat time does help. It’s a great way to start the year and really shows the all-around skills of (Verizon) IndyCar (Series) drivers.”

Drivers who competed full time in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series (* Indianapolis 500 only) entered in the sports car race with class in parentheses:

* Sage Karam, No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (Prototype) *
* Charlie Kimball, No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (Prototype)
* Tony Kanaan, No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (Prototype)
* Scott Dixon, No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (Prototype)
* Sebastien Bourdais, No. 5 Action Express Racing (Prototype)
* Ryan Hunter-Reay, No. 7 Starworks Motorsport (Prototype)
* Jack Hawksworth, No. 11 RSR Racing (Prototype Challenge)
* Martin Plowman, No. 61 BAR1 Motorsports (Prototype Challenge) *
* Ryan Briscoe, No. 3 Corvette Racing (GT Le Mans)
* Simon Pagenaud, No. 4 Corvette Racing (GT Le Mans)
* Graham Rahal, No. 24 BMW Team RLL (GT Le Mans)
* Townsend Bell, No. 63 Scuderia Corsa (GT Daytona) *
* James Hinchcliffe, No. 70 SpeedSource (Prototype)
* James Davison, No. 007 TRG-AMR (GT Daytona) *

Additionally, 2014 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion Gabby Chaves returns to co-drive the No. 0 DeltaWing with former Verizon IndyCar Series driver Katherine Legge, Memo Rojas and Andy Meyrick. Shelby Blackstock, who moves from Pro Mazda to Indy Lights with Andretti Autosport this season, will share seat time with Plowman.

Rubens Barrichello, who drove full time in the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series, is a co-driver with Hunter-Reay at Starworks Motorsport, while 1996 series co-champion Scott Sharp will co-drive the No. 1 Tequila Parton Prototype.

Others with INDYCAR ties competing in the race include Bruno Junqueira (2001-10 in Champ Car and Verizon IndyCar Series), AJ Allmendinger (part time in 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series), Max Papis (part time in 1996-2003 Champ Car and 2002, ’06 Verizon IndyCar Series), Lucas Luhr (one Verizon IndyCar Series race in 2013), Connor De Phillippi (2010-12 Star Mazda), Joel Miller (Pro Mazda, Indy Lights), Jason Rabe (2014 Pro Mazda), Mikhail Goikhberg (USF2000), and Scott Mayer (Indy Lights, three races in 2003 Verizon IndyCar Series).

Also, Grand Prix Association of Long Beach CEO Jim Michaelian will co-drive a GT Daytona entry. The Verizon IndyCar Series is featured in the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 17-19.