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IndyCar Open Wheel

Hinch Among IndyCar-Tied Drivers Entering Rolex 24

After being forced to miss the 2016 edition of the Rolex 24 at Daytona whilst recovering from near-fatal injuries suffered in an accident at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Verizon IndyCar Series veteran James Hinchcliffe will make his return to the twice around the clock sports car classic later this month.

Hinchcliffe, who made a triumphant return to IndyCar action by winning the pole position for the 100th Indianapolis 500 last May, will look to achieve similar status as he rejoins SpeedSource-Mazda Motorsports, with whom he participated at Daytona two years ago.  

Things, of course, have changed greatly for the Sylvain Tremblay-run squad since Hinch’s last effort. For instance, the team has abandoned its popular SkyActiv diesel engine, for a more racing friendly four-cylinder, turbocharged powerplant. Also for new regulations, the team will enter a brand new prototype for 2017. The car is designed by Riley Technologies and is badged as a Mazda RT24-P. The team will look to capture Mazda’s first Prototype victory at Daytona since long-time supporter Jim Downing won the class in 2001.

“It’s great to be back behind the wheel at Daytona,” Hinchcliffe said. “It sucked sitting out last year’s race, but my focus at the time was getting myself back in shape for the IndyCar season.

“Coming back to Mazda and SpeedSource, where I’ve done all of my races at Daytona,is like coming home and I can’t thank Sylvain enough for the chance.”

Hinch will be one of two IndyCar-based drivers in the SpeedSource-Mazda camp at the World Center of Racing. For the second straight year, 2015 Firestone Indy Lights champion Spencer Pigot will also be a member of the six-driver, two-car lineup.

In addition to Hinchcliffe and Pigot, two other former IndyCar pilots also have recently agreed to rides for the event.

Joining the Mazda duo in the headliner Prototype division will be RC Enerson, who will drive a Gibson-powered Ligier for Bobby Oergel’s PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports operation, while 2004 Indy 500 champion and 2009 Rolex 24 overall winner Buddy Rice has signed with Brian Adler’s BAR 1 Motorsports squad to participate in the Prototype Challenge class. 2017 will mark the final year PC cars will compete at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

All four drivers will be present this weekend at the 3.56-mile combination tri-oval and infield road course at the Daytona International Speedway starting this Friday for the Roar Before the Rolex 24 open tests, which run through Sunday. The three-day meet represents the last on-track opportunity for teams prior to race weekend.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

Ganassi Teammates Join Ford Quartet For Rolex 24

After regular appearances in the battle for overall victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar teammates Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon’s efforts in January 2017 at the Daytona International Speedway road course will be in a different form.

Despite earning multiple overall wins over the past decade, Chip Ganassi Racing’s focus in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship has shifted from the purpose-built racing designs to the grand touring muscle car wars. With the latest announcement, two former Indianapolis 500 champions will represent one-sixth of a twelve driver, four-car lineup as Ganassi begins his second season with the relatively new Ford GT challenger in the GT Le Mans division.

After entering just two cars in its debut effort in 2016, Ford and Ganassi have doubled its attack to a full quartet for 2017, matching its output posed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this past June when Ford won the GT division in its first effort in France in over a decade.

New Zealand’s Scott Dixon, was a part of Ford’s Le Mans effort, finishing third alongside former IndyCar regular Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook. The Iceman is also no stranger to contending for victory at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, having taken the overall win with Ganassi on two occasions in 2006 and 2015.

The 2017 Ganassi Ford GT program at Daytona will represent Tony Kanaan’s third effort in the grand touring divisions at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with his best finish coming in his debut run in 1998 with Tom Gloy Racing’s Ford Mustang squad when he finished third. Like his IndyCar teammate Dixon, TK was a part of Ganassi’s overall victory in 2015 and also nearly won the 2007 12 Hours of Sebring with Andretti Autosport, finishing second overall.

In addition to the Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar teammates, the four-car Ganassi Ford effort will also feature the services of Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais. Bourdais won the Rolex 24 at Daytona overall for Action Express Racing in 2014 and finished second the following year. The Frenchman was also part of Ganassi’s Ford GT debut effort last January, and alongside co-drivers Joey Hand and Dirk Muller earned the GT class win this past June at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The three confirmations increases the number of full-time Verizon IndyCar Series regulars in the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona to five as both Ryan Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal were announced as drivers for Michael Shank Racing’s Acura NSX squad in the GT Daytona class earlier in December.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Jeff Gordon to Race at Daytona in 2017

Jeff Gordon will compete at Daytona International Speedway in 2017.

The four-time NASCAR premier series champion will not be in a stock car, though. He’ll be in a sports car as a co-driver with Jordan and Ricky Taylor and endurance racer Max Angelelli in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R for Wayne Taylor Racing.

The car will compete in the Prototype class in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the season-opening event of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

“When I announced I would no longer be competing full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, my hope was that I would get an opportunity like this to compete again in such a prestigious event — with Konica Minolta and Wayne Taylor Racing — with the hopes of winning it this time,” Gordon said. “I know that Ricky and Jordan are super-fast, and I believe it will be a very strong combination.”

Gordon ran the 24-hour race on Daytona’s road course configuration in 2007 with Angelelli, Jan Magnussen, and Wayne Taylor as the drivers for SunTrust Racing, where they finished third overall.

“I think it is exceptional to have Jeff back with us after 10 years,” Angelelli said. “I look forward to sharing our new Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R racecar with him, discussing our setup and race strategy. It was great the first time — we might have won that race if some things would have gone our way. Now that it’s happening again, with the new car, it’s going to be absolutely great.”

Ricky and Jordan Taylor, who finished third in this year’s WeatherTech Championship Prototype standings, also look forward to racing with the 45-year-old NASCAR legend.

“It used to be common to have NASCAR guys joining teams for the Rolex but over recent years, it’s become less and less frequent,” Jordan Taylor said. “Jeff Gordon is a name that everyone knows worldwide. I can’t wait to compare notes and feedback with such a legend of our sport. It’s going to be an experience of a lifetime.”

Ricky Taylor added, “Having Jeff Gordon join the team is really a dream come true for all of us. It is a huge compliment to how well-respected the team has become over the years for someone with the history and career of Jeff Gordon to want to be a part of it. I’m sure he will be a great addition to the lineup, and hopefully, we can all get our first Rolex 24 win together.”

Gordon and the team will test the car during the IMSA’s test sessions at Daytona on Dec. 13-14 and Jan. 6-8, 2017.

The 55th running of the Rolex 24 will take place on the weekend of Jan. 26-29, 2017.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.