NASCAR Cup Series News

NASCAR Cup Series News (17900)

Regan Smith's No. 78 over-the-wall pit crew for Furniture Row Racing will be employed and trained by Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) during the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
"We are excited to partner with SHR as it relates to the pit crew," said Joe Garone, Furniture Row Racing general manager. "After reviewing SHR's program, personnel and facility we are confident that SHR will deliver a crew that meets all of our objectives."

The No. 78 pit crew will be under the supervision of SHR pit crew coach Joe Piette, who also oversees the pit crews for Tony Stewart's No. 14 team and Ryan Newman's No. 39 team. The SHR team is based in Kannapolis, N.C.

“We are very excited about our new partnership with Furniture Row Racing and having the opportunity to help contribute to the growth of their program, while also giving our pit crew the chance to compete and improve on a weekly basis,” said Bobby Hutchens, director of competition, Stewart-Haas Racing.

The first race for the new Furniture Row Racing pit crew will be the invitational Budweiser Shootout, Feb. 12 at Daytona International Speedway. Smith qualified for the non-points race on the basis of being a former NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie of the year (2008). The first Sprint Cup points race is the Daytona 500 on Feb. 20.
The Denver-based, No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team is coming off its best season since the franchise entered the Sprint Cup competition in 2005. Last year, Smith qualified in all 36 races and came on strong during the second half of the season, scoring a number of top-20 finishes, including three top 13s in the final seven races. He also qualified in the top 10 in the last three Cup races of the 2010 campaign.
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Credit: Furniture Row Racing PR

Ford Racing enters the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season needing only one victory to reach 600. Over the next five weeks, leading up to the Daytona 500, Ford Racing will present a weekly recap of the milestone wins and other tidbits that have helped shape the manufacturer’s history in the sport. This week’s feature looks at Fred Lorenzen, who gave Ford its 100th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory when he won the Atlanta 500 at Atlanta International Raceway on June 10, 1962

Fred Lorenzen made only 158 starts during his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, but the impact he made in the grandstands and on the track was something to behold.

“I can remember being at Bristol and Martinsville, where you’re right next to the race fans,” recalled Waddell Wilson, who built engines for Lorenzen in the mid-sixties at Holman-Moody. “When they’d introduce Fred Lorenzen and Richard Petty, half of the crowd was for one and half of the crowd was for the other. Those were the two drivers that everybody was pulling for, but when they introduced Lorenzen they always called him the Golden Haired Boy from Illinois.”

And while he was a hit with fans, Lorenzen was an even bigger success on the track. He took home $122,587 in 1963 and became the first driver to win more than $100,000 in a season after winning six times and finishing in the top-10 a total of 23 times in 29 starts. Overall, he ended up winning 26 races during a 12-year career – all in Fords – and posted a top-10 finish in 53 percent of the races in which he competed (84-of-158). His career accomplishments were so strong that he was named one of the 50 Greatest Drivers in NASCAR history in 1999.

“Lorenzen was smooth, sort of in the same fashion as David Pearson and Fireball Roberts. He was very consistent, but could be aggressive when he had to be like at Darlington, where he wouldn’t take anything from somebody like Curtis Turner. He gave as good as he got and he beat Turner down there, which started that feud,” said Hall of Fame sports writer Tom Higgins of the Charlotte Observer. “The race I remember Lorenzen winning most, and, to me, it’s still one of the top races I ever saw, was the 1964 National 400 at Charlotte. As the race wound down there were four guys in contention and they were all in Fords – Lorenzen, Curtis Turner, Dick Hutcherson and A.J. Foyt. Lap after lap after lap they ran a Blue Angel formation.

“Foyt and Turner had a little bit of trouble with a lap or two to go and they fell back, but it was incredible. They ran three-wide all the way around that race track for several laps,” continued Higgins. “You couldn’t believe it. Nothing like that had been seen at that time. Of course, Charlotte was only four or five years old, but it was something I’ll never forget.”

Likewise, the list of names entered in the 1962 Atlanta 500 at Atlanta International Raceway reads like a Who’s Who of NASCAR.

Fireball Roberts, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Tiny Lund, Joe Weatherly, Rex White, Ned Jarrett, Cotton Owens, Ralph Earnhardt, Lee Roy Yarbrough and Banjo Matthews were all part of the 46-car field that day, but it was Lorenzen who stole the spotlight in winning his first race of the season.

He led a total of 48 laps that day and had built up a sizeable cushion over Matthews, who was running in second place and the only other car on the lead lap, when rain brought a premature end to the event after 219 of the scheduled 325 laps. The win was the fourth NASCAR Grand National triumph of Lorenzen’s career and the 100th in Ford Racing history.

“Working with him and being with him at test sessions really made me appreciate what kind of person he was, how devoted he was to winning races, and how much he was involved in it because he worked on the race car with us,” said Wilson, who will be inducted into the National Motorsport Press Association Hall of Fame with Higgins and driver Dale Jarrett on Jan. 26 in Concord, NC. “He wasn’t one of those that just came out and drove the car. Fireball didn’t work on his race car. He’d come and hang around at the race track, but he’d never come to the shop. But Lorenzen would be at the shop with us every day and when we’d go test and get through with the test, he’d go around and measure where all the jack screws were himself.

“We’d go have breakfast together and then go to the race track, so when the gate opened, we were in there together,” added Wilson. “One of the things he did was measure his tires at that time and put them in sets. He’s the first person I ever saw do that. He was the first at doing a lot of things, but he expected everybody on that crew to be as devoted as he was. If you got out of line, he would certainly let you know that. But we jelled so much in the way we thought. We had a one track mind like John Holman taught us. The only thing was to win races.”

Lorenzen retired from the sport for good after the 1972 season and returned to his home state, where he built a successful career working in real estate and trading stocks.

“He brought so much clout and style to racing,” said Wilson. “It was just an honor to work with him.”

 

Credit: Ford Racing PR

NASCAR continues to listen and respond to its fans and as a result, they will be the beneficiary of more exciting NASCAR Sprint Cup racing when it comes to Southern California in March.

Changing the mileage from 500 to 400 for Auto Club Speedway’s October event along with double file restarts resulted in an action-packed three hours that media, drivers and fans called “the best race ever at Auto Club Speedway.”  With that feedback, ACS officials announced today that the Auto Club 500 will now be the Auto Club 400.  The race will take place on Sunday, March 27 beginning at noon (PT) on FOX.

October’s “gem” resulted in a Tony Stewart victory by 0.466 seconds over Clint Bowyer – one of the closest races ever recorded at the Southern California facility.  The intense side-by-side racing elicited rave reviews from everyone, including Stewart who said, “The restarts early in the race were out of control.  We were five wide!”

Others agreed with Stewart wholeheartedly:

Motor Racing Network:  “Simply put, Sunday’s race was the best Sprint Cup Series race ever at the two-mile Southern California track.”

Motor Sports Weekly News:  “Fans that stayed home this time or didn’t tune in on TV missed what just might have been the best race this track has ever put on.”

Clint Bowyer:  "They say you're only as good as your last race.  Well, for this place, that was a hell of a race."

“It’s impossible to ignore the on track excitement we experienced at Auto Club Speedway in October, as a result of NASCAR reducing the Chase race from 500 to 400 miles,” said ACS President Gillian Zucker.  “We’re confident the newly remileaged Auto Club 400 will continue the momentum we have been experiencing and that March’s race will be the most exciting ever at Auto Club Speedway.”

In response to the mileage change and the excitement that it likely will produce, Auto Club Speedway is offering several ways to see the 5-wide excitement of NASCAR at Southern California’s premier motorsports facility.

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Credit: Auto Club Speedway PR

Brian Vickers returned to his rightful place in the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota on Monday, turning his first laps since blood clots forced him out of the car last May.

Red Bull Racing Team, with Vickers and teammate Kasey Kahne, began a two-day test session at Walt Disney World Speedway.

“Today was just a huge weight off of my shoulders. Not only for myself, but for the guys on the team,” Vickers said. “There were so many rumors, assumptions and speculations about my health and status for 2011, but today hopefully put all of them to rest.”

Vickers started the first 11 races of the 2010 season, but was hospitalized May 12 after experiencing chest pains during a sight-seeing visit to Washington, D.C. Testing revealed blood clots, and he was released and returned to Charlotte, N.C. But the pains resurfaced the next day, and Vickers was admitted to Carolinas Medical Center, where he spent another two days.

During All-Star weekend May 21, Vickers announced he’d miss the remainder of the season while undergoing a lengthy and involved blood-thinning treatment process that made it impossible for him to race for fear that he might be injured in a crash.

In Vickers’ absence, five drivers took turns in the No. 83: Reed Sorenson (13 races), Kahne (five), Casey Mears (four), Mattias Ekstrom (two) and Boris Said (1).

“It felt damn good to get back in the car,” he said. “Everything fit. Everything felt right. Everything was just the way I left it last May. Just to fire the car back up was awesome, and then to punch it for the first time was such a great feeling.”

The Red Bull Toyotas got on the track for about two hours before rain interrupted day one at “the Mickyard” — a uniquely shaped 1-mile triangle that’s most noted for its IndyCar and NASCAR Truck racing in the late 1990s. Monday was the first step for Vickers in the road back to racing. Step two will come Jan. 20-22 when nearly the entire Sprint Cup field unloads at Daytona International Speedway for three days of Daytona 500 testing.

“We are here to get more seat time for me and so I can back in groove with the road crew,” said Vickers, who later treated his team to a streak dinner in Orlando. “I don’t think we are going to learn anything ground-breaking today, but it’s really just a great chance for us all to work together, and the bottom line for me is just to get back in a race car and log some laps.”

Monday also was a big day for Kahne, who underwent surgery on both knees during the off-season. According to his Twitter feed, sounds like everything went well: “Rain stopped us early but still made some laps. Felt great to be back in car. Red Bull cars are real nice!”

 

Red Bull Racing Press Release

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Drivers in NASCAR's three national series will have to elect a single championship to chase in 2011, eliminating the ability of drivers such as Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards and Paul Menard -- who were full-time double-dippers in 2010 -- to chase two championships at once.

NASCAR has scheduled a "competition update" on Jan. 21 with NASCAR president Mike Helton and vice president for competition Robin Pemberton as part of the "Preseason Thunder" Sprint Cup test session at Daytona International Speedway. 

NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp declined to comment on the change in 2011 license applications Monday except to say, "I'm sure we can answer all your questions at our competition update."

Changes across the board in NASCAR -- including format changes in the Chase -- have been the subject of racing rumor mills since last fall.

But when Kenny Wallace picked up his 2011 NASCAR competition, membership and license application last Saturday while taking a break from a Grand-Am Rolex Series test at Daytona, he knew at least one rumor was true.

Wallace, who has 843 national series starts between the Cup (344), Nationwide (488) and Truck series (11), stopped on his way to the U.S. Post Office on Monday to tear open his license application and read the news.

"The brand-new license forms that are out, there's a box and in it, it states that you have to mark -- put an X -- what championship you're running for," Wallace said, quoting his application. "A driver will only be permitted to earn driver championship points in one (1) of the following three series: NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR Nationwide or NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Please select the series in which you would like to accumulate driver championship points. Choose one."

That was no choice for Wallace, who is scheduled to do a full Nationwide schedule for owner Robby Benton in 2011.

Jimmie Johnson owns five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships and the Harley J. Earl trophy as the 2006 Daytona 500 champion.

One title though is still missing from his resume -- Rolex 24 At Daytona champion.

Johnson, who took part in the second day of testing during the Roar Before the Rolex 24, is hoping to join Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt as the only drivers to win both the Daytona 500 and the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

For the fourth straight year, he will co-drive the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings entry with Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty in the Rolex 24 on Jan. 29-30, the season-opening event to the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16.

“I’m excited for the race,” Johnson said. “I certainly hope to make three guys that won the 500 that have gone on to win the Rolex 24. We have been awfully close. This year, the team has worked awfully hard again to get us in position and hopefully we learn some more this afternoon and tomorrow and come back buttoned up and ready to go.”

Johnson has experienced his near misses at the Rolex 24 crown. He finished second in 2005 and 2008.

Johnson says he enjoys competing in the prestigious twice-around-the-clock challenge and believes that racing in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series has made him a better driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

“I do feel driving this (Daytona Prototype) does help me grow as a driver,” Johnson said. “I think running with Bob (Stallings) and these guys the last few years has made me a better road course racer and I was finally able to get my first road course win out in Sonoma.

“Growing up, I raced all types of vehicles, and in my Cup career, this is the first time that I have been in one vehicle for so long. I like to mix it up and I like to feel different things. The adjustments that are made on these cars are different than a Cup car and I think it opens my mind up to another way of looking at things and maybe where our (NASCAR) cars could end up someday.”

The sports car test session has also given Johnson his first look at the new racing surface of the Daytona International Speedway.

He’ll begin his pursuit of a sixth straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title with the 53rd running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 20.

“I think this Daytona 500 will be the best one that we’ve had that I’ve been a part of as driver,” Johnson said. “What is fun about the Daytona 500 (is that) we all look at it as a single event.  With it being our biggest race of the year, a fresh surface, the fact the we can run three wide and I’m sure we will try four wide around here and as smooth as it is, it’s going to be one exciting race. I think everybody is going to get their money’s worth. It’s going to be an awesome show.”

Dempsey geared up for fourth Rolex 24: Actor/racer Patrick Dempsey unveiled a bright yellow Visit Florida on his No. 40 Mazda RX-8 and a special Dempsey Racing ticket package on Saturday. Dempsey is looking to make his fourth Rolex 24 start, co-driving with Joe Foster, Charles Espenlaub and Tom Long.

In last year’s Rolex 24, he finished 13th overall and sixth in the competitive GT class.

“To come back to Daytona is always phenomenal,” Dempsey said. “It’s the greatest race for us. Hopefully we will have a good run this year. You never know what’s going to happen. I love being a part of this series. I love racing with these guys.

“We’ve got really good energy this year. We’re a little more relaxed but yet very focused and very professional.”

Daytona International Speedway and Dempsey Racing have partnered on a unique ticket package that will let fans experience the excitement of Rolex 24 At Daytona while benefiting two important causes.

Available for $59 per ticket, the Dempsey Racing package includes:

n Two-day infield/grandstand admission (Saturday, Jan. 29 and Sunday, Jan. 30)

n Group meet and greet with Dempsey Racing drivers on Saturday morning prior to the start of the Rolex 24

n Dempsey Racing hero card

n Rolex 24 event hat

A portion of the proceeds from each ticket sold will benefit both the Team Seattle Guild and the Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing.

To purchase tickets for the 49th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 29-30, call 1-800-PITSHOP or visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com

With a strong lineup that features former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions, last year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field, a host of former outstanding rookies, along with a collection of previous winners at the sport’s most storied race track, NASCAR announced Friday the list of eligible competitors for the 2011 Budweiser Shootout at Daytona.

The 33rd annual season-opening event launches Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 12 with green flag set for 8:10 p.m. FOX and MRN will broadcast live nationally. It marks the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event held on the track’s newly repaved surface. Criteria are based upon the following qualifications, with eligibility based on a driver having competed in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series within the last two seasons:
· The 12 drivers that qualified for the 2010 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup
· Past NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions
· Past Budweiser Shootout champions
· Past Daytona 500 and Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola champions
· NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year drivers from 2001-2010
“When you take a look at the field for this year’s Budweiser Shootout at Daytona, it’s loaded with all-star caliber drivers,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. “From former series champions and Chase drivers, to the past 10 rookie of the year performers, to drivers who have had success at Daytona, we believe the fans are in store for a terrific and highly competitive event on a brand new racing surface.”
The race distance will again be 75 laps (187.5 miles), consisting of two segments – 25 and 50 laps. Both green-flag laps and yellow-flag laps will count. Between segments there will be a 10-minute pit stop allowing teams to pit to change tires, add fuel and make normal chassis adjustments. Crews will be permitted to work on cars and will be allowed to perform functions they would do on a normal pit stop in a regular NASCAR Sprint Cup event. All work must be performed on pit road or in the garage. Changing of springs, shock absorbers or rear-ends will not be permitted.
Starting positions will again be determined by a blind-draw at the annual Budweiser Shootout Draw Party on Friday, Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. on the SPEED stage in the Midway, outside Turn 4.
The Budweiser Shootout – a “non-points” event for NASCAR Sprint Cup competitors – was first held in 1979, originally known as the Busch Clash. Kevin Harvick has won the last two events.
Tickets for all 2011 Speedweeks events are now available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
Drivers eligible for the 2011 Budweiser Shootout include:
2010 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Drivers
Jimmie Johnson
Denny Hamlin
Kevin Harvick
Carl Edwards
Matt Kenseth
Greg Biffle
Tony Stewart
Kyle Busch
Jeff Gordon
Clint Bowyer
Kurt Busch
Jeff Burton
Others (criteria in parentheses)
John Andretti (Coke Zero 400)
Geoff Bodine (Daytona 500, Budweiser Shootout)
Kevin Conway (Series rookie of the year)
Derrike Cope (Daytona 500)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400, Budweiser Shootout)
Bill Elliott (Series champion, Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400, Budweiser Shootout)
Kasey Kahne (Series rookie of the year)
Bobby Labonte (Series champion)
Terry Labonte (Series champion, Budweiser Shootout)
Joey Logano (Series rookie of the year)
Sterling Marlin (Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400)
Mark Martin (Budweiser Shootout)
Jamie McMurray (Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400, Series rookie of the year)
Juan Pablo Montoya (Series rookie of the year)
Ryan Newman (Daytona 500, Series rookie of the year)
Ken Schrader (Budweiser Shootout)
Regan Smith (Series rookie of the year)
Michael Waltrip (Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400)

Short Careers, Lasting Legacy is on exhibit through late June in the Great Hall. The exhibition showcases authentic artifacts that tell the story of some of NASCAR’s most memorable personalities. It also recognizes individuals who left the sport in their prime or before they reached their full potential.

Short Careers, Lasting Legacy honors the careers and pays tribute to the legacy of those who left a unique mark on the competition and character of NASCAR. Highlighting the exhibition is Tim Richmond’s  No. 25 Folgers Monte Carlo (1987), Alan Kulwicki’s No. 7 Hooters Thunderbird (1992) and Davey Allison’s No. 28 Texaco Thunderbird. Additional artifacts on display commemorate NASCAR contributors Bondy Long, Carl Kiekhaefer, Adam Petty, Billy and Bobby Myers and others.

 

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Five-time defending Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson will visit the Valley of the Sun on Jan. 12 to celebrate the start of the 2011 NASCAR season with local fans from Phoenix International Raceway. Johnson – driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet – will participate in a one-of-a-kind fan event at Casino Arizona’s Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale and will help PIR unveil a 48-hour ticket special for the SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500™ at PIR on Feb. 27.

The ‘48-hour Special’ will offer fans a unique discounted opportunity to take in NASCAR Sprint Cup action at PIR this February. Beginning at noon on January 12 and ending at noon on January 14, race fans can purchase a regularly-priced $90 ticket to the SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500™ for just $48. This ticket, located in the Upper AJ Foyt Grandstand, offers a full view of PIR’s one-mile oval and pit road. ‘48-hour Special’ tickets will be available at PhoenixRaceway.com/Jimmie-Johnson at noon on January 12.

Fans that follow Phoenix International Raceway at Facebook.com/PhoenixRaceway and Twitter.com/PhoenixRaceway will also have the opportunity to participate in a happy hour event with the only driver in NASCAR history to win five straight Sprint Cups. Johnson will be appearing in an exclusive event at Casino Arizona’s Talking Stick Resort for fans that participate in PIR’s “GO” promotion.

For a chance to attend this very special reception with Johnson, fans may send an email to
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. explaining why they should GO to this event. A limited number of PIR fans with the most interesting GO stories will be chosen to attend. One lucky winner and a guest will win a private meet-and-greet with Johnson. Details for this promotion can be found at Facebook.com/PhoenixRaceway, Twitter.com/PhoenixRaceway and PhoenixRaceway.com/Jimmie-Johnson. Let the GO begin. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. (PST) on Monday, January 10, 2011. Winners will be announced/contacted the morning of Jan. 11.

New at Phoenix International Raceway in 2011 are GO Value packages starting at $40. GO 2 Days to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500™ and NASCAR Nationwide Series races and pay only $40. GO 3 Days, adding the Lucas Oil 150 Camping World Truck Series, and pay only $47.


Tickets to the February 24-27 SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500™ event weekend are available now, with prices starting at just $25. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit http://phoenixraceway.com or call 866-408-RACE (7223).

Credit: PIR Press Release

Best Buy Co., (NYSE:BBY), a leading retailer of consumer electronics, and Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) today announced their continued partnership for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. The agreement extends Best Buy’s status as primary sponsor of the No. 43 driven by AJ Allmendinger.

“Best Buy is proud to renew our relationship with Richard Petty Motorsports and driver AJ Allmendinger for the 2011 season,” said Drew Panayiotou, senior vice president, Marketing, Best Buy. “Richard Petty is a motorsports icon and is well respected within the sport of NASCAR. Being a part of a team with his leadership is a privilege. We will be doing some innovative work with Richard Petty Motorsports surrounding our sponsorship, creating new and fun ways to engage the fans. We look forward to continuing our support of AJ and the No. 43 team as they strive to make their way to Victory Lane.”

Best Buy will be the primary sponsor for 24 Sprint Cup Series events in 2011and will be featured as the primary sponsor for two non-points events, The Duels and the Sprint All-Star race. In addition, Best Buy will serve as an associate sponsor for the No. 9, driven by Marcos Ambrose. The deal marks the company’s second year with driver AJ Allmendinger and its seventh year in the sport of NASCAR.

“It’s great to have Best Buy back onboard our No. 43 Ford,” said Allmendinger. “They have been a great partner and I’m really excited about the opportunity to work with an organization that is as passionate about its racing program as I am. I think this is going to be a great year for this Richard Petty Motorsports team and I can’t wait to get the Best Buy Ford into Victory Lane.”

AJ Allmendinger displayed a solid performance during the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with two top-5 and eight top-10 finishes. In addition, he scored his first-career pole at Phoenix International Raceway. Allmendinger closed the season 19th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, a career-best.

 

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Credit: Best Buy Public Relations

The Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates organization's Christmas card sent out last month was a keeper.

Lining up for a group photo were drivers Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Juan Montoya, Jamie McMurray -- and team owner Chip Ganassi.

Grand-Am Road Racing got one of those cards.

On 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 Rolex 24 at Daytona (Jan. 29-30), 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 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 Sprint Cup Series, plus the Brickyard 400; and 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. The 49th running of the endurance classic is set for 3:30 p.m. ET on Jan. 29.

 

Credit: Chip Ganassi Racing

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