Together Again, IndyCar Trio Joins Forces in Rolex 24 LMP2 Entry

The all-star lineup for DragonSpeed USA’s entry in the 60th Rolex 24 At Daytona is a competitive reunion among childhood friends and a legitimate force to be reckoned with when it comes earning a new Rolex watch.
IndyCar Series stars Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward – fresh off breakthrough championship-contending 2021 seasons – are teaming with IndyCar rookie Devlin DeFrancesco and sports car ace Eric Lux in the No. 81 DragonSpeed Racing ORECA LMP2 07 in the Le Mans Prototype 2 class. For Herta, O’Ward and DeFranceso, it’s a familiar vibe. The three have competed against each other and/or teamed with one another in various forms of racing since their childhoods.
“This is great, the three of us grew up together,’’ said DeFrancesco, who will also team with Herta at Andretti Autosport for the 2022 IndyCar season.
“Pato and myself and Colton have known each other since we were 10 years old, so to be competing together in this race and be with such a great team as DragonSpeed is special. Pato has won this race before, Colton has all that success in IndyCar and I’ve fared real well here before, so I think we have a real shot at this.” 
With Lux joining the trio in the car, it’s an unusual hybrid participation for a one-time appearance together. For the remaining rounds of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, DragonSpeed will have a different driver lineup with the three open-wheel drivers concentrating on their fulltime IndyCar gig.
That makes the weekend’s Rolex 24 even more special.
“This is awesome,’’ said O’Ward. “It takes me back to our karting days where we all were there to drive and have fun and enjoy. We competed against each other in karts and are kind of joining forces now to that same goal.
“I think we’re all just really looking forward to the enjoyment of driving and working together, trying to create a package that will ultimately increase our chances of getting a nice watch at the end. 
“I’m just really looking forward to the experience,” O’Ward continued. “It’s such a chill environment compared to what I’m used to. It’s really nice to kind of start off the year like this and then it makes a transition into our IndyCar quite a bit easier, because we have only one test day and then it’s straight to race season. All the seat time here just helps.’’
Herta and O’Ward have already earned winner’s Rolex watches. Herta won in his very first Rolex 24 start – as a 19-year-old in the GT Le Mans class in 2019 with BMW Team RLL.
O’Ward’s 10 WeatherTech Championship starts are the most among the three IndyCar drivers. The 22-year-old Mexican native also earned a Rolex watch winning the Prototype Challenge class in 2017. This will be his third Rolex 24 start but first since 2018.
The Canadian DeFrancesco, 21, has three Rolex 24 starts with a best showing of third last year with DragonSpeed, which won the Rolex 24 LMP2 class in both 2019 and ’20.
“We’re lucky we got the opportunity to do it all together with DragonSpeed, and it sounded like a really fun idea so I think everyone was pretty quick to say yes,” Herta said. “I don’t feel pressure at all from this group and I don’t think anybody does. Obviously, we want to do well but it’s kind of exciting because we’re all friends and that kind of takes some of the pressure away.’’
Strong 10-Car Field to Challenge in LMP2
The No. 81 will start fifth in the LMP2 class and face plenty of push from competitors this weekend. The PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports team started off 2022 the way it ended 2021. Out front.
The defending class championship operation put both its cars on the LMP2 front row for the Rolex 24 with a 1-2 finish in Sunday’s qualifying race. The No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen entry, with drivers Ben Keating, Mikkel Jenner, Scott Huffaker and Nicolas Lapierre, is the reigning season champion. The defending Rolex 24 LMP2 winner, the No. 18 Era Motorsports ORECA with drivers Kyle Tilley, Ryan Dalziel, Dwight Merriman and Paul-Loup Chatin, will start last in class (10th) after retiring early from the qualifying race.
G-Drive Racing by APR qualified its pair of cars fourth and fifth on the LMP2 grid. Rene Rast, who will co-drive the No. 68 G Drive Racing ORECA, is a two-time Rolex 24 winner.
The 24-hour race starts at 1:40 p.m. ET Saturday, with live coverage commencing at 1:30 p.m. on NBC. Additional TV coverage airs on USA throughout Saturday night and Sunday morning before returning to NBC at noon Sunday through the checkered flag. Peacock has flag-to-flag livestreaming coverage of the NBC Sports telecast. IMSA Radio will also broadcast the entire race.