Love of Racing Draws IndyCar Flock to Rolex 24

The best driver in IndyCar racing has a basic motivation for competing in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. 
“The reason I got into racing is because I love racing,” Scott Dixon said. “I love driving cars.”
It really is that simple. The six-time IndyCar champion who stands third on the list of all-time victories in the series – trailing only A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti – is one of 12 drivers running the full 2022 IndyCar Series season who’s scheduled to race in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship opener this weekend. Seven of them, including Dixon, will compete in the top-tier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class.
Dixon has appeared in the Rolex 24 on 18 prior occasions, winning four of them. This time, he’ll team with Sebastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande and Alex Palou in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi V.R, which will start fifth when the 60th running of the Rolex 24 starts Saturday (1:30 p.m. ET, NBC).
The joy of racing is the foundation of Dixon’s motivation, but it also helps him stay sharp during a long offseason.
“You’re obviously driving quite a bit, and that’s the part I enjoy most,” Dixon said. “Over the last few years with the (IndyCar) schedule the way it is, there’s no testing. The last time I was in an IndyCar, it was September. The first time I’ll be back in it is before St. Pete, around Feb. 14.”
Indeed, the popularity of the Rolex 24 for IndyCar drivers lies in part with its place on the calendar. The 2021 IndyCar season ended Sept. 26; the 2022 season begins Feb. 27 in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rolex 24 provides a perfectly timed skill check, along with some fun.
“I would drive every weekend if I could,” said Palou, the reigning IndyCar champion making his WeatherTech Championship debut. “If I had the opportunity, I would – even if it wasn’t an IndyCar or a DPi car. I would drive whatever. I like to drive. That’s when I have the most fun.
“At the same time, it’s really good to get laps before the IndyCar season starts. It’s good for everything. There’s no bad thing about doing this race. It’s great because there’s different cars and different styles. I learn things that I wouldn’t learn in IndyCar.”
Dixon knows the feeling. He first competed in the Rolex 24 in 2004 and hasn’t missed it since. He won in 2006 with Dan Wheldon and Casey Mears. He won again in 2015 with Tony Kanaan, Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray. He posted a GT Le Mans (GTLM) class victory in 2018 with Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook, then scored another overall win in 2020 with Briscoe, van der Zande and Kamui Kobayashi with Wayne Taylor Racing – Dixon’s only Rolex 24 start outside Chip Ganassi Racing.
“It’s just really nice to be able to drive something during the offseason,” Dixon said. “Obviously when it’s in-house, it makes it way easier. Some of the other guys are in the position I’ve been in before where you jump outside the team, which is a little bit more difficult.”
The connection between IndyCar drivers and the Rolex 24 runs deep. Dixon’s three overall victories are tied for seventh all time. Among others with three overall Rolex 24 wins are Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the Indianapolis 500 in 2000 and 2015, and Christian Fittipaldi, who has 135 IndyCar races on his resume.
Recent overall winners include several drivers with IndyCar backgrounds. Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi were part of last year’s victory by Wayne Taylor Racing. Briscoe won in 2020, Scott Sharp in 2016, Kanaan in 2015 and Bourdais in 2014.
“It’s a good way to stay sharp and get miles under your belt,” said Bourdais, the four-time IndyCar champion. “As a driver, the long offseason is horrible if you haven’t been doing anything else. To not drive for six months and be sharp and ready to fight it out to the best of your ability in IndyCar with that little running? It’s not easy.” 
Other IndyCar full-season drivers in DPi entries this week are Marcus Ericsson in the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac, Rossi in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing/Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05, Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Ally/Action Express Racing Cadillac and Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura. In the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class, three IndyCar drivers, Devlin DeFrancesco, Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward, are in the No. 81 DragonSpeed USA entry, while Rinus VeeKay is a co-driver in the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland ORECA LMP2 07. Kyle Kirkwood is part of the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 lineup in GTD PRO.
Little about the disciplines translates to the other, but the seat time is invaluable.
“The cars are different,” Dixon said. “The styles are definitely different. The way you get speed out of the cars is different. Plus, it’s an endurance race, not a sprint – even though the race these days is pretty much a 24-hour sprint race.”
So, aside from the chance to win a Rolex, why do it? Simple answer again:
“It’s fun,” Dixon said with a smile. “It’s a great race, man.”