Indycar Drivers Starting Early

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A handful of IndyCar Series drivers will return to the racetrack Jan. 26-27 for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, including Target Chip Ganassi drivers Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon and Alex Lloyd who will combine with Salvador Duran, who was part of the winning team last year.

"It's a great way to start the season," said Dixon, who along with Wheldon was part of the winning team in 2006. "You don't have as much stress or weight on your shoulders because you can spread the load over three or four drivers and you've got quite a big team behind you. To be quite honest, the team is more important than the drivers here. To fix the big issues that you have to address during the night is the big key to winning this race.

"You only get one opportunity a year to do it, and it's 24 hours flat out. To me, it means more as a group with the team. When we won this race in 2006, we had a number of problems and spent some time in the pits, but the team did the work on the car that pulled us through. For me, it's a real accomplishment and definitely something you want to win again once you've won it the first time."

Competing in the sports car race for the second time is two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who will share driving duties with IndyCar Series teammate Ryan Briscoe and Penske Racing driver Kurt Busch.

"I'm looking forward to competing with Ryan and Kurt," said Castroneves. "We were very happy with testing (earlier in the month) with the team only coming together in the last five weeks. We were running in the top five consistently. I wasn't surprised that the team is capable of doing it, but there are so many people who have been (racing) the Daytona Prototypes for so many years.

"Last year in my first 24 Hours, I learned you have to be a consistent survivor. The key to the race is getting through traffic, making good choices and not taking too many chances. You need to be around at the end."

Also returning is the Vision Racing team comprised of IndyCar Series drivers Ed Carpenter, A.J. Foyt IV and Vitor Meira and team owner Tony George. Vision Racing's contingent finished 17th in Daytona Prototypes (29th overall) in last year's twice-around-the-clock event, which likely would have been higher if not for the engine expiring with 30 minutes left.

"Last year's race was a success for the team in many ways, but coming up just short in the end left us hungry to give it another try this year," team owner/driver Tony George said of the first-year effort.

The team didn't participate in testing on the 3.56-mile, 12-turn circuit earlier in the month, but each driver got behind the wheel at Moroso Motorsports Park in Jupiter, Fla., Jan. 20-21.

"I wish we had gotten it together a little sooner so we could go test a bit more, but we have 24 hours to race," Carpenter said. "I know the guys will put together a good car like they did last year and, hopefully, we can run the last 30 minutes that we weren't able to do last year."

IndyCar Series drivers Buddy Rice and Ryan Hunter-Reay also are entered in the event, as are Indy Pro Series drivers CR Crews, Brad Jaeger and Scott Mayer.

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