Ganassi Team Ready for Rolex 24
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin on January 22, 2014 | 2:07 P.M. EST
Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas will team with Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray and Indy Lights champion Sage Karam in the No. 01 Telcel/Target Ford/Riley. (Photo: Courtesy of IMSA)
Chip Ganassi Racing heads to Daytona International Speedway with an all-star lineup of drivers, looking to claim its sixth win in the prestigious Rolex 24.
The organization will kick off the inaugural TUDOR United SportsCar Championship as the defending Daytona Prototype (now Prototype) Rolex 24 winners. Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas were part of last year's winning team and will partner with 2010 Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray and 2013 Indy Lights champion Sage Karam in the No. 01 Telcel/Target Ford/Riley for the 52nd running of the twice-around-the-clock race.
Pruett will not only be looking to give Ganassi another Rolex win. He's also trying to become the only driver to win the "24" overall six times. He's currently tied with Hurley Haywood. Along with his four wins with Ganassi (2007, 2008, 2011 and 2013), Pruett also took the overall victory in 1994 by 24 laps driving a Clayton Cunningham Nissan 300ZX Turbo with teammates Paul Gentilozzi, Butch Leitzinger and Steve Millen.
"There’s something magical about Daytona and I love going to race in the Rolex 24," said Pruett, who has 10 class victories in the event. "Especially with the coming together of both series, it will be the best of the best. It’s going to be an incredible race."
After winning with Lexus and BMW power, CGR will be switching to Ford for the 2014 season. Pruett started in 1985 driving a Ford in the old IMSA GTO Series. One of his Rolex 24 class wins came behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang for Jack Roush in 1987.
Rojas will be seeking his fourth overall Rolex 24 victory. Other four-time winners since the race went to 24 hours in 1966 are Peter Gregg (1973, 1975, 1976 and 1978); Rolf Stommelen (1968, 1978, 1980 and 1982); and Bob Wollek (1983, 1985, 1989 and 1991).
McMurray - who finished second overall in 2011 with Dixon, Juan Pablo Montoya and Dario Franchitti - will be racing in his sixth Rolex 24 with Ganassi.
"It's really hard to prepare for that because the race doesn't start until 2:30 in the afternoon and I'm a morning person," McMurray said. "I still wake up really early on the morning of that race. I just try to stay with my normal routine and then you're just very excited until you get in the car for the first time. For me, I've been like the third of the fourth guy to get in so you don't get in until 10 p.m. or midnight for your first run and then you get back in around 5 a.m."
Along with the No. 01 entry, CGR will also field the No. 02 and be part of an 18-car field for the Rolex 24 in the new Prototype class as part of the merger of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and the American Le Mans Series. The No. 02 Target/Telcel Ford/Riley will have Scott Dixon (2006 Rolex 24 winner), Tony Kanaan, Marino Franchitti and Kyle Larson behind the wheel.
"When you get the call from Chip and the Ganassi organization, you’re like, 'Where do you need me and when?' " said Franchitti, the 2013 LMP2 ALMS champion. "Whether it’s the Daytona 500, Indy 500 or Daytona 24 Hours, Chip and his whole organization are built to win those big races. I want to win this one badly and I’m delighted to be a part of this team."
Larson doesn't have much experience on road courses besides the three NASCAR Nationwide races he ran last season but got behind the wheel of the No. 02 Prototype for the first time during pre-season testing at Daytona.
"The cars are really fun to drive," Larson said. "There were seven of us at the test and we were all pretty close in time. There was one run where the '01' was a little bit faster than the '02,' but all three drivers that were driving the '02' were pretty close. We had mechanical issues, so we couldn't hang out for the last day of the test. But all the guys at Chip Ganassi Racing are working hard to bring back a durable car for the long race.
"I say I'm going to sleep but I'm sure when it comes down to it, I'm going to be up all night keeping up with how the car is doing and listening to the radio to see how the car is changing throughout the night. I don't know what shifts all of us are going to be running yet. I'm more of a late-night guy anyways, so maybe they'll throw me in for the graveyard shift."
Motor Racing Network will provide live flag-to-flag coverage of the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona starting at 2 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, with live streaming at MRN.com.