Rolex 24 Preview

The 2021 racing season began for many people earlier this month with the 35th Chili Bowl Nationals in Oklahoma. Things really heat up now as the 59th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona gets underway. Practice for the Roar Before the 24 gets underway today on Daytona’s 3.56-mile road course. The qualifying race on Sunday will air live at 2 PM ET on NBC Sports Gold and Track Pass, with a 4:30 PM re-air on NBC Sports Network.

Next weekend is the big event, which kicks off a busy five-week stretch for the Daytona International Speedway. The first two weekends will feature IMSA and the Rolex 24, with NASCAR taking over on February 9 with The Clash on the road course. The duel races follow that two days later, with the Daytona 500 scheduled on February 14. One week later the series will be back to run the road course one more time.

There are 49 entries in the Rolex 24 event this year, spread across five classes of competition: Daytona Prototype international (DPi), Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2), Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3), GT Le Mans (GTLM), and GT Daytona (GTD). The 2020 season was wild, for obvious reasons, but the off-season was even more insane. There are several major changes as the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opener draws near.

The top-tier class of DPi will have seven cars in the event this year. Chip Ganassi Racing is making their return to the series with a talented group of drivers taking turns behind the wheel of their Cadillac. Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Kevin Magnussen, and Renger van der Zande will be in the No. 01 Ganassi machine.

Another IndyCar team owner will field a car in this same class as Meyer Shank Racing takes over the Acura ARX-05 program with an All-Star lineup of drivers. Dane Cameron, Juan Montoya, Olivier Pla, and AJ Allmendinger will be behind the wheel of the No. 60 Acura. The other factory Acura ARX-05 machine will be fielded by Wayne Taylor Racing. Their four-driver lineup of Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque, Alexander Rossi, and Helio Castroneves has plenty of talent and experience to get the job done.

There is more IndyCar talent in this class, as Sebastien Bourdais will join Loic Duval and Tristan Vautier in the No. 5 JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac. Simon Pagenaud will be teaming up with Jimmie Johnson, Kamui Kobayashi, and Mike Rockenfeller in the No. 48 Cadillac for Action Express Racing. The team’s other car is no slouch either, with Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani, Mike Conway, and defending NASCAR Cup champion Chase Elliott.

The LMP2 class will have ten cars entered this year. Rinus VeeKay and Ben Hanley will be two of the four drivers for DragonSpeed’s No. 81 Oreca. Another notable name in this class is Austin Dillon, who will be driving the No. 51 Ligier JS P217 machine for the Rick Ware Racing-Eurasia team.

Over in the LMP3 class, there are seven cars entered with Rasmus Lindh as one of the drivers for Performance Tech Motorsports. Colin Braun is with CORE Autosport, and Riley Motorsport will have two young talented drivers in Spencer Pigot and Oliver Askew.

The GT Le Mans class is down to just six cars this year, with just three of them contesting the full IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar season. Corvette Racing will have Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor, and Nicky Catsburg in the No. 3 Corvette. Nick Tandy, Tommy Milner, and Alexander Sims will be in the No. 4 sister car. The WeatherTech Racing Proton Competition team will be running the Porsche 911 with Cooper MacNeil headling their driver lineup.

BMW Team RLL is not doing the full season this year, but they will have a pair of BMW M8 GTE cars ready with John Edwards, Jesse Krohn, Augusto Farfus, and Marco Wittmann in the No. 24 car. The No. 25 car will have Connor De Philippi, Bruno Spengler, Philipp Eng, and Timo Glock.

The class with the most cars will be GT Daytona, with 20 cars entered in the event. Colton Herta will be driving the No. 96 BMW M6 for Turner Motorsport. JR Hildebrand is making his return in the No. 42 Audi R8 with NTE Sport. Ed Jones and Ryan Briscoe will be part of Scuderia Corsa’s lineup in the No. 63 Ferrari.

The Vasser Sullivan team has two Lexus RC cars entered, and arguably the most talented driver lineups this year. Frankie Montecalvo, Zach Veach, Robert Megennis, and Townsend Bell will be in the No. 12 car. Over in the No. 14 car will be Jack Hawksworth, Oliver Gavin, Aaron Telitz, and Kyle Kirkwood. Katherine Legge will be one of the drivers in the No. 88 Porsche 911 with Team Hardpoint EBM.

Below are some useful links for the event:

NBC Sports will provide flag-to-flag coverage of the event, beginning on NBC at 3:30 PM ET Saturday, moving to NBC Sports Network at 8 PM. The entire event, including those few hours not airing on NBC or NBCSN, will stream live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and the NBC Sports App.

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