DAYTONA BEACH, Florida: One of the more interesting facets of the Rolex 24 At Daytona is the wide range of competitors from other racing principles, including NASCAR and the IndyCar Series.
While this week’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 test session is short of stock-car drivers, sans Jeff Gordon, it is heavy with open-wheel jockeys such as Indianapolis 500 champions Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon.
Kanaan and Dixon have the distinction of not only winning the 500-mile race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but each has triumphed in the Rolex 24.
Dixon was part of the winning 2006 Rolex 24 team that captured the Indy 500 in 2008. Kanaan won his Indy in 2013 and they shared the 2015 Rolex 24 triumph.
They both race IndyCar for car owner Chip Ganassi, who will enter four Ford GT cars in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class in the January 28-29 endurance race.
The GTLM class features cars off the production line, but are just slightly slower than the featured prototypes.
GTLM cars have taken the overall win in a few combined International Motor Sports Association (IMDA) WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series races the last two years.
With a new selection of prototypes competing this year, there is a chance one of these GTLM cars could steal the Rolex 24 overall win.
With that said, just nabbing best in class will be a major challenge since the Ford GTs will battle with factory teams from Chevrolet, BMW and Porsche.
“The racing dynamic of racing GTLM is through the roof and a lot of fun,” Dixon said.
Kanaan and Dixon could walk off the stage now with their heads held high in accomplishments, but each wants to win the Daytona 24 for Ganassi.
“You can always tell when Chip is in the room,” Dixon said with a laugh. “Obviously, this is very important to him. He’s one of the most competitive people I have ever met.”
Drivers bring different talents to the table at Daytona. For Kanaan, it is track time over the 3.56-mile road course.
“What I do have is more experience at Daytona than my teammates, so I can help them with that,” Kanaan said during a break in the Roar action on Saturday.
“I’ve been doing this race for so long, you have to get in the right mentality here. It’s not only your car and it’s not only your times. You have to work as a team to win this race,” he added.
Dixon has been part of Ganassi Racing for a decade. Wheeling a sports car in the Rolex 24 is one of the perks of the job.
While Ganassi has all his Indy drivers in town for the Roar, his two NASCAR Cup Series drivers stayed home.
Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray, who were paired with Kanaan and Dixon in the 2015 winner, are not participating in the Roar or 24.
“We exchanged text messages this week,” Dixon said of Larson. “He’s down in New Zealand for a sprint car race. It’s sad not to see them here.”