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Rookies Kyle Larson and Sage Karam will not jeopardize Ganassi’s bid for a sixth Daytona 24 Hours victory, insists team lynchpin Scott Pruett.
Ganassi has traditionally called up star names from its IndyCar and NASCAR programs to join its sports car regulars for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. But its split with Juan Pablo Montoya and the retirement of Dario Franchitti has triggered a shake-up for the first round of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship next weekend.
The team has recruited sports car ace Marino Franchitti, Indianapolis 500 winner and new Ganassi IndyCar signing Tony Kanaan, plus Daytona newcomers Karam and Larson.
Larson, 21, replaces Montoya in Ganassi’s Sprint Cup lineup this year, while 18-year-old Karam is the reigning Indy Lights champion. Pruett is sure the young duo can cope with the pressure of representing Chip Ganassi’s outfit at Daytona, though he admits they will need a different mindset.
“We’ve had rookies for the last few years, with Graham [Rahal] and Charlie Kimball last year,” said Pruett. “The biggest thing to understand coming into this race is that it’s a 24-hour race. Everything that they’ve come out of, you’re trying to make those moves pretty fast and pretty aggressively and you have just a few hours to make it happen.
“When you come here, you just can never take a chance on getting tangled with a guy. It’s a lot of spending time getting into their heads that it’s a whole different way of racing guys and giving them room.”
Pruett also emphasized that while the 24 Hours was an aside to his temporary teammates’ day jobs in IndyCar, NASCAR and elsewhere, it was vital that they took it seriously.
“When we come here, we come here as a team and a very serious organization,” he said. “When all of us get together, there is certainly a fun element to it and mutual respect. But at the end of the day, we know what our job is.
“Chip’s focus is singular here: win the race. Everybody who is involved with this organization knows they have to come with their A-game.”
Five-time Grand-Am champion Pruett, who has taken four of his five Daytona wins with Ganassi, his full-season teammate Memo Rojas, IndyCar champion Scott Dixon and NASCAR’s Jamie McMurray all remain part of the team’s Daytona roster alongside the four new additions.
Tune in for the 52nd Rolex 24 At Daytona at the following times:
Saturday, Jan. 25
Tune in for the Daytona season opener at the following time:
6 p.m. on FOX Sports 2 (Same Day)