If all of the confirmed and rumored names appear for January’s Rolex 24 At Daytona, IMSA’s season opener could have the feel of a non-points NTT IndyCar Series race.
At present, almost half of the full-time drivers from the 2021 IndyCar grid – and a few newcomers for 2022 – have flights booked for Florida, where the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will host a battle for top honors featuring many of American open-wheel’s finest pilots.
Although unconfirmed, RACER understands 2018 Andretti Autosport Indy Lights teammates Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward are likely to be reunited in an LMP2 effort, and 2021 Andretti Indy Lights driver Devlin DeFrancesco — who’ll make his IndyCar debut next year as Herta’s teammate — is also said to be part of the entry.
Defending race winner Wayne Taylor Racing has yet to announce its Rolex 24 roster, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Andretti’s Alexander Rossi returning to defend WTR’s achievement with Acura. Staying within the Acura family, Meyer Shank Racing will have its Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves within its ranks, and it would be a shock if new MSR IndyCar signing Simon Pagenaud isn’t eventually named as an endurance driver for the team.
After those initial six drivers, Chip Ganassi Racing is expected to have six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon back among its Cadillac DPi lineup. Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is also on course to make another Rolex 24 run with the rival Action Express Racing Cadillac team. Continuing on the CGR front, if the paddock chatter is accurate, their IndyCar teammate Marcus Ericsson could be under consideration for a seat in the two-car CCGR team. And there’s even a crazy rumor that new IndyCar champion Alex Palou could contest his first Rolex 24 with Ganassi.
New A.J. Foyt Racing driver Kyle Kirkwood makes the 11th prospective IndyCar driver headed to Daytona with the Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 GTD team. Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay, the 12th, will battle the other IndyCar young guns in LMP2 with Racing Team Nederland. After that, there are quite a few who are working on landing rides or waiting to be locked into a seat.
Andretti’s Romain Grosjean is among those to keep a watchful eye on as teams reveal their Rolex 24 squads. Former Andretti driver James Hinchcliffe has been working finding a full-time home in IMSA while exploring his IndyCar opportunities, and fellow ex-Andretti veteran Ryan Hunter-Reay is in a similar position. Sebastien Bourdais signed a full-time deal with CCGR, and while his primary focus will be on IMSA, the four-time Champ Car champion who spent the 2021 season with Foyt is working through his options to maintain a part-time presence in IndyCar. Marco Andretti, who stepped back from the non-stop IndyCar grind, has been enjoying outings in the family-run LMP3 car he shares with cousin Jarett Andretti.
That makes somewhere between 12 to 17 IndyCar drivers set to race across January 29-30. And if all of the deals come together and the rumors become real, every IndyCar driver from Andretti, CGR and MSR will be part of the 24-hour action.
And from a championship standpoint, the majority of IndyCar’s best — seven drivers who finished inside the top 10 — are primed to race across most of the five WeatherTech Championship classes at the Rolex 24.
For hardcore IndyCar fans, ahead of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on February 25-27, a trek to Daytona Beach to see your favorites wage sports car war for 24 hours just might be the perfect way to start the season. We’re accustomed to having quite a few IndyCar drivers in the mix at IMSA’s big championship opener, but what’s coming in a little over a month from the open-wheel community is truly spectacular.