Another racing season is just a few more weeks away

I hope everyone got exactly what they wanted for Christmas. Unfortunately, there was no Shelby Cobra under the tree for me again this year. I have to start being good, I suppose.

Racing season starts in just four weeks, with the Rolex 24 at Daytona. A number of NASCAR Sprint Cup and IndyCar drivers will get a jump on their respective seasons in the race. Chip Ganassi will have both Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson aboard the No. 2 prototype. It will be Jamie Mac’s seventh start in the 24, and Larson’s second. Ganassi’s IndyCar drivers Scott Dixon will team with the two NASCAR aces. Chip Ganassi is the only owner to campaign cars in NASCAR, IndyCar, and the IMSA/Tudor United series for a full season. I’m sure there will be some other stars from other series including Formula 1 competing in the 24, but the complete entry lists haven’t yet been released.

We’re only seven weeks out from the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona, the kickoff race of the 2015 NASCAR season. Eligibility rules for the race have been tweaked a bit to include not only 2014 pole winners, previous Unlimited winners, and previous Daytona 500 pole winners, but also any 2014 Chase driver who did not qualify according to any of those first three criteria. That adds A.J. Allmendinger, Arc Almirola, Kasey Kahne, and Ryan Newman to the field and brings the total number of entries to 25.

The Daytona 500 follows a week after the Sprint Unlimited, and then we’re off to the races, to coin a phrase. There are a few changes in the schedule this season, with Atlanta now coming the week after Daytona, followed by Las Vegas, Phoenix, California, Martinsville, and Texas.

News and notes:

Congrats to Kyle Larson, who is a new dad. Larson’s longtime girlfriend, Katelyn Sweet, delivered Owen Miyata Larson on Monday.

Congratulations are also in order for Ty Dillon, who married girlfriend Haley Carey last Saturday. Appropriately enough, the ceremony took place at Childress Vineyards in Lexington, N.C. Dillon will make his Daytona 500 debut in February.

Jensen Button will remain with the McLaren F1 team for 2015, paired with Fernando Alfonso, who rejoins the team after a stint at Ferrari.

The Korean Grand Prix has been removed from the 2015 Formula 1 calendar, but the schedule still calls for 21 races, a record number for F1. So either the sanctioning body has a mystery race in its back pocket, or the schedule is being shortened to 20 events.

Dr. Jerry Punch, a staple on ESPN racing coverage for 30 years, won’t be seen on NASCAR broadcasts in 2015, but will cover the pits for the Indy 500 and other IndyCar series events. Punch will also be seen on ESPN’s college football and basketball broadcasts.

Speaking of traditions and the Indy 500, Jim Nabors has sung his last rendition of “Back Home Again in Indiana” in the pre-race ceremonies. The vocal group Straight No Chaser will perform the song in May for the 2015 edition of the 500.

Alexander Rossi, who until recently was thought to be the next American driver in Formula 1, saw his hopes dashed last season. So Rossi is now in talks with Dale Coyne Racing about a possible IndyCar ride for 2015.

The other shoe has dropped in the Bubba Wallace story, as Roush-Fenway racing has announced Wallace is going to wheel the No. 60 Ford in the Xfinity series for 2015. Wallace was released by Joe Gibbs Racing recently to pursue the opportunity.

Brian Vickers will miss the Daytona 500 and the early part of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup series due to recent heart surgery. A replacement driver for the No. 55 Aarons Dream Machine has not been named.


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