Roger Diez: Daytona welcomes the new year with a roar
This weekend the sound of racing engines will echo off the walls of Daytona International Speedway for the first time in the new decade. It’s the Roar Before the 24, the test and tune session for 40 exotic machines that will compete in this year’s Rolex 24. The twice-around-the-clock race itself will get underway three weeks from today with four classes of endurance racers; the DPi prototypes, the LMP2 prototypes, and the production-based GT LeMans and GT Daytona classes. This weekend will also be the first public outing of the new mid-engined Corvette C8R. Driving the yellow No. 3 car will be Ricky Taylor, Antonio Garcia, and Nicky Catsburg. The No. 4 silver C8R is expected to debut before race weekend.
There is only one current NASCAR star entered in the 24 this year, 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Champion Kyle Busch. He will take to the track in a GT Daytona Lexus RC F GT3 fielded by the AIM Vasser Sullivan team. Two other former NASCAR drivers in the field are Juan Pablo Montoya (also a former Indy Car and F1 star) and A.J. Allmendinger. A.J. will be both driving a GT Daytona Acura NSX GT3 Evo and doing race commentating as he did last year. The IndyCar series racers in the field include Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais in Cadillac DPi prototypes, Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi aboard Penske Acura DPi machines. These last two will team with former IndyCar stars Helio Castroneves and Montoya, while Ryan Hunter-Reay will pilot a Mazda RT24-P prototype. Colton Herta will drive a GT Lemans BMW M8 GTE, and both Jack Hawksworth and Indy 500 competitor and commentator Townsend Bell will wheel a Lexus RC F GT3 in the GT Daytona class. Hawksworth will co-drive with Busch.
The Saturday afternoon schedule features the IMSA Prototype Challenge, a race for LMP3 (LeMans Prototype 3) cars, their only U.S. race this year. These cars run in the European LeMans Series, and look much like the DPi prototypes, but with reduced power (455 hp versus 600 hp for the LMP1). The 18-car race is scheduled for 12:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. EST but is only available live on the IMSA TrackPass and NBC Sports Gold streaming services. You can catch a rerun on Jan. 14 at 1:30 p.m. on the NBC Sports Network.
This year’s Daytona 24 will get underway on Jan. 25 with coverage of the start and finish on NBC and periodic coverage through the race on NBC Sports Network, with the finish and post-race activities back on Sunday on NBC. I’ll have more info as race day approaches.
Busch beer is back as sponsor of the Feb. 9 Busch Clash at Daytona. This race for previous year’s pole sitters began in 2009 with Busch the naming sponsor. Budweiser took over as sponsor from 1998 until 2011 and since then it has had different sponsors. It’s good to see the Busch name back on the event. There are 20 drivers qualified for the 2020 Clash, consisting of 2019 pole winners, former Clash champions, Daytona pole and race winners, and drivers who made last year’s playoffs if not otherwise qualified. This year’s Busch Clash drivers in alphabetical order are; Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, William Byron, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Daniel Hemrick, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Daniel Suarez, and Martin Truex Jr. Unfortunately, Hemrick and Suarez do not currently have Cup rides for 2020, but the race isn’t until Feb. 9, so they have time to scare up a ride.