Rolex 24 at Daytona 101: A pre-race guide to IMSA's season opener

Staff Report
NASCAR.com

Daytona International Speedway’s annual celebration of season-opening events gets into full swing with a sports-car classic: The 58th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is back for its annual 24-hour test of endurance, with a variety of drivers and cars competing in four classes — and the only place to watch the race in its entirety, with no channel changes, is TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.

There are also several NASCAR connections, with defending Cup Series champion Kyle Busch among the entrants.

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With teams preparing to race for two trips around the clock, here’s a glance at this year’s Rolex 24, including the race format, schedule, tune-in information and more as Daytona Speedweeks gets going in earnest.

RELATED: Top 10 NASCAR moments in the Rolex 24 | NASCAR drivers in the Rolex 24

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IMSA cars on the grid for 2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona
IMSA cars on the grid for 2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona

What: 58th Rolex 24 at Daytona, the first race of the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season

When: Race starts Saturday, Jan. 25, at 1:40 p.m. ET and ends Sunday, Jan. 26, at 1:40 p.m. ET

Where: Daytona International Speedway, 3.56-mile combined tri-oval and road course

How to watch: NBC Sports plans extensive live coverage, beginning and ending on NBC’s main network, with NBCSN and the network’s streaming platforms rounding out the broadcast. Full supplemental coverage will come through NBC Sports Gold’s TrackPass service. Information for international broadcasts can be found here and radio broadcast information is found here. The full TV broadcast schedule is listed below.

Divisions: The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is divided into four classes, all competing on the track at the same time. Those four divisions include two prototype classes — Daytona Prototype International (DPi) and Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) — and two sports-car classes — Grand Touring Le Mans (GTLM) and Grand Touring Daytona (GTD).

Preliminary events: The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, split into Grand Sport (GS) and Touring Car (TCR) classes, will host the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona on Friday, Jan. 24 (1 p.m. ET, TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold, IMSA.tv). The Rolex 24 Heritage Exhibition will feature classic sports cars from IMSA’s history turning laps Saturday at 10 a.m. ET. Two races for the Ferrari Challenge series are also slated — Thursday at 9 p.m. ET and Friday at 6:45 p.m. ET.

2019 winners: The Wayne Taylor Racing Konica Minolta DPi Cadillac took overall honors with drivers Fernando Alonso, Kamui Kobayashi, Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande.

Last year’s other class winners:

  • LMP2: DragonSpeed ORECA team with drivers Roberto Gonzalez, Pastor Maldonado, Sebastian Saavedra and Ryan Cullen.

  • GTLM: BMW Team RLL M8 GTE with drivers Connor De Phillippi, Philipp Eng, Augusto Farfus and Colton Herta.

  • GTD: GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 with drivers Mirko Bortolotti, Rik Breukers, Christian Engelhart and Rolf Ineichen.

SHOP: Buy Rolex 24 tickets

Cars: A total of 12 manufacturers will participate in the series’ four classes. The number of automakers grows to 17 when adding the Michelin Pilot Challenge series. The full list: Acura, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ferrari, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Lamborghini, Lexus, McLaren, Mazda, Mercedes-AMG, Porsche.

Jake Galstad
Jake Galstad

NASCAR involvement: Several bonds to NASCAR’s national series are evident on the entry list, topped by Kyle Busch’s first entry in the Rolex 24. He’ll be one of four drivers in a No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC-F GT3 in the GT Daytona Class. The NBC Sports broadcast crew will also feature some familiar faces from its NASCAR coverage team.

A list of the participants in IMSA’s opening weekend with NASCAR ties:

  • Multimatic Motorsports will enter three Ford Mustang GT4s in Friday’s BMW Endurance Challenge, with Ford development drivers Hailie Deegan and Chase Briscoe sharing the No. 22 entry and Xfinity Series regular Austin Cindric joining the No. 15 Mustang effort in the Michelin Pilot Challenge’s Grand Sport class.

  • AJ Allmendinger will team up in a four-driver group in the Heinricher Racing with MSR Curb-Agajanian No. 57 Acura NSX GT3 in the GT Daytona class. Allmendinger, who was a NASCAR Cup Series regular from 2007-18, has one overall Rolex 24 win (2012). It’s his 14th Rolex 24 entry in the last 15 years.

  • Acura Team Penske will field the Nos. 6 and 7 Acuras in the DPi class. Former NASCAR Cup Series competitor Juan Pablo Montoya, a three-time Rolex 24 overall winner, will be a part of the three-driver effort — with two-time IMSA champ Dane Cameron and 2019 Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud — for the No. 6 team.

  • British ace Jack Hawksworth will be one of three teammates to Busch in the GTD-class Lexus. Hawksworth made his Xfinity Series debut last season in a Joe Gibbs Racing effort at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, starting on the front row and leading five laps.

  • Katherine Legge, who made four NASCAR Xfinity Series starts in 2018, will team up in a four-driver effort in the No. 19 Lamborghini for GEAR Racing powered by GRT Grasser in the GTD division.

  • Andy Lally, Sunoco Rookie of the Year for the NASCAR Cup Series in 2011, is set for GTD duty in the GRT Magnus Lamborghini. Lally is a five-time class winner in the Rolex 24.

  • Colin Braun, a one-time Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series winner (2009) who also has Xfinity Series experience, will be part of a four-driver crew in the No. 81 DragonSpeed entry in LMP2.

  • Brandon Gdovic, who made eight Xfinity Series starts from 2015-16, is part of a four-driver entry for the No. 47 Lamborghini fielded by Precision Performance Motorsports. Gdovic, 27, notched a K&N Pro Series (now ARCA Menards Series) East win in 2013.

  • Mike Skeen, a sports-car specialist who was at the center of post-race fireworks in the first Gander Trucks race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in 2013, will co-drove the No. 2 Audi R8 GT4 for Ave Motorsports in Friday’s Michelin Pilot Challenge event.

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FULL BROADCAST SCHEDULE
(All times Eastern)

Thursday, Jan. 23

  • 4:05-5:20 p.m.: Rolex 24 at Daytona qualifying (IMSA.tv)

Friday, Jan. 24

Saturday, Jan. 25

Sunday, Jan. 26

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