Hi everyone and welcome to the first blog post on the new BackstretchBanter.com. This year, after having a very successful time covering just the NASCAR circuit for the second year of my podcast, which by the way is going nowhere, I have decided to start foraying into some of the other predominantly North American racing series by covering both IMSA and IndyCar when their season starts in March. Now for both of these series I am a relative newbie, especially when it comes to IMSA, but that is just going to make these blog posts all the more fun for me, so I hope that you all will come along on this new adventure in the Backstretch Banter brand with me!
With all that said, this weekend is the start of the 2019 IMSA season with the Rolex 24 hours of Daytona. This event, which also ties into the NASCAR Speedweeks coming up at the track in two weeks, is the kickoff event to the racing season down in Daytona Beach, Florida and is historically known as one leg of the Endurance racing Triple Crown, alongside the 12 hours of Sebring and the 24 hours of Le Mans. Now for those of you who like me are new to IMSA racing, the name of the race says it all, this race is the ultimate test of endurance, as teams of 3 to 4 drivers race in three different car categories, the Prototype class (also known as DPi), the GT Daytona class (also known as GTD), the GT Le Mans class (also known as GTLM) and the LMP2 classes. Each of these classes has a unique difference between their cars, so lets a take a look at each of them.
Let’s start with the Daytona Prototype cars which make up the Prototype class, which are also known as DPi’s. These cars are the fastest that you will see on the racetrack this weekend in the Rolex 24, running lap times around 1 minute and 34 seconds around the road course at Daytona. With these speeds that these cars run, last year they set the all time record for distance in the event, racing for 4,629.84 kilometers, and with them running faster lap times this year compared to last, I’m almost positive that distance record may be broken again this year. Now when it comes to the major manufacturers that run in this series, the main teams run a mix of Acura, which Team Penske uses, Cadillac, which Mustang Sampling Racing, who is the defending race champion, Whelen Engineering Racing, JDC-Miller Motorsports, Juncos Racing and Konica Minolta Cadillac D.P.i - VR.
Now onto the LMP2 class. These guys are the second fastest cars on the track, with very similar performance specs to the DPi class and heck, they even look like them too however they are slightly different. The LMP2 class cars are made by four approved manufacturers, but with all four LMP2 cars in the Rolex 24 made by the same manufacturer called Oreca. These cars have two different types of car, one with a closed roof, which is used in Daytona for the Rolex 24 and also one that has an open roof as well which is used at other racetracks. There are three teams that race these cars down in Daytona, Dragonspeed, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports and Performance Tech Motorsports.
The third category that runs in the Rolex 24 is the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. This class utilizes the technical regulations of the 24 hours of Le Mans these cars are the most elite GT performance cars from their manufacturers, with those manufacturers including BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Ford and Porsche. These cars are made based off of their production models, but engineered to extract the maximum performance that the team can get out of the vehicle. There are a number of different teams that run the GTLM cars in the Rolex 24, including most notably Chip Ganassi Racing running Ford GT’s, Corvette Racing running of course, Chevrolet Corvettes, Porsche GT Team running Porsche 911 RSR’s, BMW Team RLL running BMW M8 GTE’s and Risi Competizione running the Ferrari 488 GTE entry. Out of all the classes, these cars are my personal favourite to watch every year. I don’t know what it is, whether it’s that they look like production cars or the fact they always put on the best show of the race in my opinion, but these cars are my favourite to watch, and for a NASCAR guy like me it’s the perfect opportunity to cheer for one of the few NASCAR teams in this race at Chip Ganassi Racing.
And finally, the last class that runs in the Rolex 24 is the GT Daytona, also known as the GTD class. This class consists of cars from many major manufacturers including Acura, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lexus, Mercedes-AMG, and Porsche and are enhanced technology compared to the production cars, but are the closest thing you will get to production cars in this race. There are a lot of teams that run this class in the Rolex 24, with some of the most notable being Black Swan Racing in Porsches, Meyer Skank Racing with Curb-Agajanian in Lamborghini’s, Turner Motorsports in BMW’s, and Via Italia Racing in Ferrari’s just to name a few. This class is the largest in the Rolex 24 with 23 cars hoping to make it through the entire 24 hours of the race.
Now that we know a little bit more about the classes, lets talk about the drivers a little bit. Obviously this race brings the best drivers from the best motorsports series all around the world. From NASCAR to IndyCar to F1 some of the best drivers ever have come to Daytona to race the Rolex 24, from NASCAR legends Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon to current NASCAR drivers Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray and AJ Allmendinger, tons of IndyCar drivers and this year the one and only, Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso this race brings the best drivers from different aspects of racing together for one prize.
And finally sticking with tradition for me here on Backstretch Banter, It’s time for my picks to win their respective classes in the Rolex 24, so let’s jump right into it!
In the Daytona Prototype, DPi, class, my pick to win is the Konica Minolta Cadillac D.P.i - VR team with drivers Jordan Taylor, Fernando Alonso, Kamui Kobayashi, and Renger Van Der Vande. This car always sticks out to me when I watch the Rolex 24 every year and with them adding one of my favourite racers ever Fernando Alonso to the fold for this years Rolex 24, they are easily my pick to win in the DPi Class.
In the LMP2 class, my pick to win is the #81 DragonSpeed team consisting of drivers James Allen, Henrik Hedman, Ben Hanley, and Nicolas Lapierre. They may not have been the fastest team in final practice, but they were fastest in qualifying in their class which makes me feel very good about their chances to win their division in the Rolex 24.
In the GT Le Mans, GTLM, class my pick is another pretty easy one for me. My pick for this category is the #66 Chip Ganassi Racing car driven by Dirk Mueller, Sebastien Bourdais, and Joey Hand. The Ganassi fords finished 1-2 in this race last year and in all honesty I believe that could very well happen again this year, they have been strong all week leading up to the race which makes me confident in the choice to pick them to win their class.
And finally in the GT Daytona, or GTD class, my pick is another easy one for me from a strong team that with a couple of NASCAR road course aces on the team and that is the #86 Meyer-Skank Racing with Curb-Agajanian team consisting of drivers Mario Farnbacher, Trent Hindman, Justin Marks and AJ Allmendinger. These guys haven’t been the fastest throughout the week but with Justin Marks and AJ Allmendinger, two road course racers and a Rolex 24 Champion in AJ Allmendinger, I believe they have a strong chance to upset the rest of the field and bring home the win in their class of the Rolex 24.
Alright folks, thank you for reading my first IMSA race breakdown, and be sure to check back here throughout the year for IMSA and IndyCar news and also continue to tune in to The Warm Up Lap, which will be returning very soon, to hear all about what is happening in all of NASCAR!
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