Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Best of the Month: January 2023

One month down and 11 remain in the year 2023. For the first month of the year, there are a number of significant events. It is a smashing start to the year, especially as many more of our favorite events are still to come. A few endurance races are behind us, as are a few rallies. However, things could be better in some areas, and we start this year with a few new ideas.

Dakar's Green Jersey
Another Dakar Rally concluded this month, and the bike class was a sensational battle from start to finish. Halfway through the race, there were eight riders within eight minutes of one another at the top. The bike battle went to the final day with the top three entering the final stage with only a minute and 31 seconds covering them, and on the final stage, Kevin Benavides came from behind to win the Dakar Rally. 

Not every class was that thrilling, and that is part of the Dakar. It is a two-week endurance race. There is a lot of time to lose over the competition, and if one team limits its stoppages and mistakes, it can be a runaway. That was the case in the car class. Nasser Al-Attiyah won by over an hour and 20 minutes over Sébastien Loeb, and Al-Attiyah's lead was over an hour for the final nine stages. 

In the quad class, Alexandre Giroud led by 35 minutes and 31 seconds after the third stage and that was the closest it was over the final 12 stages. Light prototypes, SSV and Trucks were rather class for most of the race only for the tide to turn late, but I think there is a way can turn each stage into more of a competition. 

Loeb won six consecutive stages in the second week of this year's Dakar, but over those six stages, Loeb never got closer than an hour and 21 minutes to Al-Attiyah. All credit to Al-Attiyah, but there is a way to make those stage victories mean something. 

In the Tour de France, there is a green jersey for a points classification. Each stage awards points to the top finishers and there are intermediate points over the course of a stage where points are awarded. It is a competition within a competition. The Tour de France and Dakar have the same organizer, Amaury Sport Organisation. The Dakar could easily adopt this concept, using the FIA points system to award the top ten finishers at each stage and give competitors a chance to compete for something to the very end without have one or two disastrous stages leave them racing for pride alone. 

Here is what the points classifications would look like based on the 2023 Dakar results for bikes and cars.

Bikes (Difference to overall finish):
1. Toby Price - 151 (+1)
2. Kevin Benavides - 134 (-1)
3. Skyler Howes - 129 (-)
4. Daniel Sanders - 113 (+3)
5. Luciano Benavides - 110 (+1)
6. Pablo Quintanilla - 97 (-2)
7. Adrien Van Beveren - 87 (-2)
8. Mason Klein - 81 (Withdrew)
9. Joan Barreda - 67 (Withdrew)
10. Ross Branch - 64 (+13)

1. Sébastien Loeb - 223 (+1)
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah - 176 (-1)
3. Guerlain Chicherit - 154 (+7)
4. Mattias Ekström - 111 (+10)
5. Yazeed Al-Rajhi - 108 (+32)
6. Henk Lategan - 100 (-1)
7. Carlos Sainz - 88 (Withdrew)
8. Jakub Przygoński - 62 (+9)
9. Lucas Moraes - 57 (-6)
10. Vaidotas Žala - 54 (Withdrew)

There would be some changes. Price and Loeb would each have won green jerseys. Benavides and Al-Attiyah would each be second. Some forgotten performances would get highlighted. Audi was not that bad in the car class as the overall results suggest. There were a few accidents and mechanical problems, but the Audi was quick. Ekström was in the top four of the final six stages. Sainz was in the top three in five of the first eight stages prior to his retirement. 

In 2022, Seth Quintero won 12 of 13 stages, but 17 hours lost in stage two due to mechanical failures and penalties meant that he was 16th overall and was left with nothing more than a spot in the record books. Not a bad place to be, but not necessarily receiving the recognition one should get in the moment. 

We would still have the overall classification, and that would remain the big prize, but something else to play for could bring more intrigue into those final stages, and give the competitors something else to shoot for.  

Can we find a better date for the Race of Champions?
Race of Champions took place this past weekend. One problem? It was the same weekend as the 24 Hours of Daytona. 

The Race of Champions once had a good place for itself in the middle of December. The Formula One season had been over for a few months, and testing for the next season wouldn't start until the start of January. IndyCar was in its offseason. NASCAR had just finished its season. Sports cars had been off for months. The World Rally Championship would be in the middle of its offseason, closer to the next season opener, Rallye Monte-Carlo, than the previous season finale. It was a great time. 

Then the world changed. Formula One's schedule expanded. The end of the season inched closer to December and then into December. The FIA World Endurance Championship developed and would race into November in some cases. Formula E emerged and would stage races of its own in December. ROC now takes place after the Dakar Rally, not before. The World Rally Championship doesn't have the same pull. Touring car racing doesn't have the same pull. The December date got squeezed out, and ROC was moved into the new year for some breathing room, but here it was taking place on the same weekend as another major event in the motorsports calendar. 

This year's event took a step back in quality of entrants. For the last seven or eight editions, the field is becoming more dependent retirees. Tom Kristensen has run 15 consecutive Race of Champions. David Coulthard has competed in 15 of the last 16 ROCs, missing only 2010. Mika Häikkinen ran this year. Petter Solberg is an ROC regular. All have been successful drivers, champions in their own right, but in 2023, are they the champions of the moment? 

There were six champions in this year's ROC, in line proportionally with most years since the event moved to stadiums in 2004, but the W Series, Extreme E, eTouring Car World Cup and Nitro Rallycross champions aren't really the upper-echelon of the motorsports world. 

The Formula One title-holder has not competed since 2012, same as the MotoGP title-holder. The most recent WRC title-holder to compete was Sébastien Loeb in 2010! The only WEC title-holder to compete was Timo Bernhard in 2018. The only Formula E champion to compete was the first Formula E champion, Nelson Piquet, Jr. in 2015, oh, and there happened to be a Formula E doubleheader to clash with this year's ROC weekend as well. Australia's Supercars champion hasn't appeared since 2014 and the NASCAR Cup champion hasn't appeared since 2007! That was Jimmie Johnson's second Cup title in case you wanted some context how long ago that was. 

Race of Champions has never been a collection of all the top champions from that season. It averages about five title-holders, about 27.8% of the field, a good mix. Not all great drivers end up being champion that year, but some good ones are being missed, and this weekend didn't help. Location might also be a problem. As fun as it might be to race on ice, it is hard to sell anyone on a trip toward the Arctic Circle this time of year. 

It is difficult to place Race of Champions when the winter has become cluttered with other series, but avoiding one of the biggest endurance races in the world, one that has been held at the same time of year for over six decades, would be a wise first choice. 

This event has incredible potential, it always has and once was a buzzing event, but in the last 20 years, it lives down to what it could be, and that is a great shame. Hopefully once everyone thaws out they can reassess and improve for 2024.

February Preview
The Bathurst 12 Hour returns to February after being canceled in 2021 and moved to May in 2022. After travel restrictions made last year's race less international, this year's race sees the return of many notable drivers and teams.

SunEnergy1 Racing won last year and it will be back with Jules Gounon, Luca Stolz and Kenny Habul in the #75 Mercedes-AMG, looking to become the first drivers to win this race in consecutive years since Christopher Mies and Darryl O'Young in 2011 and 2012. Mies will be in this race in the pro-am #777 Audi for Team MPC with Ricardo Feller and Yasser Shahin. 

Mercedes-AMG has a deep bench of entries alongside the SunEnergy1 team. Triple Eight race has Shane van Gisbergen and Broc Feeney paired with Maximilian Götz in the #888 Mercedes, and the #88 Mercedes has Jamie Whincup, Richie Stanaway and Prince Jeffri Ibrahim in a pro-am entry. Craig Lowndes leads another pro-am Mercedes, this being the #222 Scott Taylor Motorsports entry with Alex Daivson, Geoff Emery and Mr. Scott Taylor himself. 

There are also a few international heavy lineups. Philip Ellis, Nicky Catsburg and Daniel Juncadella will drive the #77 Mercedes for Theodore Racing with Craft-Bamboo while GruppeM Racing has entered the #999 Mercedes for Maro Engel, Mikaël Grenier and Raffaele Marciello. Ellis replaces Lucas Auer, who suffered a back injury in practice ahead of the 24 Hours of Daytona. 

Last year was Mercedes-AMG's second Bathurst 12 Hour victory, nine years after its first. 

Porsche's only Bathurst 12 Hour victory was in 2019, and it will have two cars entered. Manthey EMA Motorsport is the lone pro-class Porsche, the #912 for Matt Campbell, Mathieu Jaminet and Thomas Preining. Earl Bamber Motorsport and Grove Racing will run the #4 Porsche for Anton De Pasquale, Brenton Grove and Stephen Grove in pro-am.

Audi has three Bathurst 12 Hour victories and it looks to tie Mazda for the all-time lead in this race. Beside the #777 Audi, Team MC has the #74 Audi in the pro-class with Christopher Haase, Patric Niederhauser and Mattia Drudi entered. A pair of pro-am Audi to watch will be the #9 Hallmarc Racing entry with Lee Holdsworth, Dean Fiore and Marc Cini, and the #55 Schumacher Motorsports Fuchs Racing Audi with Frédéric Vervisch, James Golding and Brad Schumacher.

Audi's most recent victory came in 2018 with Team WRT, and Teams WRT is back but this time fields a pair of BMWs. Dries Vanthoor was one of the winning drivers five years ago and he will drive the #32 BMW with his usual GT World Challenge co-driver Charles Weerts and 2022 Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters champion Sheldon van der Linde. Team WRT's other car sees the debut of Valentino Rossi at Mount Panorama with Augusto Farfus and Maxime Martin joining the two-wheel legend in the #46 BMW. 

BMW has never won the Bathurst 12 Hour in the GT3-era. The Bavarian constructor's most recent victory in 2010 was with a BMW 335i touring car.

Bathurst again hosts the opening round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge championship on February 5. It will be a quick turnaround as the second round of the championship is the Kyalami 9 Hour February 25. Round three takes place over July 1-2 at the 24 Hours of Spa. The Indianapolis 8 Hour is the penultimate round on October 7 with the Gulf 12 Hours from the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi hosting the finale for the second consecutive year on December 10.

This year's Bathurst 12 Hour will begin at 1:45 p.m. Eastern on February 4 in the United States.

Other events of note in February:
NASCAR is back in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Clash and then it has the Daytona 500.
Formula E has two races scheduled for new venues, Hydrabad and Cape Town.
World Superbike season begins in Philip Island.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Musings From the Weekend: Are There Enough Team Owners?

Here is a rundown of what got me thinking… 

Mazda MX-5 Cup continues to be the best series in the world. There was also the 24 Hours of Daytona, and Hélio Castroneves made history while there was a photo finish. Now the race to Bathurst begins. While racing took place in Daytona, Sebring was in the news. Lost in the shuffle of the weekend, the Race of  Champions took place in Sweden, and Mattias Ekström is again the best driver in the world after defeating Mick Schumacher in the Champion of Champions competitor, just like how Ekström defeated Mick’s father Michael in 2007 and 2009. It is Ekström’s fourth Race of Champions title. Kudos to A.J. Foyt Racing and IndyCar, though it should have caught its faux pas earlier, but kudos nonetheless. But something from Daytona was on my mind…

Are There Enough Team Owners?
This year's 24 Hours of Daytona welcomed a new era for sports car racing, as it was the debut race for the LMDh specification prototypes, partaking in the GTP class, an homage to the great IMSA era that spanned most of the 1980s into the 1990s. 

While GTP harkens back to a glorious time for sports car racing, and at first blush this new age could be something special, there was something else that was familiar about this year's race at Daytona. It wasn't the manufactures, some continuing from the DPi-era and others returning to prototypes. It wasn't the Michelin tires, nor the green background of the Rolex logo painted on the walls and plastered around the racetrack. 

Penske, Ganaasi, Andretti, Shank, Rahal Letterman Lanigan. Where have I heard these names before? 

Five-sixths of the teams in the GTP class are also IndyCar teams. Thanks to Andretti Autosport's new partnership with Wayne Taylor Racing, the only GTP team without its fingers in IndyCar is Action Express Racing with its #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac. 

IndyCar teams have spread themselves to other series before. Most of these teams have deep ties to sports cars as well as IndyCar. Meyer Shank Racing was a sports car team first before entering IndyCar, but as IMSA enters this new era, the sports car dedicated teams are lacking in the premier class. 

There was once Extreme Speed Motorsports, Speedsource running the Mazda program before Team Joest and then Multimatic took over, Spirit of Daytona won races, CORE Autosport was once in the top class as was Krohn Racing. Bob Stalling Racing was a championship winning team as was Highcroft and Dyson Racing. What happened to Dyson Racing? 

Sports car racing had its own top teams, and ones that were beloved. They were the best out there, winning races with phenomenal drivers. They had their own identities and recognizable liveries. You knew the teams and watched with interest to see who would come out on top. 

But with GTP returning, we are seeing a shift and a loss of familiar names. However, these aren't new sports car teams coming in. These are existing teams, most known better for what it has done in open-wheel competition, filling the top class in IMSA. 

With the introduction of these LMDh-spec cars, we are seeing it require a different level of an organization to compete in IMSA's top class. These are greater than your typical sports car team. These are large organizations that have grown through diversifying where they compete. Also, the LMDh cars are not for the faint of heart financially. The Porsche 963 costs $2.9 million. 

We are seeing more cars competing at the top, not just in IMSA's GTP revival, but we will see it in the FIA World Endurance Championship's Hypercar class as well. Both series have more cars competing in the premier class with more manufacturers involved and more planning on entries in the coming years, but manufacturers are not bedrock you can trust. Once they sour on a program, whether it be because of cost or results, teams will disappear, and the independent outfits will be missed. 

The sportsman teams are still almost priced out of the top class in either series. There are a few exceptions. JDC-Miller MotorSports and Jota Sport are each awaiting delivery of a Porsche 963 to compete as customer teams in IMSA with Proton planning to run full-time in WEC as well. It is possible, but still difficult.

The smaller teams are priced out to a point of accepting relegation to another class, most likely a pro-am class, and making do in LMP2 or a GT3 class. 

It is the nature of the business. There was once a cost-affordable prototype class, but the Daytona Prototypes were not celebrated for their accessibility, rather derided for their simplicity. To have machine of this caliber it will not be cheap. It will not be for anyone with a few hundred thousand dollars laying around. It is a massive investment. Bigger teams with greater resources will make it work. Smaller teams will likely be unable to pull the funds together. It is no different from the LMP1 era, which was exclusively manufacturer teams for the most part. Customer cars are at least now possible with LMDh. 

There is a worry in having so many top teams also competing in another high-profile series. As much as these organizations want to be spread across these series, there will be moments where constraints are felt. Sponsorship dries up in one series. Performance drops in another. Attention is split. Headaches increase. Changes are necessary, and a team could decide to focus on one competition and not another. 

It cuts both ways. IndyCar should be as nervous IMSA. Neither series wants to lose teams, but they could find each other playing the roles of Sophie's children when a decision must be made. If it happening for four or five of the organization in both, one series could see a significant loss. 

This was the first weekend of this new age. There is plenty to be excited about, and rightfully so. The worst case scenario is not on our doorstep. Frankly, it is only a myth at the moment, but when considering it, there is a solution to make it completely avoidable. More dedicated sports car teams would relieve any concerns. Of course, that is easier said than done. 

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Mattias Ekström, but did you know...

The #60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura of Tom Blomqvist, Colin Braun, Hélio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud won the 24 Hours of Daytona. Castroneves joined Peter Gregg as the only drivers with three consecutive 24 Hours of Daytona victories. It was Blomqvist’s and Pagenaud’s second consecutive Daytona victory along with Meyer Shank Racing, while Braun picked up his first career overall victory and third class victory. 

In LMP2, the #55 Proton Competition Oreca-Gibson of James Allen, Gianmaria Bruni, Francesco Pizzi and Fred Poordad won by 0.016 seconds over the #04 Crowdstrike Racing by APR Oreca-Gibson of Ben Hanley, Matt McMurry, Esteban Gutiérrez and George Kurtz. It was the sixth closest finish in IMSA history. 

The #17 AWA Duqueine-Nissan of Wayne Boyd, Anthony Mantella, Thomas Merrill and Nicolás Varrone won in LMP3. The #79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG of Maro Engel, Jules Gounon, Daniel Juncadella and Cooper MacNeil won in GTD Pro. The #27 Heart of Racing Team of Roman De Angelis, Ian James, Marco Sorensen and Darren Turner won in GTD.

Norway won the Nations' Cup for the second consecutive year at Race of Champions with Petter and Oliver Solberg topping the Belgian-Brazilian All-Star duo of Thierry Neuville and Felipe Drugovich in Piteå, Sweden.

Chase Sexton won the Supercross Triple Crown round from Anaheim after winning the bookend races. Jason Anderson won the middle race. 

Pascal Wehrlein swept the Diriyah ePrix.

Louis Foster, Josh Mason and James Penrose split the three Formula Regional Oceania races from Manfeild. 

Coming Up This Weekend
NASCAR has its exhibition race, the Clash from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Supercross makes its way to Houston.
Formula Regional Oceania heads to Hampton Downs from the New Zealand Grand Prix.
IndyCar has testing from The Thermal Club in Palm Springs, California. 

Friday, January 27, 2023

2023 IndyCar Team Preview: Ed Carpenter Racing

Less than 40 days until the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series opener, 37 days remaining to be specific, and the team previews roll into Ed Carpenter Racing. ECR didn't win a race in 2022. It had a few good showings early, but the good days dwindled the deeper the season went. There was no noticeable improvement from the season before, and that is something the team will hope changes in 2023. The team is fielding the same drivers for the fourth consecutive season, hoping consistency leads to newfound success. 

At First Glance... This is fine
Yep. This is an IndyCar lineup. Rinus VeeKay is back. Conor Dally still occupies a seat. It has been the main ECR lineup since 2020. Why break it up? 

VeeKay won a race in his sophomore season after taking Rookie of the Year with a handful of memorable performances, including a podium finish from his maiden pole position. In year three, he had another podium finish from pole position, but these high watermark days are rare for the Dutchman. While he won in his sophomore season and had six top ten finishes through his first seven starts that year, he ended that season with eight consecutive finishes outside the top fifteen. He had a podium in 2022, but he also had seven finishes outside the top fifteen and 11 finishes outside the top ten in 17 races. 

On ECR's best days, it looks like VeeKay could replicate the later stages of Josef Newgarden's time with the team, but too often the Dutchman will fall in a four-race rut and you will forget it is even competing. 

Add to it that in the better part of three seasons being an ECR driver, Conor Daly has been disappointing and, depending on the mood of the observer, one could call this time dreadful. He has routinely been the second finisher in the two-horse ECR race despite having 50 starts on the Dutchman when VeeKay debuted in 2020. Those promising days as a super-sub for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Dale Coyne Racing and Carlin have not blossomed into sustained full-time success. 

But this is fine for ECR. Retaining the lineup says as much. 

VeeKay could have something and the team has already committed to him for the next few seasons. Daly has never cracked the top fifteen in the championship when a full-time driver, but this is enough for ECR at the moment. It could be more, and the team should strive for more. Not long ago it was in the championship battle om the final day of the season. The team has been looking for that spark post-Newgarden, and it took a few seasons, but something was recaptured with the hiring of VeeKay. The issue remains that all the pieces put together do not quite reach that higher level.

ECR was once a threat at multiple disciplines. It found ways to win races with Ed Carpenter himself as driver, and even Mike Conway, then Newgarden did something greater. But now the team can only find some magic every four or five races, and that magic isn't all that spectacular. 

It still shows speed at Indianapolis, but the truth is the team that is heralded as a oval contender hasn't won an oval race in nearly six and a half years and it hasn't broken through into the championship top ten since Newgarden's final season in 2016. 

This is a small team, but we know it can be greater than its current level. It felt like a sleeping giant for a few seasons, but perhaps ECR wasn't that big after all. It will take its fistful of top five finishes every season, obsess over the month of May and when it isn't drink milk after 500 miles it will rinse, wash and repeat.

2022 Ed Carpenter Racing Review
Wins: 0
Best Finish: 3rd (Barber)
Poles: 1 (Barber)
Championship Finishes: 12th (Rinus VeeKay), 17th (Conor Daly), 27th (Ed Carpenter)

Conor Daly - #20 BitNile Chevrolet
Numbers to Remember:
2,195: Laps completed during the 2022 season, the sixth most in IndyCar

2: Top ten finishes in his last 38 starts

17.6: Average championship finish when a full-time driver

What does a championship season look like for him?
It involves interdimensional travel, and the Conor Daly from the universe where Daly never goes to GP3 and instead runs the entire 2011 Indy Lights season where he is teamed with Josef Newgarden replacing the Conor Daly we currently have. 

After impressing IndyCar teams in that Indy Lights season, he would have gotten a full-time ride in the debut season of the DW12 chassis in 2012. Daly experiences the same growing pains as Newgarden, but he benefits from being another young American in the series and his bright days are noticed.

Daly continues to develop in IndyCar and he and Newgarden's careers grow parallel to one another, each having won races and moved to different teams. However, the alternate dimensional Daly got caught in some... wormhole? I don't know. Either way, he is now here on this plain of existence. He is better developed and the Conor Daly we know goes on a nationwide EDM tour, allowing the other Daly to drive. The other Daly is fantastic. He wins early, he wins often. He is reliable and is always in the top five and pulls off a championship that feels like pure fiction.

What does a realistic season look like for him?
We should be concerned that Daly has never broken the top fifteen in the championship his career. He has had a fractured career, but he has been in cars that should crack the top fifteen. He could get there, but it will require his best season ever, and it is difficult visualizing Daly scoring six or seven top ten finishes when two has been a stretch. He could possibly get four or five, putting him close to the top fifteen, but it isn't going to be much greater than that. 

Rinus VeeKay - #21 Sonax Chevrolet
Numbers to Remember:
1,890: Laps completed during the 2022 season, the second fewest among regular competitors

12: Races where VeeKay finished worse than or did not improve from his starting position

94: laps led in 2022, a single-season best

What does a championship season look like for him?
VeeKay maximizes the days he has speed. When he qualifies at the front or toward the front, he keeps moving forward in the race. Top ten tens become top fives. Top fives turn into podium results. The season begins with another drive forward into the top five at St. Petersburg and that is theme of the first quarter of the season. VeeKay moving forward. 

The qualifying form does not falter at Indianapolis and he is again on the front row, but this time he has the race of his career and gets a highly celebrated victory for Ed Carpenter Racing. The points from that weekend gives VeeKay the championship lead, but he has a slump, more a hangover for a few races. However, the team regains its composure over the summer and a victory in Mid-Ohio puts the team back in the championship fight. 

It is a contest until the very end. Each race you think the final twist has occurred only for it to turn in the opposite direction in the next race. A significant turn occurs when VeeKay is back at Indianapolis. In the second road course race, a victory regains him the championship lead by the slimmest of margins. Then he backs it up with a victory in Gateway and two clinical top ten performances closes out his championship season.

What does a realistic season look like for him?
The championship top ten is possible, but it will require VeeKay and ECR avoiding the summer slumps of the last two seasons. When VeeKay is on it, he looks as good as his contemporaries and we have seen him string together top ten runs. If he can extend those and spread those over the entire season, he could be seventh or eighth in the championship easily. 

He can sprinkle together nine top ten finishes in a season, three on road courses, three on street courses and three on ovals with two or three of those results being top five results with maybe one of those being a podium result. That is basically Alexander Rossi's 2022 season and that earned Rossi ninth in the championship. VeeKay could do that, but he could also end up only doing about two-thirds of that and end up between 12th and 14th in the championship again.

The 2023 NTT IndyCar Series begins on Sunday March 5 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. NBC and Peacock will have coverage of the race.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

2023 IMSA Season Preview

The long-anticipated 2023 IMSA season is finally here. Out with the DPi cars, in with the hybrid-powered return of the GTP class. 

Four manufactures will contest the premier class while a bumper 61 cars fill the entire grid for this year's season opener from Daytona. There are many questions ahead of this season. The new GTP machine are still in the infancy stage of development, and teams are discovering new problems when the cars break down. 

Ahead of this year's 24 Hours of Daytona, the feelings harken back to the GTP days of old, when no one was certain if the cars would make it to the end, and seeing the checkered flag could require some feathering of the throttle over the night just to see the sun rise and have a prayer at victory. 

The calendar looks mostly the same. Daytona remains the season opener, held this weekend over January 28 and 29. There will be six weeks or so off until the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 18 and a month after that will be the Long Beach sprint event for GTP and the two GTD classes. 

A month later, IMSA will be back in California for Laguna Seca, and four of the five class will compete on May 14 with LMP3 getting the weekend off. LMP3 will be back at the next round, the Six Hours of the Glen on June 25 before GTP, LMP3 and the GTD classes run at Mosport on July 9. 

The first of two GT-only rounds will be on July 22 at Lime Rock Park. All five classes will run at Road America on August 6 before the second GT-only round on August 27 at Virginia International Raceway. 

Indianapolis Motor Speedway returns to the calendar for a two-hour and 40-minute race on September 17 with all five classes competing. Indianapolis will be the penultimate round of the season with Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta closing out the year on October 14.

We will look over each entry for this year's race and assess its hopes for the season and the 24-hour classic.

Grand Touring Prototype
#01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-LMDh
Drivers: Renger van der Zande, Sébastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon

Why this car could win: It has one of the best drivers ever, not just in IndyCar but in all competitions, combined with another great driver who has won everywhere and then another reliable sports car driver. All three drivers have won the 24 Hours of Daytona overall. This is the only car in the GTP class where all of the drivers have won Daytona overall before. Ganassi is one of the best teams in 24 Hours of Daytona history. 

Cadillac has been good in IMSA. It was the best out of the box when DPi debuted. The car has been at the top and it was not experiencing the gremlins other teams had during the Roar test and we really haven't heard much from earlier testing either. 

Why this car will not win: Ganassi has not won overall since 2015, part of that reason is because it was running the Ford GT GTLM program for most of that time before returning to prototypes in 2021. Also, it is almost too good to be true to think this car will win. Cadillac is good, but this race is going to be a 24-hour learning experience. What we think we know in hour two could be completely disproven in hour 22.  

What to expect for the full season: This should be a championship caliber team. Bourdais and van der Zande had a poor start to last year, but ended strong. If the Cadillac is remotely competitive, the #01 Cadillac will be a force. It should win multiple races and really be one of the teams to beat. 

#02 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-LMDh
Drivers: Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn, Richard Westbrook

Why this car could win: Bamber and Lynn did a good job last season in DPi, most notably winning at Sebring. Bamber won the World Endurance GT Drivers' championship with Porsche in 2017, and he has twice won Le Mans overall. Westbrook is a steady driver. He has won in prototypes and the top GT programs. 

Why this car will not win: The other Cadillac is the full-time IMSA car. That should get priority late in the race and if both cars are on the same lap. Also, Westbrook's best overall finish in the 24 Hours of Daytona is third on three different occasions, including last year.

What to expect for the full season: This lineup will only run Daytona, as this trio prepares to be Cadillac's lineup in the FIA World Endurance Championship with the American manufacture going for the world championship in Hypercar. 

#6 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963
Drivers: Dane Cameron, Mathieu Jaminet, Nick Tandy

Why this car could win: Porsche has done the most testing and it has been at it for almost a year. This car was on a flier when Nick Tandy had this accident in qualifying, and if he had not crash, Tandy believes he could have been on pole position. The speed is there. Cameron has multiple IMSA championships and is a good rock to build around. Tandy found quick success in the Porsche 919 Hybrid when it entered LMP1 competition. Jaminet won last year at Daytona after a thrilling conclusion in GTD Pro. 

Why this car will not win: If any car was snakebitten during the Roar, it was the #6 Porsche. It had a few mechanical issues on Friday and then Tandy had an accident in qualifying at the chicane. It was a disjointed test session and this car keeps finding problems. Add to it Jaminet is getting his first prototype experience. 

What to expect for the full season: It will be Tandy and Jaminet full-time in this car. Tandy has plenty of experience in IMSA, but exclusively in GTLM/GTD Pro. I don't think that is going to be a detriment. Porsche has taken its GT drivers and moved them to the GTP program. We are going to learn a lot about these drivers, and Porsche has a bench that includes Romain Dumas and Richard Lietz if it needs to make a chance. Porsche will win races. It will challenge for the championship. It is just a matter of is Porsche leading the way or chasing. 

#7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963
Drivers: Matt Campbell, Micahel Christensen, Felipe Nasr

Why this car could win: Nasr was brilliant in IMSA and has two championships to show for it. Not to mention, Nasr took the Porsche to second on the grid in the final seconds of qualifying. Campbell has been quick everywhere he has been and he and Nasr were teamed together in the winning GTD Pro entry last year as Campbell went on to win the class championship with Jaminet. Christensen is a past world champion in the WEC GTE Pro and he was runner-up in that championship last year. The Dane also won at Daytona in GTD back in 2017.

Why this car will not win: Campbell and Christensen are both new to prototype racing. Another thing to note, Penske struggled in endurance races when it ran the Acura program in IMSA from 2018 to 2020. 

What to expect for the full season: In the Porsche camp, I give the #7 an edge because Nasr will be full-time and that prototype experience should count for something. Campbell has adapted quickly to many different scenarios in his career. I don't think this will cause the Australian to stumble. The #7 Porsche should be leading the way and should be responsible for a handful of firsts. 

#10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport Acura ARX-06
Drivers: Filipe Albuquerque, Ricky Taylor, Louis Delétraz, Brendon Hartley

Why this car could win: Come on... it is Wayne Taylor Racing. It won at Daytona in three of the previous four years. Albuquerque and Taylor came within touching distance of the championship last year. Delétraz had a breakout 2022 season where he won his second European Le Mans Series championship. Hartley won at Le Mans for a third time and he won his third World Endurance Drivers' championship last year. There is no weakness in this lineup.

Acura was quickest at the Roar test. It seemed to be consistently quicker than Porsche and Cadillac, not be a significant margin, but Acura was ahead all the time that you feel confident it has what it takes.

Why this car will not win: For the first time in a long time, the car is a question mark for WTR. Acura has shown teething issues in testing. The pace might be there, but we aren't sure this car will last 24 hours. They didn't appear to be devastating issues in testing, but they are still concerning. It feels like Porsche and Cadillac are better prepared for a 24-hour race.

What to expect for the full season: Though Acura might have a few things to work out, WTR should still be making its presence known. Albuquerque and Taylor will be fighting for podium spots and they should win at least one race, but this is going to be a grueling season and there is a chance we see the team's worst championship result since it was fifth in 2015.

#24 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8
Drivers: Philipp Eng, Augusto Farfus, Colton Herta, Marco Wittmann

Why this car could win: Herta has won in two of his first four starts at Daytona in two different classes.  Eng has won at Daytona before, albeit in GTLM, and with Herta and Farfus, and Farfus has won twice at Daytona while also being a solid touring car driver. Wittmann has two Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters championships. 

Why this car will not win: BMW has had many problems in testing. It couldn't get a 24-hour test in. The good news is pace does not appear to be an issue. BMW was the slowest, but still within 8/10ths of the top time in class. BMW could be set for a tortoise vs. hare race, but if the car has to push the limit, I am not sure it will last. Herta is the only driver in this bunch with prototype experience. Daytona could be a long race for BMW.

What to expect for the full season: It could be a long season for BMW. Eng and Farfus will be full-time. The other GTP lineups have more experience in similar machinery. Add to it the concerns about BMW's car, I don't think we will see either BMW in many competitive positions this season.

#25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8
Drivers: Connor De Phillippi, Nick Yelloly, Colton Herta, Sheldon van der Linde

Why this car could win: De Phillippi has won at Daytona before and has a long IMSA career. Van der Linde just won the DTM championship. Yelloly has done well in sports car racing since transitioning from single-seater series. Herta will be in both cars.

Why this car will not win: Take everything for the #24 BMW and it applies here. Herta is being split over two cars. It is almost BMW betting if one of the cars retires early then Herta will be fresh and focused for the other, but if both cars keep going, Herta could be spread thin. 

What to expect for the full season: It is De Phillippi and Yelloly full-time. I don't expect anything different from these two than I expect from Eng and Farfus. This is going to be a rough season and BMW could be set to make some changes early ahead of the 2024 season. 

#31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac V-LMDh
Drivers: Pipo Derani, Alexander Sims, Jack Aitken

Why this car could win: Derani won this race in 2016 and has been one of the best drivers in IMSA since he entered the championship. Sims has raced in IMSA before and just ran for Corvette in WEC. Aitken showed promise in the European junior series, which led to a Formula One start, before moving to sports cars and driving in LMP2 last year in WEC. 

Why this car will not win: This is Sims first time driving a prototype and Aitken only has one season of LMP2 under his belt. Also, the #31 Cadillac did not win a race last year, which you could argue means the team is due, but it is on a slump nonetheless. It doesn't help that the #31 Cadillac was the slowest of the three Cadillacs entered.

What to expect for the full season: Derani has Sims as his new co-driver this season. It is difficult imagining it getting worse than last year for Derani, which wasn't terrible, but was a shock after winning the championship in 2021. I trust Derani. I don't think Sims can match Derani's output and I don't think Sims is one of the top drivers in this class. They could win a race, but I could also see another winless season and winding up fifth or sixth in the championship again.

#60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-06
Drivers: Tom Blomqvist, Colin Braun, Hélio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud

Why this car could win: Meyer Shank Racing won last year. Three quarters of that lineup is still there.  It won pole position for this year's race. Acura is blisteringly quick. Castroneves has won the last two years. Blomqvist won the DPi championship last year. Braun has two class victories at Daytona, including in LMP2 in 2020 and just won his third IMSA class championship last year in LMP3.

Why this car will not win: Back-to-back victories are rare, though Wayne Taylor Racing just got off a run of consecutive victories. Castroneves is gunning to become only the second driver with three consecutive 24 Hours of Daytona victories with Peter Gregg. Three consecutive wins is rare. Life is a numbers game. The numbers are lining up against shank. Acura wasn't flawless in testing compared to some of the other GTP entries.

What to expect for the full season: Blomqvist won the title last year with Oliver Jarvis after remarkable consistency that saw five consecutive runner-up finishes in the middle of the season while bookending the season in victories. Braun nearly won the Prototype championship driving an LMP2 car with Jon Bennett in 2018. The driver quality is there for a repeat for MSR, but this season will come down to the car and its development. I expect a dip from 2022, but still a few strong days. If MSR is in the fight until the very end that will not be a surprise either.

#04 Crowdstrike Racing by APR Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Ben Hanley, Esteban Gutiérrez, George Kurtz, Matt McMurry

Why this car could win: McMurry won the LMP2 championship in 2019 and GTD title in 2020. Kurtz had good results in LMP3 the last few years. Hanley knows what he is doing in LMP2 and won this race in 2020. Gutiérrez was once in Formula One. For a new group, it showed good pace in testing.

Why this car will not win: It is a new team with many new faces coming together and Kurtz is making a big jump from LMP3 to LMP2.

What to expect for the full season: Crowdstrike is only running the Endurance Cup races.

#8 Tower Motorsports Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Josef Newgarden, Scott McLaughlin, John Farano, Kyffin Simpson

Why this car could win: Newgarden is a two-time IndyCar championship with 25 career victories. McLaughlin is coming off a breakout IndyCar season with three victories added to his historic Supercars career. Simpson has shown some pace in the junior series in the United States. Oh, and Farano is the defending LMP2 champion. 

Why this car will not win: This will be the first LMP2 race for Newgarden, McLaughlin and Simpson. Newgarden has not run a professional sports car race before let alone an endurance race. Farano had an accident in qualifying, meaning the car needed repairs. This team looks good on paper but looks can be deceiving. 

What to expect for the full season: Farano won the title last year with Louis Delétraz as his co-driver for most of the season. Delétraz will be busy, but he will run the sprint rounds. We don't know who will run the other endurance races, but Farano will put up a good title defense.

#11 TDS Racing Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Scott Huffaker, Mikkel Jensen, Steven Thomas, Rinus VeeKay

Why this car could win: Huffaker and Jensen won the Endurance Cup championship the last two seasons in LMP2 with Ben Keating and PR1/Mathiasen, and Jensen took the full season LMP2 title in 2021. Huffaker has shown good speed every year he has run in IMSA. Thomas had an impressive rookie season in WEC last year. VeeKay is quick and comfortable jumping into many different cars.

Why this car will not win: TDS Racing has another car entered in this class that will be hard to beat and that other car was already faster in qualifying. 

What to expect for the full season: Thomas will be full-time but his co-driver has not been confirmed. He has had success with different co-drivers before. Combined with the right driver, he could push for the championship, but until we know who Thomas is with, it will remain a question mark.

#18 Era Motorsport Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Ryan Dalziel, Dwight Merriman, Oliver Jarvis, Christian Rasmussen

Why this car could win: It won at Daytona two years ago. Dalziel and Merriman have a good partnership. Jarvis won overall last year at Daytona and has had success competing in LMP2. Rasmussen is still a quick young driver and rounds out this lineup nicely. 

Why this car will not win: The team had a gearbox issue take it out of the race and then didn't meet drive time for one of its drivers in 2022. There is always a way to lose one of these races. Plus, I think LMP2 has gotten tougher this season. 

What to expect for the full season: After being second in the championship last year, a championship is possible, but I don't think Dalziel and Merriman is the strongest pairing at the start of this season. They will put up a fight, but could finish second again.

#20 High Class Racing Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Dennis Andersen, Anders Fjordbach, Ed Jones, Raffaele Marciello

Why this car could win: Andersen and Fjordbach competed full-time in IMSA last year and improved over  the course of the season. Jones had a good first season in WEC driving in LMP2 for Jota Sport. Marciello is an underrated driver and won the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup title last year while also winning two of four Intercontinental GT World Challenge raes.

Why this car will not win: Andersen and Fjordbach are not the quickest amateur drivers and Jones and Marciello are not even to counterbalance that lack of pace. Plus, this will be Marciello's first race in an LMP2 car.

What to expect for the full season: High Class will run full-time for the Danes again in 2023. A couple podium results are possible, but victory most likely comes on a day when everyone else in class is having trouble. 

#35 TDS Racing Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Giedo van der Garde, François Heriau, Josh Pierson, Job van Uitert

Why this car could win: Van der Garde and van Uitert know each other well from their time with Racing Team Nederland. Pierson had a good first season in LMP2 competition last year driving in IMSA and WEC. Heriau has won in the European Le Mans Series, and he made his Daytona debut last year. This car was second in qualifying. 

Why this car will not win: One car is just a little bit better. This will be a tough entry to top. Pierson is also only 16 years old. He is still maturing as a driver. 

What to expect for the full season: Van der Garde and Heriau will drive full-time in IMSA. They have a shot at the championship. Both drivers will be learning these circuits, but I think they will pick them up quick and be competitive at every round. 

#51 Rick Ware Racing Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Austin Cindric, Devlin DeFrancesco, Pietro Fittipaldi, Eric Lux

Why this car could win: It has half of last year's LMP2 winning team, one of the most diverse 24-year-old race car drivers in the world and a driver who is wasting his talent waiting for a Formula One seat that will never be open but will start branching back into sports car racing in 2023. 

Why this car will not win: Come on? Is Rick Ware Racing actually going to win a race? This will be Cindric's first time in an LMP2 car and he is tall. Height can be a disadvantage in these prototypes. The Oreca is a tight cockpit. Also, no offense to Cindric and Fittipaldi, but I am not sure they are as good as Colton Herta and Patricio O'Ward.

What to expect for the full season: Rick Ware Racing has said it will field a full-time entry, but the full-time lineup is still questionable. It appears Lux will be full-time but his co-driver is unknown. 

#52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Paul-Loup Chatin, Ben Keating, Nicolas Lapierre, Alex Quinn

Why this car could win: This team won the LMP2 Endurance Cup championship the previous two seasons. Keating won the WEC GTE Am title last year. Keating took pole position by 1.210 seconds over the #35 TDS Racing entry. Lapierre has been one of the best drivers in LMP2 competition while Chatin has also been successful at this level. Quinn swept his only weekend in U.S. F2000 in 2022 on the IMS road course.

Why this car will not win: Quinn is new to sports car racing and there are strong entries in this class. One slip and it cost the team victory. Also, Keating's only Daytona victory was in GTD in 2015. 

What to expect for the full season: Keating will only be running the endurance races as he will also defend his WEC crown with a Corvette this year. Chatin will run the full season and the other sprint round drivers is still unconfirmed, but Patrick Kelly, 2020 LMP2 champion, is expected to be the driver. Chatin and Kelly can win races, which mean Chatin could win this championship. 

#55 Proton Competition Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Gianmaria Bruni, James Allen, Fred Poordad, Francesco Pizzi

Why this car could win: Bruni has been great in sports car racing, albeit almost exclusively in GT competition. Allen has won in LMP2 in ELMS competition. Pizzi is coming from single seaters and Poordad has run in GT World Challenge America.

Why this car will not win: It was the slowest car in LMP2 and this is the most inexplicable lineup at Daytona. How did these four drivers come together?

What to expect for the full season: Proton hopes to get a Porsche 963 to run in GTP. 

#88 AF Corse Oreca-LMP2
Drivers: Julien Canal, Nicklas Nielsen, François Perrodo, Matthieu Vaxivière

Why this car could win: This team has a lot of time together between WEC and ELMS competition. It has won championships in GTE Am competition. Last year, in LMP2, it was the top pro-am team in WEC and this best pro-am team in ELMS. Canal twice took the WEC LMP2 crown. This car was fourth in qualifying. Nielsen will be a Ferrari Hypercar driver this season.

Why this car will not win: It is a one-off and one-offs don't always click. Perrodo is still relatively new to LMP2 competition and it is his first Daytona appearance since 2017.

What to expect for the full season: This is a Daytona-only entry.

#13 AWA Duqueine D08-Nissan
Drivers: Matt Bell, Orey Fidani, Lars Kern, Mortiz Kranz

Why this car could win: Kranz has been successful in LMP3 competition on both sides of the Atlantic. Fidani, Kern and Bell ran together last year at Daytona and Petit Le Mans, and Kern won at Sebring in 2021 driving for Pfaff Motorsports in the GTD class. Fidani has won at Daytona before in the Michelin Pilot Challenge GS class and he was sixth in the LMP3 championship last year with Kern his co-driver for four races.

Why this car will not win: It is LMP3. Anything can happen. Any of these teams can have one minor error ruin their race and the race of another team as well. But this car was eighth out of nine cars in LMP3 qualifying.

What to expect for the full season: Bell and Fidani will be full-time. I think this team will be about where it was last year. 

#17 AWA Duqueine D08-Nissan
Drivers: Wayne Boyd, Anthony Mantella, Thomas Merrill, Nicolás Varrone

Why this car could win: Boyd has competed regularly in LMP3 in ELMS and has run in LMP2. Mantella drove in Prototype Challenge last year. Merrill ran the Endurance Cup races in LMP2 in 2021 with WIN Autosport and won at Watkins Glen. Varrone had a good season in ELMS last year in a GTE car. 

Why this car will not win: Half of the drivers are making their 24 Hours of Daytona debut and the other two are making their second Daytona start. This car was slowest in LMP3 qualifying.

What to expect for the full season: Boyd makes the move up to full-time competition from Prototype Challenge and Boyd will be his co-driver. I think the main competition will be the other AWA car all season.

#33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier-Nissan
Drivers: João Barbosa, Nico Pino, Nolan Siegel, Lance Willsey

Why this car could win: It has been runner-up the last two years at Daytona. Barbosa and Willsey have been together for the better part of the last two seasons. Pino won three ELMS races in LMP3 last year while finishing second in that class and he ran Daytona last year. Add on top of it Pino took pole position in the class. Siegel comes in after a strong Indy Pro 2000 season. 

Why this car will not win: Riley Motorsports is still fielding a car in this class. 

What to expect for the full season: Barbosa and Willsey should be one of the better cars in this class and likely pick up a victory or two. Any full-time entrant can win this championship. 

#36 Andretti Autosport Ligier-Nissan
Drivers: Gabby Chaves, Jarett Andretti, Dakota Dickerson, Rasmus Lindh

Why this car could win: Andretti won at Petit Le Mans last year with Chaves and Andretti. Dickerson and Lindh have both been successful in LMP3 competition. It was second quickest in LMP3 qualifying. This is a strong lineup. There isn't a driver you are overly concerned about.

Why this car will not win: For being Andretti Autosport, it has an underwhelming track record in LMP3 competition.  

What to expect for the full season: This will only be an Endurance Cup program, but Michael Andretti hinted that the team will participate in some GTD Sprint Cup rounds this season. 

#38 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier-Nissan
Drivers: Christoper Allen, Connor Bloum, John De Angelis, Cameron Shields

Why this car could win: Performance Tech has been an IMSA regular for a long time and has had success in the past. Somehow, this group wound up third in qualifying. 

Why this car will not win: This is an inexperienced lineup. It doesn't feel ready to complete a 24-hour race.

What to expect for the full season: The belief is Performance Tech will run this car full-time, but details beyond Daytona are hazy.

#43 MRS GT-Racing Ligier-Nissan
Drivers: Sebastián Álvarez, Danial Frost, Guilherme Oliveira, James Frech.

Why this car could win: French won at Daytona in Prototype Challenge in 2017 and won the PC championship that season. He also won at Petit Le Mans in LMP2 in 201. Oliveira was marvelous in LMP3 last year's ELMS season with three victories driving for Inter Europol Competition where Pino was his co-driver. Frost has been a good driver in the Road to Indy series. The car was fourth in qualifying! 

Why this car will not win: It is a GT team moving up to LMP3 with a hodgepodge of drivers. 

What to expect for the full season: This appears to be a Daytona-only entry.

#74 Riley Motorsport Ligier-Nissan
Drivers: Gar Robinson, Felipe Fraga, Josh Burdon, Glenn van Berlo

Why this car could win: It has won every year LMP3 has run the 24 Hours of Daytona. Fraga is much better than an LMP3 car. Robinson is a tough man to beat in this class.

Why this car will not win: Three consecutive victories? That is asking a lot. Nothing lasts forever.  

What to expect for the full season: Robinson and Fraga will be full-time again. With CORE Autosport gone, this is the clear class favorite. This team should win multiple races and be one of the toughest to beat.

#85 JDC-Miller MotorSports Duqueine D08-Nissan
Drivers: Till Bechtolsheimer, Mason Filippi, Tijmen van der Helm, Luca Mars

Why this car could win: It is a team with experience in the top class of IMSA competition. Bectholsheimer and Filippi have been successful in Michelin Pilot Challenge competition. Van der Helm had a good first season in ELMS last year.

Why this car will not win: It is a piecemeal lineup without much cohesion.  

What to expect for the full season: JDC-Miller is waiting for delivery of its Porsche 963, which may not come in time for the month of April. It is unclear how many LMP3 races JDC-Miller will do in the interim, but expectations is it will field a GTP entry at some point this season.

#87 FastMD Racing Duqueine D08-Nissan
Drivers: Yu Kanamaru, Nick Boulle, Antonio Serravalle, James Vance

Why this car could win: Boulle won the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2017 in the Prototype Challenge class. Serravalle brings Road to Indy experience. Kanamaru had good runs in a handful of European junior series not long ago. 

Why this car will not win: Boulle is not as active as he once was, Kanamaru and Serravalle are Daytona rookies and Vance is making his first Daytona appearance since 2015. 

What to expect for the full season: FastMD plans on running the entire season. 

#3 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R GTD
Drivers: Antonio García, Tommy Milner, Jordan Taylor

Why this car could win: Taylor and García have each won three times at Daytona, including together in 2021. They have won two of the last three GTD Pro/GTLM championships. Milner won at Daytona in GTLM in 2016 and won four times in his last full IMSA season in 2021. 

Why this car will not win: There might be only nine cars, but GTD Pro will be a pure battle royale with eight different manufacturers represented in class. If any team slips up, it could cost that team the race. It could be incidental but still be crushing. 

What to expect for the full season: Corvette is always in the championship discussion. That will not change this year. It won at Sebring last year. I expect more than one victory in 2023. 

#9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R
Drivers: Klaus Bachler, Patrick Pilet, Laurens Vanthoor

Why this car could win: Pfaff Motorsports won this race last year as well as the GTD Pro championship and that was a year after it won the GTD title, where Vanthoor was one of its drivers. Vanthoor and Pilet went toe-to-toe with Pfaff last year driving a Porsche for KCMG last year, only to finish third after the physical battle in the closing laps.

Why this car will not win: None of these three drivers were in that winning Pfaff team last year. Those drivers are all now spread among the Porsche 963s. Also, the Porsches are struggling with speed and it is attributed to how Balance of Performance was set.

What to expect for the full season: Pfaff has Bachler and Pilet set for its full-time program. I don't see a championship. Perhaps a race victory or two, but a step back from what Campbell and Jaminet accomplished in 2022. If Pfaff does win the title, it is not as emphatic as it did last year.

#14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3
Drivers: Ben Barnicoat, Jack Hawksworth, Mike Conway

Why this car could win: Barnicoat and Hawksworth ended 2022 with finishes of third, first, third and first over the final four races. The #14 Lexus was second in the GTD Pro championship. Throw in Mike Conway, a two-time World Endurance Drivers' champion and past overall Le Mans winner and this is a dangerous all-British lineup.

Why this car will not win: This is going to be Conway's first race in this car and Lexus isn't known for Daytona success.

What to expect for the full season: Barnicoat and Hawksworth could win the championship. They should be in the fight again this year with a few victories.

#23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3
Drivers: Ross Gunn, David Pittard, Alex Riberas

Why this car could win: Gunn and Riberas ended that season with eight consecutive top five finishes. Pittard is experienced in many different GT3 competitions. The car missed out on GTD Pro pole position by 0.041 seconds, and Aston Martin was consistently at the top of the charts in testing.

Why this car will not win: This is a good trio, but there are a handful that are better.

What to expect for the full season: Respectable results, perhaps a victory, but nothing spectacular. 

#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3
Drivers: James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi, Davide Rigon, Daniel Serra

Why this car could win: Calado and Pier Guidi are coming off another GT World Endurance Drivers' Championship. Rigon and Serra are provide entities and won the GTD Pro Endurance Cup championship last year. . These four drivers wound up second last year in this race 

Why this car will not win: This is the first race for the Ferrari 296 GT3. It is against tried and true competition. Not many cars win on debut. It doesn't help that Risi was the slowest in GTD Pro qualifying and over a half-second behind the next slowest car.

What to expect for the full season: Another crack at the Endurance Cup.

#63 Iron Lynx Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2
Drivers: Mirko Bortolotti, Andrea Caldarelli, Romain Grosjean, Jordan Pepper

Why this car could win: Lamborghini has a great record in the 24 Hours of Daytona. Caldarelli and Pepper were nearly unbeatable in GT World Challenge America. Caldarelli won in GTD at Daytona in 2020 while Bortolotti won in GTD at Daytona in 2018 and 2019. Grosjean is returning to sports car racing after a brief cup of coffee over a decade ago, but he has found new life in the last few years. 

Why this car will not win: It is really difficult to make an argument against this team other than Iron Lynx will just be getting its arms around the Lamborghini, and it doesn't help that Lamborghini was sixth in qualifying.

What to expect for the full season: It will be an Endurance Cup entrant. 

#64 TGM/TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT3
Drivers: Ted Giovanis, Hugh Plumb, Matt Plumb, Owen Trinkler

Why this car could win: It will be on the grid. You have to be there to have a chance. TGM is a close-knit team, competing together last year at Daytona and all these drivers run together in Michelin Pilot Challenge. There is always a chance of eight other cars retiring, but TGM was showing its own raw pace as Aston Martin was regularly one of the quickest at the Roar.

Why this car will not win: It is a pro-am lineup competing against the pros because it is looking to take advantage of the different drive time regulations for GTD Pro. It is the weakest car in class in terms of drivers. Though it was showing good speed, its hope for any type of respectable result lie with this being a race of attrition.

What to expect for the full season: These drivers will be full-time competitors in Michelin Pilot Challenge.

#79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: Maro Engel, Jules Gounon, Daniel Juncadella, Cooper MacNeil

Why this car could win: Gounon and Juncadella won the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup championship, which included a victory in the Spa 24 Hours. Engel has a fabulous record in GT3 competition. MacNeil is competent and knows what he is doing. Engel took GTD Pro pole position. 

Why this car will not win: WeatherTech Racing does not have a great record at the 24 Hours of Daytona.

What to expect for the full season: Gounon and Juncadella will be full-time in this car. They will win races and contest for the championship. 

#95 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3
Drivers: Bill Auberlen, John Edwards, Chandler Hull, Bruno Spengler

Why this car could win: Auberlen has the most victories in IMSA history while Edwards won at Daytona in 2020. Spengler has become a Daytona regular over the last few seasons and he was one of the best drivers in DTM over the 2010s. Turner is used to competing against larger grids in GTD. Nine cars in GTD Pro will not make them blink.

Why this car will not win: This is a deep class. Hull will be one of the more inexperienced drivers in class. 

What to expect for the full season: Auberlen and Hull will compete for the GTD Sprint Cup championship, a title they could win and should be competitive in. This car will run for the Endurance Cup championship in GTD Pro with Edwards. 

#1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3
Drivers: Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, Maxime Martin, Corey Lewis

Why this car could win: Paul Miller Racing is one of the top teams in GTD. Sellers and Snow are one of the best combinations in the class. They won this race two years, and Lewis was a member of that winning team as well. Martin only brings more strength to this group after years with the Aston Martin program. 

Why this car will not win: This team struggled in endurance races last year, finishing outside the top ten at Sebring and Watkins Glen, and it doesn't help that the team was 11th in qualifying.

What to expect for the full season: Sellers and Snow can win the championship. They were Sprint Cup champions last year and were only out of the full GTD title because BMW didn't have a new M4 GT3 ready for Paul Miller Racing to run at Daytona last year. They will win multiple times and be fighting for silverware at Petit Le Mans. 

#12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3
Drivers: Aaron Telitz, Frankie Montecalvo, Kyle Kirkwood, Parker Thompson

Why this car could win: There are proven race winners in this car with Telitz, Montecalvo and Kirkwood. Thompson was consistently good in the Road to Indy and he has kept up in Porsche Carrera Cup North America competition. 

Why this car will not win: Lexus has not done well the last three years at Daytona, with only one top ten finish during that timeframe. 

What to expect for the full season: It will be Telitz and Montecalvo again full-time in this car. Their results were up and down all season in 2022. A race victory is not out of the question, but they have to seize whatever moment they are given. If they maximize their potential, a championship is possible, but they are currently outsiders for the title. 

#16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R
Drivers: Jan Heylen, Ryan Hardwick, Dennis Olsen, Zacharie Robichon

Why this car could win: It won last year! The only difference is Olsen is in for Richard Lietz. Hardwick and Heylen wound up second in the championship. They know each other well after years of racing with one another. Robichon is always quick. This is a proper quartet.

Why this car will not win: It is a 24-hour race and repeating is difficult, and none of the Porsche teams are happy with BoP. This was the quickest Porsche in GTD, and it was 14th out of 24 cars. Out of the 33 GTD cars between the two classes, none of the Porsches cracked the top 20. 

What to expect for the full season: Another championship push, a few race victories, and maybe this is the year Wright Motorsports comes out on top. 

#19 Iron Lynx Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2
Drivers: Raffaele Giammaria, Rolf Ineichen, Franck Perera, Claudio Schiavoni

Why this car could win: Ineichen has won at Daytona twice, one of those years was with Perera. Giammaria and Schiavoni have been co-drivers the last two years at Le Mans, and they were third in WEC GTE Am in 2021. 

Why this car will not win: Ineichen has not had the same kind of luck at Daytona as he did before, and Giammaria has only run at Le Mans the last two years.

What to expect for the full season: This entry will only run at Daytona. 

#21 AF Corse Ferrari 296 GT3
Drivers: Francesco Castellacci, Simon Mann, Luis Pérez Companc, Miguel Molina

Why this car could win: Castellacci has plenty of GT3 experience while Mann and Pérez Companc were co-drivers in the Endurance Cup races last year and were in the top five at Daytona and Sebring before finishing second in the Endurance Cup championship. Molina brings some muscle to this lineup. He was third in GTE Pro last year in WEC and Molina is set for a Hypercar ride for Ferrari.

Why this car will not win: It feels like Molina will have to carry this entry too much and not be enough to win the race. AF Corse was 17th in qualifying.

What to expect for the full season: At the moment, this car is only entered for Daytona. 

#023 Triarsi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3
Drivers: Andrea Bertolini, Alesio Rovera, Charlie Scardina, Onofrio Triarsi

Why this car could win: Rovera has been burst on the scene the last few season with a WEC GTE Am title and good results in LMP2 last year in WEC and ELMS. Bertolini won that same GTE Am championship in 2015 and has had good results in the GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup's pro-am class. 

Why this car will not win: This feels like the most amateur of the entries in this pro-am class, and it is a team new to IMSA. It was 21st in qualifying.

What to expect for the full season: Triarsi will compete only in the endurance races.

#27 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3
Drivers: Roman De Angelis, Ian James, Marco Sørensen, Darren Turner

Why this car could win: This is the defending GTD championship team. De Angelis was third in the championship the year prior. Sørensen is a three-time world champion, including winning in WEC GTE Am last year, which included a victory at Le Mans. James was the endurance driver last year and there is no doubt in Turner's ability. 

Why this car will not win: Heart of Racing does not have great results at Daytona. It is the one race the team struggles at.

What to expect for the full season: De Angelis can defend his championship with Sørensen as his co-driver. This is a great pairing. It would not be surprising if this pair wins the title with a few race victories for good measure. 

#32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: Maximilian Götz, Mikaël Grenier, Kenton Koch, Mike Skeen

Why this car could win: Korthoff was third in the championship last year with Skeen in the lineup. Götz has won his fair share of GT3 races in a number of series, and he was DTM champion in 2021. Grenier has spent the last few seasons driving a Mercedes-AMG. Koch has a Daytona class victory. Mercedes-AMG took the top three spots on the grid.

Why this car will not win: With Stevan McAleer leaving, this is an entirely different lineup compared to last year. It is a big change. Also, it was the third fastest Mercedes-AMG! It will have a fight on its hands just within the Mercedes-AMG camp. 

What to expect for the full season: A step back. Grenier will be Skeen's co-driver over the full season. Third in the championship is a stretch. There could be a few competitive days. 

#42 NTE Sport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2
Drivers: Jaden Conwright, Alessio Deledda, Kerong Li, Don Yount

Why this car could win: Conwright and Yount competed together last year. Li is coming from the European Lamborghini Super Trofeo series. Deledda competed in DTM last year. 

Why this car will not win: The team struggled for results last year. It was the slowest car in qualifying. Li is an unknown. Deledda hasn't lit the world on fire in any series he has participated in. 

What to expect for the full season: It is unclear. NTE has registered for the full season but the team hasn't announced any full-time drivers.

#44 Magnus Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3
Drivers: Andy Lally, John Potter, Spencer Pumpelly, Nicki Thiim

Why this car could win: Magnus Racing has won this race before. This team was second in class last year. The Aston Martin is a quality car. Thiim is a great driver. 

Why this car will not win: Magnus Racing has not won since at Lime Rock Park in 2016.

What to expect for the full season: Magnus Racing will only run the endurance races.

#47 Cetilar Racing Ferrari 296 GT3
Drivers: Alessandro Balzan, Antonio Fuoco, Roberto Lacorte, Giorgio Sernagiotto

Why this car could win: Balzan has had plenty of success in IMSA competition and twice was GTD champion. Fuoco is set for a Ferrari Hypercar role after years of GT success and he, along with Lacorte and Sernagiotto, won at Sebring last year.

Why this car will not win: We don't know if the new Ferrari will have all the kinks ironed out, and while this team won Sebring, this is a tough field, and Balzan has only one start over the previous two years.

What to expect for the full season: Cetilar Racing will be full-time in IMSA this season. I think competition will be difficult and it will be difficult for this car to get on the podium. 

#53 MDK Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R
Drivers: Jan Magnussen, Mark Kvamme, Trenton Estep, Jason Hart

Why this car could win: Magnussen has won at Daytona before in GTLM and has fantastic history in endurance races. Magnussen and Kvamme did well in December in the Gulf 12 Hours. Estep was fourth in Porsche Carrera Cup North America last year. Hart has won the GT4 America Pro-Am championship the previous two years.

Why this car will not win: Magnussen has been away from regular competition the last few years. Kevin Magnussen was supposed in this car before hand surgery took him out of the car. There are too many question marks compared to other entries in this class. Hart is jumping from GT4 to GT3.

What to expect for the full season: This is a Daytona-only entrant.

#57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: Russell Ward, Philip Ellis, Indy Dontje, Lucas Auer

Why this car could win: Three quarters of these drivers won this race two years ago. This quartet ran together last year. Ellis won pole position for this race. Auer has been strong in DTM, finishing second in the championship last year. This car was on pole position last year before finishing sixth in class. Ellis and Ward won two of the final three races last year in this class.

Why this car will not win: There are two-dozen cars in this class. At least 23 cars are going to lose. Being fast in qualifying does not mean you will win a 24-hour race. The odds are not in its favor. Somebody ends up being better. Winward will be in the conversation though. 

What to expect for the full season: More of the same from Ward and Ellis. Good pace, a couple of race victories, and maybe they can win the championship. It is a tough class.  

#66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3
Drivers: Katherine Legge, Sheena Monk, Mario Farnbacher, Marc Miller

Why this car could win: Legge and Farnbacher have both excelled in the Acura NSX GT3. Monk is moving up after a good stint in the Michelin Pilot Challenge GS class. Miller has run many different types of cars and is a reliable driver. Gardient won at Petit Le Mans last year. It enters on a high, and it was fifth in qualifying.

Why this car will not win: Since reunification, no team has won the season finale in GTD and then won in class at the 24 Hour of Daytona the following year. In fact, since reunification, across all classes, only twice has the winner of a season finale gone on to win at Daytona the following year. Wayne Taylor Racing did it after winning Petit Le Mans overall in 2018 and then won overall at Daytona in 2019. Riley Motorsports won in LMP3 at Petit Le Mans in 2021 and then won in LMP3 at Daytona in 2022. 

What to expect for the full season: Legge and Monk will be full-time. I think Monk will have a few rough weekends with the change. Results will improve over the course of the season as Legge guides the team.

#70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3
Drivers: Brendan Iribe, Ollie Millroy, Frederik Schandorff, Marvin Kirchhöfer

Why this car could win: Inception Racing is coming off taking the Endurance Cup championship last year. These drivers have a lot of experience racing with one another. Iribe and Millroy also found success in GT World Challenge Europe last year. It was sixth in qualifying.

Why this car will not win: I know it won the Endurance Cup last year, but there are deeper teams here. It will be difficult to crack the top five let alone win the race.

What to expect for the full season: A few good days but I think this will mostly be a mid-field team. 

#75 Sun Energy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: Kenny Habul, Fabian Schiller, Axcil Jefferies, Luca Stolz

Why this car could win: Sun Energy1 has good results in endurance races around the world. This team won the Bathurst 12 Hour last year The team has been competitive in the past at Daytona. It was second quickest in qualifying despite being a late entry. 

Why this car will not win: Jefferies is making his Daytona debut... outside of that, the biggest concern is the other Mercedes-AMGs, now that the BoP adjustments have come out and Mercedes-AMG has received no changes.  

What to expect for the full season: This will be an endurance-only program.

#77 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R
Drivers: Alan Brynjolfsson, Kévin Estre, Trent Hindman, Maxwell Root

Why this car could win: Estre is a top tier driver and was runner-up in WEC's GTE Pro championship the last two seasons. The Frenchman will be in the Porsche 963 for WEC this season. Hindman and Brynjolfsson are coming off the Michelin Pilot Challenge GS championship. Root has been a regular Porsche Carrera Cup North America competitor. 

Why this car will not win: Porsche's BoP issues has this car 18th on the grid. Root isn't quite on the same level as the other three drivers in this team. If Porsche catches a break, this car could be in contention late, but it will need some help.

What to expect for the full season: Off the GS championship, Hindman and Brynjolfsson move up to GTD. A championship feels like a stretch in year one, but I think they can be on the podium a few times and possibly pull off a race victory.

#78 US RaceTronics Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2
Drivers: Misha Goikhberg, Loris Spinelli, Benja Hites, Marco Mapelli

Why this car could win: Lamborghini has a good history at Daytona in this class and Mapelli has shown his brilliance in this race before. Goikhberg brings prototype experience into this lineup. Hites ran at Daytona last year. 

Why this car will not win: Only one Lamborghini cracked the top ten in GTD qualifying, and it wasn't this car. This was the third quickest Lamborghini, 16th in class. 

What to expect for the full season: It is unclear how many races USRT will run in 2023.

#80 AO Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R
Drivers: P.J. Hyett, Gunar Jeannette, Sebastian Priaulx, Harry Tincknell

Why this car could win: Priaulx is coming off a strong 2022 where he won twice in WEC's GTE Am class, were Tincknell was his co-driver, and Priaulx was second in LMP3 last year at Daytona. Tincknell is a stout driver and had a great spell driving for Mazda in DPi. Jeannette has plenty of experience. 

Why this car will not win: Again, Porsche BoP. This car was 21st in qualifying. This is Jeannette's first IMSA race since 2018. Hyett is fairly new to racing and he will be making his Daytona debut. It is going to be too much for Priaulx and Tincknell to handle.

What to expect for the full season: Hyett and Jeannette will run full-time, but they will also be full-time in WEC's GTE Am class. There are two weekend conflicts, Portimão and Long Beach and Monza and Mosport. Something will have to give on those weekends. I expect mostly tough results, but 2023 being a building season for 2024.

#83 Iron Dames Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2
Drivers: Sarah Bovy, Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting, Doriane Pin

Why this car could win: These four drivers have jelled in ELMS and WEC competition. Iron Dames was third in the ELMS GT championship last year and won the season finale at Portimão. They won the Gold Cup classs in the Spa 24 Hours last year. Pin is one of the brightest prospects on the grid. 

Why this car will not win: Only Frey has Daytona experience. This is the first time for the other three drivers in this race. This is a deep field, deeper than the ELMS fields. 

What to expect for the full season: Bovy, Frey and Gatting will run in WEC's GTE Am class while Pin will run in LMP2 for Prema Racing. 

#91 Kelly-Moss with Riley Porsche 911 GT3 R
Drivers: Julien Andlauer, Kay van Berlo, Jaxon Evans, Alan Metni

Why this car could win: Andlauer has been one of Porsche's more impressive young drivers, already having a 24 Hours of Le Mans GTE Am class victory to his name while winning races in Asian Le Mans Series and Le Mans Cup. Van Berlo won in Daytona last year in LMP3 while Evans is coming off a good first season in WEC competition. 

Why this car will not win: It is a Porsche. This will be Evans and Metni's first times running Daytona. If Porsche does get some pace back, I think this could be a sleeper in the race.

What to expect for the full season: Van Berlo and Metni will be full-time. Both drivers competed in Porsche Carrera Cup North America last year. They could be challenge for a few top five finishes and possibly sneak on the podium. A victory feels like a stretch. 

#92 Kelly-Moss with Riley Porsche 911 GT3 R
Drivers: Jeroen Bleekemolen, David Brule, Andrew Davis, Alex Udell

Why this car could win: Bleekemolen has won many times in IMSA competition and was a frequent championship challenger not long ago. Davis has won multiple times in IMSA competition and Udell has plenty experience from GT World Challenge American competition. 

Why this car will not win: What else can I say, but it is a Porsche. It is a good group of drivers, but not a great one. Davis last competed at Petit Le Mans in 2021. This is Udell's Daytona debut. Brule's only previous Daytona start was in 2004! His co-drivers were Butch Leitzinger, Elliott Forbes-Robinson and Jimmie Johnson in a Daytona Prototype!

What to expect for the full season: Udell and Brule will be full-time. This will be the second of the two Kelly-Moss Porsches, and this car will finish in the bottom half of the GTD championship.

#93 Racers Edge Motorsports with WTR Acura NSX GT3
Drivers: Ryan Briscoe, Kyle Marcelli, Ashley Harrison, Daniel Formal

Why this car could win: Briscoe is a past overall winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona and he has a decorated career across multiple forms of motorsports. Marcelli has plenty of endurance race experience while Harrison did well in her first taste of IMSA last year. This car wound up fourth on the grid.

Why this car will not win: While having Briscoe and Marcelli as drivers, it is still an inexperienced group with a team that is relatively new to IMSA. 

What to expect for the full season: This will be an endurance only program. Briscoe is only on board for Daytona.

#96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3
Drivers: Patrick Gallagher, Jens Klingmann, Robby Foley, Michael Dinan

Why this car could win: Klingmann is coming off an overall victory in the Dubai 24 Hour. Foley has regularly won races over the last four IMSA seasons. Gallagher is experienced in Michelin Pilot Challenge competition. Turner Motorsport is a strong team. 

Why this car will not win: It is a good group, but there are a few other lineups that just seem to have more. This will be Gallagher's second Daytona start. It will need to find some speed after qualifying 12th. 

What to expect for the full season: Gallagher and Foley is the full-time duo in this car. They should be challenging for a few victories, but it will be tough to be the best Turner car all season let alone the best in GTD. 

Practice resumes for a 90-minute session on Thursday at 11:05 a.m. ET. There will be two more practice sessions Thursday, an hour and 45-minute session at 3:20 p.m. and another hour and 45-minute session at 7:15 p.m.

There will be a one-hour session at 11:20 a.m. on Friday with a 20-minute GTP-only shake down held at 6:25 p.m. 

The start for the 61st 24 Hour of Daytona will be at 1:40 p.m. and run for 24 hours ending at 1:40 p.m. on Sunday.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Musings From the Weekend: Names Go Away

Sébastien Ogier made some rally history with his ninth Rallye Monte-Carlo victory, breaking a tie with Sébastien Loeb for the event record. It was also Ogier's 56th World Rally Championship victory. The LMHd cars took to the track in their first official sessions. Red Bull has three academy drivers named Enzo. A.J. Foyt Racing and IndyCar showed some ignorance and it could come back to bite them. Some race car drivers attended a basketball game. Travis Pastrana will attempt to qualify for the Daytona 500. The final IndyCar seats for the 2023 season have been filled. Here is a rundown of what got me thinking.

Names Go Away
One name will be missing from the NASCAR grid this season when cars first circle the temporary oval at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. That name will also not be at the Daytona 500 nor Fontana nor any of the other tracks on the 2023 schedule. It is not that the person is gone, but the world of NASCAR keeps spinning, and change is normal, even if it is arguably the most famous family in NASCAR.

The Petty name has been on the grid since the very first race in NASCAR history. Petty Enterprises made its debut as a tea on August 7, 1949 in Occoneechee Speedway in Hillsborough, North Caroina, the third race in NASCAR Cup Series history. Outside of a brief period when Chrysler was boycotting in the 1960s, a Petty owned car has been there. A Petty family member will still be involved in ownership, but no team name will have "Petty" on the transporters parked in the garage areas. No Petty team name will be said over the airwaves. 

From Petty Enterprises to Richard Petty Motorsports to Petty GMS Racing, the name has been there, but with Jimmie Johnson joining the organization as a co-owner, the organization has changed its identity, no longer tied to the family that has been there through it all or any family at all. Legacy Motor Club will be on the track, recognizing the history of its co-owners while creating a new identity for a race team in the 21st century. 

It will take some adjusting to the absence of the name Petty in a race team. When the family has been fielding cars since the very first NASCAR race, this is notable shift, especially as the NASCAR Cup Series is about to commence its 75th season. But change is natural, and the Petty name leaving NASCAR in a official competing capaacity was bound to happen someday. 

Nothing lasts forever, and plenty of historic names that were once engrained in the identity of different forms of motorsports are no longer there, NASCAR included.

There was once a time it was unthinkable the names Junior Johnson, Bud Moore, DiGard and Holman-Moody would not be on the NASCAR grid. We are approaching 30 years since any of those teams entered a Cup race. NASCAR continued onward. It will continue without Petty. A day will come when Hendrick Motorsports is not out there, Team Penske is missing and Richard Childress Racing is absent. It is natural. 

Motorsports is not like another team sports. These teams are not tied to a community and spread around the country. They are not rallying points for generations to share in the corners of Green Bay, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. These are more mom-&-pop shops though they may be worth millions of dollars. An individual or a small group start a team, build up the company and either succeed or fail. Those that succeed are around for decades. Families become accustomed to the team's presence, but its presence and its identity is dependent on who owns it. Some families move on. Children become interested in something other than what dad created. It is closed down or sold on, and that new owner will make it his own. Some will keep an identity if it recognizable, but it most cases it will change. 

Not even the Petty name could live forever on a race team. It is almost better that way. In a few instances has a team name outlived its etymology. McLaren is one of the fewest examples. It normally works for manufactures. Ferrari, Ford, Maserati, Chevrolet, Lamborghini. Teams are not so lucky. 

This change is ok. There have been plenty of historic names that are no longer featured in their respectable motorsports discipline. Lou Moore was the first car owner to win five Indianapolis 500s, and Moore's name hasn't been on a grid in 70 years. Patrick Racing had three great decades in IndyCar and is no longer around. Newman-Haas Racing won over 100 times in IndyCar and its last race was in 2011. There hasn't been a Brabham entry in Formula One in over 30 years. Tyrell's final race was in 1998. Both won world championship. Neither survived the test of time. 

It is a loss, but it is not the end. Motorsports has survived countless of notable names leaving when they otherwise seemed to be immortal. There will come a day where Andretti, Earnhardt, Ganassi and Williams are no longer around. But other names arise. Other names fill the history books. Each generation has its own great team. The team names that last decades are the rare few. 

The 21st century is a different period for motorsports. Team names are becoming more vague, more detached from one person or a group of people. Trackhouse, Legacy, these teams are trying to build an identity beyond a name. Teams are no longer teams. The goal is to become a franchise, something that can last without feeling dated, and more importantly, be sold on with team recognition increasing the value of the organization. It could feel impersonal, but that is the point. Teams want to be more than a person or a family. They want to have staying power the same way the names Packers, Dodgers, Yankees, Canadiens and Celtics continue to resonate. 

Only time will tell how motorsports adapt to these changing times and whether the likes of Trackhouse and Legacy are trendsetters or if teams will continue to be tied to a man or family. For over a century, a race team has been a personal thing, a possession, a point of pride. But as series continue to diversify and attempt to become more attractive to new investments, the concept of team identity could look drastically different in the coming years. 

Petty is gone as a team name. It lasted nearly 75 years. It litters the NASCAR history book and it will never be forgotten. That power is greater than being on the actual grid. Other names are around and they will take on special meaning to the next generation of fans. The sport continues onward.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Sébastien Ogier, but did you know...

Eli Tomac won the Supercross race from San Diego, his second consecutive victory.

Charlie Wurz (race one and three) and Callum Hedge (race two) split the Formula Regional Oceania races from Teretonga Park.

Coming Up This Weekend
The 61st 24 Hours of Daytona.
Race of Champions will take place in Sweden.
Formula E has its second round, a doubleheader in Saudi Arabia.
Supercross returns to Anaheim. 
Formula Regional Oceania will be at Manfeild.