Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Best of the Month: January 2024

One month is complete in 2024. January moves at a good pace, but it is far slower than the month prior to it. Lack the charm and buzz of the holiday season, we are left with the chill and grey of winter, though this winter has been far friendlier than most. It is still a slow period, but spring is getting closer. February is a sprint. Once through that, the good times will soon be on our doorstep.

There is not much to review from January. A few events are happening, but only one has our undivided attention. 

Breaking Down An Endurance Winner
The standout event every January is the 24 Hours of Daytona, and each year the prestigious victory goes to one team, and it is a monumental moment for a select few of drivers. However, not every 24-hour race is run the same way. 

A team could consist of three or four drivers. How often each driver is in the car will vary. There is no right way to use a lineup, but how each team gets to the finish warrants an investigation. This is most true for the winner. 

For the #7 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche, it used four drivers like eight of the other nine teams running in the GTP class this year. Three of its drivers were full-time Porsche 963 drivers in 2023, whether it be in IMSA or in the FIA World Endurance Championship. It did draft in a fourth driver from IndyCar, who had only two IMSA starts to his name, and who had only raced the 24 Hours of Daytona once prior. 

Felipe Nasr ran nine hours and five minutes, the most of the #7's four drivers. Matt Campbell, who will run the rest of the endurance races in this car, ran seven hours, one minute and 59 seconds. The second full-time driver, Dane Cameron, was behind the wheel for three hours and 55 minutes, while Josef Newgarden drove for three hours and 13 minutes. 

Cameron did four of the first six stint, but was done after a double-stint that saw him get out of the car at 2:11 a.m. Eastern Time on Sunday. Newgarden had four stints the entire race, driving from 8:22 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Saturday and then running from 3:47 a.m. to 5:24 a.m. on Sunday. Newgarden's final run was entirely under green flag conditions. 

Nasr opened the race with a double stint, leaving the car at 3:22 p.m. Saturday. He did not return to the car until 10:02 p.m. where he ran a triple stint into Sunday morning. Campbell's race began at 5:55 p.m. and he ran until 8:20 p.m. ET. The Australian's next time in the car was 2:12 a.m. and he was in the carfare just over 95 minutes.

From 5:26 a.m. through the finish of the race, Nasr and Campbell traded time in the car. Each driver double stinted until Nasr got in the car at 11:35 a.m. and drove a triple stint to finish the race, spending just over two hours and five minutes in the car. 

While it is said today's endurance races are more sprints than tests of patience, they are all methodically run, and it is not a 100% all-out drive for two turns around the clock. Each driver has a role, and each driver is put in the car for specific situations. With the limited sets of tires, drivers aren't always on fresh rubber. A driver might double stint and never be a fresh set, or only have fresh left side tires for one stint and then fresh right side tires for the next.

James Hinchcliffe and Alexander Rossi made it clear on their podcast their only role in the race was to not wreck the car and have it ready for the full-time Pfaff Motorsports drivers to take it home on Sunday. They were in the car to manage the race. That is likely the case for pretty much every team on the grid. The extra drivers are there to carry the weight and not get into trouble. If they keep the car clean, they have done their jobs. 

The Unfairness of Modern Times
As you may have heard, Josef Newgarden won the 24 Hours of Daytona. In doing so, Newgarden became the 17th driver to have an overall Daytona victory and an Indianapolis 500 victory. Normally, joining an exclusive club is a rather celebrated moment, but there was some push back with Newgarden's victory and some discrediting his contributions to the winning Porsche Penske team. 

For starters, he spent the least amount of time in the car. His fastest lap was the 37th best fastest lap among the 39 drivers in the GTP class. It is easier than ever to say a team won in spite of a driver, and that really isn't fair. 

We know basically everything about Newgarden's 24 Hours of Daytona. We know to the exact second the time of day he left pit lane for his first stint, to the time he exited the car for the final time, and every lap time run in-between. If we dug deep enough, we could find out the tire life for each rubber ring that was put on that car while he drove it. There are no secrets, no mystery to his 2024 24 Hours of Daytona run. In 25 years or 30 years, we can go back and dissect this race to the smallest details. 

While Newgarden is being diminished, there is so much we don't know about past 24 Hours of Daytona winners and what they did. We don't know how many hours and minutes Al Unser spent behind the wheel of the 1985 Daytona winning #8 Henn's Swap Shop Porsche 962. We don't know how much Al Unser, Jr. contributed to Löwenbräu Holbert Racing's consecutive victories in 1986-87. We aren't sure where Dario Franchitti's fastest lap ranked among all the drivers who drove in the Daytona Prototype class in 2008. All we do is celebrate the accomplishments of those drivers. We don't look for a reason to dismiss them. 

We know the data behind Newgarden's race, but it is a team sport. Every driver has a role. Newgarden went out and did his job. He didn't get into an accident. He didn't pick up a penalty that set the team back. He kept the car on the road, taking up over three hours of seat time. Those hours behind the wheel allowed Nasr to be the man in charge for the final run to the finish without any extra fatigue on his body while fending off the terrific challenge from Tom Blomqvist. 

Time will likely be kind to Newgarden. People are lazy, and they won't do the research, but if we are going to be kind to Newgarden in two decades, we mind as well be kind to him now and acknowledge his value to a winning team. His co-drivers and crew members are already doing so. 

Well... They Were There
With every endurance race, I think about the drivers that will be in the final box score and results, listed in a finishing position... but ultimately never turned a lap in the race. There is usually always one or a few cars that dropped out before each driver got a chance behind the wheel. It is bound to happen that someone falls out early due to an accident or mechanical failure, and some driver spent all that time preparing only never to get a chance to compete. 

As written above, time will likely be kind to those drivers that did not compete. They are still listed as a participant in the race. They are not struck from the history book and lost forever. They are there, but the box score doesn't tell a complete story, and that is a shame. Not because a driver should be remembered for not participating, but because the record does not show a true representation of a driver's participation, or lack thereof. 

For a 24-hour race, when a car is out after four laps, it is very likely not every driver got to participate. It is almost certain only one driver got to participate in that case. I wish there was a way the box scores and history books could at least acknowledge the drivers that were there but did not get a chance to race. 

That is what we are going to do now. How many drivers entered in this year's 24 Hours of Daytona did not get to turn a lap in the race? 

Well, for starters, we should acknowledge Clément Novalak, who was injured during pit stop practice on Thursday and was not able to run in the #52 Inter Europol Competition by PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca-Gibson. Novalak saw Pietro Fittipaldi fill-in his place.

But Novalak aside, who didn't turn a lap that was physical able and entered to do so over Saturday and Sunday?

Steven Thomas completed 58 laps in the #11 TDS Racing Oreca-Gibson before having an accident exiting the chicane on the back straightaway. Thomas was the only of the four drivers entered in the #11 Oreca to turn a lap in the race, running an hour and 55 minutes of the 24 hours. 

Mikkel Jensen, Charles Milesi and Hunter McElrea (who was making his 24 Hours of Daytona debut) never turned a lap during the race. Keep that in mind should McElrea ever return to the 24 Hours of Daytona because the first laps he turns in the race will be his first laps, one prior Daytona appearance be damned.

AF Corse was third in the LMP2 class in 2023 at Daytona. In 2024, the #88 Richard Mille AF Corse Oreca-Gibson was out after 107 laps. Nicklas Nielsen and Matthieu Vaxivière never got a shot in the race.

Two drivers in the #22 United Autosports Oreca-Gibson didn't get to race either, and it was its two most known drivers. Paul di Resta and Felix Rosenqvist will both be credited with running in this year's race, but neither turned a lap as Dan Goldburg and Bijoy Garg were the only two to run the 128 laps in this entry. An attempt to get the amateur driver's stint time out of the way kept the professional sidelined for good.

Scott Huffaker is a two-time Endurance Cup champion in IMSA's LMP2 class. This was Huffaker's fourth time competing in the 24 Hours of Daytona. He didn't turn any of the 185 laps the #20 MDK by High Class Racing Oreca-Gibson completed before its race ended just after midnight. The other three drivers all had turns behind the wheel though.

Jules Gounon had a standout 2023 season. Gounon won the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup championship for the second consecutive season. He won the Intercontinental GT Challenge championship. He even opened 2023 with a victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona on his way to finishing second in GTD Pro with WeatherTech Racing. How did his 2024 season start?

Gounon never got into the #75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG. The car broke down after 193 laps with Luca Stolz behind the wheel. Every other SunEnergy1 driver ran at least an hour and 27 minutes.

Nine drivers suited and booted to run in the 2024 24 Hours of Daytona did not turn a lap in this year's race. This will be lost in the box score, but it will live on here. 

February Preview
From one endurance race to the next, the Bathurst 12 Hour is the highlight for the sports car season next month, and it is taking place a little later than usual. This year's event will be run on February 18.

There are 21 cars entered in the GT3 class, and not all the lineups are filled out at the moment. One that was just announced will be the #912 Porsche for Manthey EMA Motorsport. With his Daytona victory, Matt Campbell became the first driver to have overall victories at Daytona and Bathurst. He wil be paired with Laurens Vanthoor and Ayhancan Güven.

Jules Gounon has won the last three editions of this race and SunEnergy1 Racing has won the last two years. Gounon's entry has not been announced yet, and he is the only driver to win the Bathurst 12 Hours three consecutive times. The Andorran driver is tied with John Bowe for most victories in this event. SunEnergy1 is on the entry list with the #75 Mercedes-AMG, one of a class leading nine entries from the German make. 

Triple Eight Race Engineering has two Mercedes-AMGs entered, the #88 Mercedes-AMG for Jamie Whincup, Jordan Love and Prince Jeffri Ibrahim with Broc Feeney, Will Brown and Mikaël Grenier in the #888 Mercedes-AMG. The American Heart of Racing Team has the #27 Mercedes-AMG entered for Ross Gunn, Ian James and Alex Riberas. Craig Lowndes is aiming for his third Bathurst 12 Hour victory in the #222 Mercedes-AMG for Scott Taylor Motorsports with co-drivers Cam Waters and Thomas Randle. Team GruppeM has the #120 Mercedes-AMG listed on the entry list but has yet to confirm any drivers.

Along with the #912 Porsche, there are three other Porsches in the class. Manthey's sister #911 Porsche has Alessio Picariello, Harry King and Yasser Shahin listed as its drivers. Team75 Bernhard has Joel Eriksson, Jaxon Evans and Bastian Baus in its #13 Porsche. HubAuto Racing has Kévin Estre, Patrick Pilet and Klaus Bachler in its #39 Porsche.

BMW M Team WRT has two entries in this year's race. The #32 BMW has Dries Vanthoor, Charles Weerts and Sheldon van der Linde as its drivers. The #46 BMW features new BMW factory driver Raffaelo Marciello, Maxime Martin and Valentino Rossi. 

The 2024 Bathurst 12 Hour will start at 1:45 p.m. ET on February 17. 

Other Notable February Events:
NASCAR season begins with the Clash and then the Daytona 500.
The Asian Le Mans Series concludes with three races in eight days. 
Supercross season continues. 

Monday, January 29, 2024

Musings From the Weekend: IndyCar's One Show-Stopping Event

Here is a rundown of what got me thinking....

Penske and Porsche were victorious in the 24 Hours of Daytona after a fabulous finish from Felipe Nasr with Dane Cameron, Matt Campbell and Josef Newgarden all putting their names into the history book. Also, the checkered flag came out what appeared to be a lap early and that isn't as big of a deal as I thought it would be. There was an incident in the bus lot that likely we have not heard the last of. Ferrari is getting into yachting. The World Rally Championship begun, and there is not a consensus in opinion over the new points system. Formula E had a doubleheader. Another endurance race was buried in the shuffle. The Supercross winner never finished first. However, an idea is on my mind.

IndyCar's One Show-Stopping Event
We are living in a time of extravegent motorsport events. If it feels fictional, it is likely exists at the present moment. 

From Formula One racing on the Las Vegas Strip to NASCAR racing around Grant Park in Chicago and in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, race tracks that were once pure fantasy red real, and there does not appear to be any sign of those slowing down. 

Formula One announced last week it would be racing in Madrid starting in 2026 in a hybrid street course with some non-street sections, which will include two tunnels going under the motorway and a 30-degree banked corner. This is a circuit that would only exist in a video game even five years ago let alone 20 years ago, and in two years time, it will be hosting a world championship race. In Formula One, Vegas, Madrid and even Miami are only the tip of the iceberg. After long suggesting it could race in major cities all across the globe, Formula One is now attempting to do just that. 

While NASCAR is racing in Chicago and in a football stadium, it is also doing the unthinkable and resurrecting tracks that were once considered dead and buried. See North Wilkesboro. There is still an itch for new, and whether or not the Clash at the Coliseum remains at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, NASCAR has been openly suggesting it will keep racing in stadiums. Other street courses are not out of the question either. 

With all these show-stopping events, IndyCar is lost in the weeds. 

We all know it has the Indianapolis 500, but in terms of new seismic events that grab the attention of the average person making them exclaim, "They are racing where?" those haven't been there in the last few years as they have boomed elsewhere. We got Iowa back, which has somehow turned into a purity test, and the Detroit race moved downtown from Belle Isle, which was actually turning into a popular course and that move felt like an unnecessary change. 

Neither of those changes are getting anyone's attention. The return to the Milwaukee Mile means something only to those already involved in IndyCar. Milwaukee doesn't have the same heart-warming story as the revival of North Wilkesboro, abandoned and then receiving a new breath of life. Though historic, Milwaukee has not been gone all that long, and its demise and dormancy is more down to bureaucracy while attendance was less than stellar in its final years on the schedule. Milwaukee wasn't so much a race taken away from IndyCar as it was a race that was not convincing anyone it should remain on the schedule and a trip to Road America looked like a better alternative.  

Though U.S. based, Vegas and Miami were never financially possible for IndyCar. It would have had to mortgage the entire series just to run one race it could never make a profit on. Those weren't missed opportunities in IndyCar's own backyard, but rather rational decisions not to pursue. It is also the case IndyCar would never had gotten approval from the local municipalities to even come close to organizing a race. Hell, IndyCar got kicked out of Boston before that race even could get off the ground. If IndyCar couldn't make it there, it isn't going to make it in most places. 

However, in this era of flashy events, IndyCar must try something, and it must be something no one else is doing. If it could also play on something from the past that IndyCar could bring back, it could add another dimension to the event. 

There is really only one answer.

The Hawaiian Super Prix.

CART's failed exhibition race at the end of the 1999 season was riddled with issues from the moment it was announced. From circuit logistics to television rights to format, the Hawaiian Super Prix was a half-baked idea rushed hoping to make a splash during the contentious time of the split. It was also CART's last stand on high. The series, though lacking the Indianapolis 500, was still attractive a healthy amount of sponsorship, had top tier talent and great cars. 

A big money race paying $5 million to the winner of an exclusive field of the top 12 drivers from the CART championship plus four wild card entries was a betting with hubris. CART believed it could, but quickly found out it couldn't, leaving it embarrassed at a time when it could not afford any other marks against it. 

It was crazy in 1999 and it is still crazy 25 years later, but 25 years later there is a practical way to make this event happen. 

For starters, it shouldn't be the Hawaiian Super Prix as it was first intended. That idea is gone, nor does IndyCar have $5 million to give away for the winner of an exhibition. It barely has $1 million to give the series champion. It should be an early season event, possibly the season opener, and with the weekend before the Super Bowl practically open, it would be a great chance to stand out. It would also be fitting for a race to be run in Hawaii during the weekend the Pro Bowl, once the largest sporting event to ever take place on the islands. 

Any event there would be the biggest show in town, especially at a time where it is lacking big events. It would be IndyCar's chance to shine, and it could take advantage of the time difference. An afternoon race in Hawaii is primetime on the east coast. If the series is going to Hawaii, it mind as well double down and run a doubleheader, one race on Saturday night and another late afternoon on Sunday. A 6:00 p.m. Eastern start is 1:00 p.m. in Hawaii. It could be prime viewing for the entire county. 

It would also give IndyCar a race in paradise, somewhere a person can see on their screens and be transported from the winter chill in the continental 48 states. Who wouldn't love to see the beauty of the beaches and the lush greenery in the background? 

Where this race would take place remains a question. On Google Maps, you can still see the outline of the course that never was at Kalaeloa Airport, but I am not sure that is the place for a race in 2024. IndyCar will be racing on Broadway in Nashville this year, a combination of sport and place that makes a person say, "Wow!" Could IndyCar swing a downtown race in Honolulu? Could it find a way though Waikiki? What possible layout best captures the location? That is what IndyCar would need. 

It would be costly. Though in the United States, it is not cheap getting to Hawaii, but it is a gamble no one else is taking. It is more practical than any other flyaway options for IndyCar at the moment, and with questions over this year's MotoGP race in Argentina, it doesn't appear IndyCar will be heading there anytime soon. 

No one else is targeting Hawaii, and at a time when IndyCar needs an earlier start to the season but is limited on where it can race due to the weather, it is a suitable alternative from the same old places. It can be something worth promoting at a time where there is an opening for something else. Once football season ends it creates a vacuum in the sports world, and you must do something to suck up the oxygen. Sitting on the sidelines until March isn't bringing in viewers. Racing at an unthinkable location for a race gives the people a reason to pay attention. 

This would also be IndyCar's chance at what it once failed to do. The Hawaiian Super Prix might be a black eye, but black eyes heal in 25 years. It provides an added element to the race, a story of failure, but a chance now at success and bringing to the people an event that they thought they would never see. 

Winners From the Weekend
You know about the #7 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche, but did you know...

The #18 Era Motorsport Oreca-Gibson of Ryan Dalziel, Christian Rasmussen, Connor Zilisch and Dwight Merriman won the LMP2 class at the 24 Hours of Daytona. The #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari of James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi, Davide Rigon and Daniel Serra won in GTD Pro. The #57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG of Daniel Morad, Russell Ward, Indy Dontje and Philip Ellis won in GTD.

Jake Dennis and Nick Cassidy split the Diriyah ePrix.

Cooper Webb won the Supercross Triple Crown round from Anaheim after finishes of second, second and fifth. Chase Sexton, Jason Anderson and Eli Tomac split the three races. Levi Kitchen won in 250cc class after finishes of first, second and third. R.J. Hampshire and Nate Thrasher won the other two races.

Thierry Neuville won Rallye Monte-Carlo, his second Rallye Monte-Carlo victory, and his 20th career victory.

The #54 Eastalent Racing Team Audi of Christopher Haase, Gilles Magnus, Simon Reicher, Markus Winkelhock and Mike Zhou won the 19th Dubai 24 Hour.

Coming Up This Weekend
NASCAR hosts its Clash at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.
Supercross roars into Detroit. 
Dubai remains busy with a round of the Asian Le Mans Series.

Friday, January 26, 2024

2024 IndyCar Team Preview: Arrow McLaren

We are reaching the halfway point through the IndyCar team previews, and we are 44 days from the season opener in St. Petersburg. Arrow McLaren was a few laps away from winning last year's season opener. Though victory was not in the cards that day, it felt it would to be long until McLaren came out on top. However, that was never the case in 2023. There were plenty of brilliant performances but McLaren could not breakthrough for victory in what can only be described as a disappointing season. There has been a driver change as the papaya posse looks to get on the board early in 2024.

At First Glance... One of these drivers is not like the others
How the hell is David Malukas a McLaren driver? 

Let's look at the raw numbers for a moment. 

In his rookie season, Malukas had three top ten finishes and his best finish was second at Gateway. His average finish was 14th with an average starting position around 12.6 with seven top ten starts and he made the second round of qualifying in seven of 12 road/street course races. He was running at the finish of 14 of 17 races and he was only in three accidents all season. Malukas ended up 16th in the championship, the second best rookie, 18 points behind Rookie of the Year Christian Lundgaard.

In his sophomore season, Malukas doubled his top ten finish total to six, he was in the top five twice, both on ovals with a fourth at Texas and a third at Gateway, but Malukas also doubled his retirements, failing to finish six races, his average finish dropped to 16.353, his average starting position dropped to 15.765, and he only made the second round of qualifying at road/street courses twice. In terms of percentage of laps completed, Malukas went from 95.2% complete in 2022 to 88% in 2023. He dropped to 17th in the championship

I know many were impressed with Malukas at Gateway, and he has had some respectable drives, but is this really a McLaren quality driver?

McLaren has gone through drivers like they are going out of style since purchasing part of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. After the high standards that saw James Hinchcliffe and Marcus Ericsson both canned when McLaren first bought into the team, Oliver Askew bounced after a fair rookie season, and had Felix Rosenqvist on the hot seat from day one, is David Malukas really the guy McLaren should have hired?

This action does not match the words coming from McLaren's brass. The Malukas hire feels like it is destined to become to McLaren what Ed Jones' one season is to Chip Ganassi Racing. I think if teams were forced to wait two months until after the season ends to hire a driver, I don't think McLaren would have taken Malukas. This was supposed to be Álex Palou's seat. Let's face it, there is a steep drop-off from Palou to Malukas.

Malukas could be a good driver, but are we really sure he is ready for this move? He isn't going to have an aging Takuma Sato and a unqualified Sting Ray Robb as teammate. Patricio O'Ward has finished in the championship top five in three of four full-time seasons and his worst season is seventh in the championship. Alexander Rossi has finished in the championship top ten in seven consecutive seasons and his worst season was 11th in the championship.

That is the standard Malukas will have to live up to, and he cannot bank on one great day at Gateway bailing him out. He will have to do it over all 17 races. He had bursts at Dale Coyne Racing, but it will take more than that to succeed at McLaren.

2023 Arrow McLaren Review
Wins: 0
Best Finish: 2nd (St. Petersburg, Texas, Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Gateway, Portland)
Poles: 2 (Texas, Laguna Seca)
Championship Finishes: 4th (Patricio O'Ward), 9th (Alexander Rossi), 12th (Felix Rosenqvist)

Patricio O'Ward - #5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet
Numbers to Remember:
154: Laps led in the first seven races of the 2023 season

33: Laps led in the final ten races of the 2023 season

6.3529: Average starting position in 2023, the best of his career

What does a championship season look like for him?
Not having an accident in the Indianapolis 500 and not having an accident after a botched pit stop in Detroit. It will also require Álex Palou not having an insanely successful season and winning three consecutive races at some point while not finishing worse than eighth all season. O'Ward must breakthrough and win a few races.

O'Ward had seven podium finishes last season, a healthy amount and in some seasons the total of champion driver. However, it does require getting those ten extra points, the difference between first and second, a few times and also being a slight step better even on good days. 

O'Ward closed out the 2023 season with ten consecutive top ten results, but there was a five-race span over the summer where he finished eighth, eighth, third, tenth and eighth. Not bad, but there is a gulf between good and great. Eighth is good. Good isn't enough. 

For three of the last four seasons, O'Ward has done things that are championship-esque, in the realm of being the clear best, but there are pockets of misfortune that have held him back in each of those years. Taking the title will mean limiting those bad days and taking another step forward.

What does a realistic season look like for him?
The championship is absolutely possible. This is a driver who started the 2023 season with a second-place finish after leading with five to go, second after trading the lead four times in the final ten laps with a caution with a lap and a half remaining canceling any final chance for victory, 17th, fourth, second again and then leading the most laps in the Indianapolis 500 before having an accident while battling for second and still having a shot at victory.

The start to last season was on the right track toward a championship. We have seen enough results to know the pieces are all there for O'Ward to win a title, and McLaren has the resources to provide him a car good enough for the push, it is now down to all the pieces coming together. 

He can do it. He might have gone winless but there would be no surprise if the rebound from that season was a four-victory season with eight podium finishes and ten top five finishes leading a serious title push that could end with him on top. 

David Malukas- #6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet
Numbers to Remember:
10.7: Average finish in ten oval starts

15.6428: Average finish in 14 road course starts

19: Average finish in ten street course starts

What does a championship season look like for him?
The Álex Palou route. Winning on debut for the new team and immediately asserting his presence on the IndyCar grid after being openly accepted as a driver good enough to be there but not seen as a threat to the grid. 

There will be lingering questions over the opening rounds if Malukas has what it takes for a full season championship run. There will be a mediocre day early that tempers all expectations, but it will be followed with strong results that cannot be ignored. A regular podium finisher is tough to dismiss, especially if he is beating his senior teammates. 

It will not be flashy streaks of victories, but Malukas wins on the days he is the clear best. On the days he is not the standout, he is leading that next group and collecting points in chunks and remaining at the top of the championship though he isn't pulling away from anyone. 

The end of the season falls in his favor with Gateway and the Milwaukee doubleheader making up 60% of the final five races. That is where Malukas strengthens his grip and pulls this one out. After a second and a third in his first two visits to Gateway, the third trip ends in victory. A top ten provides good insurance in Portland. He wins one of the Milwaukee races and finishes in the top five in the other and he enters Nashville with the championship lead and needing a good result to clinch it. 

It is a nervy finale, but Malukas drives smart all weekends and does just enough to claim the Astor Cup.

What does a realistic season look like for him?
With a better team around him, Malukas should finish better in the championship than 16th or 17th like his first two seasons. There is still a lot we do not know about Malukas and uncertainty over who he is as a driver. We will learn immensely about him this season and we will find out if he has it or if he doesn't. 

Point is, he shouldn't take a step back. McLaren should at least a step forward, but the question remains how big of a step? It is McLaren, a championship top ten finish feels like the minimum. Felix Rosenqvist, the predecessor in the #6 Chevrolet, was 12th in the championship with a pair of podium finishes last year. Malukas duplicating those results is practical, but Malukas could also be a little off that form. 

It will be tough to break the top ten, but somewhere between 11th and 15th in the championship with three to five top five finishes and eight to ten top ten finishes feels like the realistic step in Malukas' first year at McLaren.

Alexander Rossi - #7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet
Numbers to Remember:
8: Races led in the 50 races since the start of the 2021 season

5: Of those races saw Rossi lead fewer than five laps

47.058: Percentage of lead lap finishes in 2023, the lowest of his career

99.247: Percentage of laps completed in 2023, the second highest of his career

What does a championship season look like for him?
It probably starts slowly and unassuming, like an Alexander Rossi season. Sixth, fourth, ninth, third, seventh. Nothing special but not bad. Pretty good. No one is threatened by it but most would take those results to start a season. Then he wins his second Indianapolis 500 when everyone's guard is down, everyone believes O'Ward is the McLaren driver destined to win, and then everyone acts like they were on the Alexander Rossi bandwagon from the start. We will all act unsurprised, but if we had a gun to our heads the night before the season started when asked how do we think Rossi's season would start, none of us would have come up with that as an answer.

From the championship lead, he continues to have good days, but he is Alexander Rossi and will stumble a little. Unlike other seasons, it will not be a prolonged dry spell. Rossi will recover as we get into July, win at Mid-Ohio, have his best weekend ever at Iowa and close it out with a top five finish at Toronto before the Olympic break. 

Ovals will not be his strong suit, but he gets the car home with good results. He maximizes points at Portland and Nashville, wins one of those and takes the championship that feels warranted.  

What does a realistic season look like for him?
We are facing a conundrum with Rossi's career because we are approaching a decade of him in IndyCar and he has failed to win a race in three of the last four seasons. It isn't that no great driver has ever gone on a lengthy slump, it is a matter of who is Rossi? A few years ago he was driver who when he won smashed the field. At the moment, he feels like a good driver who can get results but isn't quite the stone-cold killer we believed he was a few years ago. 

Can he win a race? Yes. Will he win a race? It cannot be a definitive yes. He can pull out top ten finishes, but we aren't seeing the driver who could pace the field on a regular basis. He cannot finish best among his team in a vast majority of the races. 

With Malukas in this team, Rossi should move into second in the fold easily. He should still be a top ten driver. If he can grow from year one at McLaren, he should be in contention more for podium finishes and top five finishes. That should help his championship position. What will remain trouble is keeping up with Patricio O'Ward. That alone can be the shortfall to a prestigious season. Slight improvement is reasonable, but three podium finishes, six top five finishes and 13 top ten finishes isn't going to make Rossi a championship driver. It likely will not get him back into the championship top five. Still good. Not quite great. 

The first round of the 2024 NTT IndyCar Series season will be the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10. Coverage will begin at noon on NBC and Peacock.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

2024 IMSA Season Preview

After a 2023 season that met all expectations and then some, excitement remains high for the 2024 season. New manufacturers will be competing in a number of classes. 

In the first year of the GTP class, every manufacturer won and every manufacturer had a chance at the championship entering the season finale. This year, Lamborghini will make its debut but likely not until Sebring in what could be just an Endurance Cup program for year one.

Along with the anticipated Lamborghini debut, GTP has grown thanks to customer Porsche 963 entries. The LMP3 class is gone, but the LMP2 class has strengthen, and GTD Pro has two new manufacturers competing while GTD remains the behemoth class in the series.

For this year's 24 Hours of Daytona, 59 entries are kicking off this season with 48 entries committed to the full season. 

There are a few changes to this year's calendar, as the Endurance Cup has expanded while one track is one while another event returns.

Daytona remains the season opener with a 24-hour race scheduled over January 27-28. It also remains the first round that counts toward the Endurance Cup. Sebring remains the middle of March, specifically March 16, and Sebring will remain the second round of the Endurance Cup. 

Long Beach will hosts GTP and GTD only on April 20. Three weeks later, IMSA heads north up the California cost to Laguna Seca for GTP, GTD Pro and GTD to contest the fourth round. On June 1, Detroit returns to the schedule as the top series will make its first visit to the new downtown street course, however, this will be GTP and GTD Pro only.

The third round of the Endurance Cup will be the middle round of the season, as the 6 Hours of Glen takes place on June 23, and ti will be the first time all four classes compete in the same race since Sebring. 

Three weeks later, IMSA returns to Mosport, but LMP2 will be the lead class with both GTD classes competing as well. Road America will make the four round with every class competing on August 4. The GT-only round at Virginia International Raceway remains on August 25.

Indianapolis expands to a six-hour race and will be the fourth round of the Endurance Cup. All four classes will participate and the race is scheduled for September 22. Petit Le Mans remains the season finale and will take place on October 12.

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

Why this car could win: It has three past overall winners of the 24 Hours of Daytona in this car. It has the defending IndyCar champion coming off a historic season. This team has chemistry. They all raced together in 2022. This will be the third year van der Zande, Bourdais and Dixon have raced to gather. it will be the fifth consecutive year van der Zande and Dixon have raced together. Chip Ganassi Racing has not won the 24 Hours of Daytona in its first three years back in the top class. It is due and this team finished third overall last year.

It also helps that it is starting second and the Cadillacs looked like the cars to beat in the test and in qualifying.

Why this car will not win: The #01 Cadillac had more races get away from it in one season last year than some teams experience in five years. We are in a stage where if something can go wrong it will go wrong for this team. 

What to expect for the full season: Let's keep in mind that last year all but one of the full-time GTP entries went into Petit Le Mans with a shot at the title. Pretty much every car in this class can win the championship. For the #01 Cadillac, it must limit the misfortune. The talent and speed is there to wake the title. It would not be a surprise if that was the case.

#5 Proton Competition Porsche 963
Drivers: Gianmaria Bruni, Neel Jani, Alessio Picariello, Romain Dumas

Why this car could win: This car is filled with endurance racing success. Jani and Dumas each won the 24 Hours of Le Mans overall. Bruni won in LMP2 last year at Daytona to add to his handful of Le Mans class victories. Picariello is coming up after two GT championships in three European Le Mans Series seasons. 

Why this car will not win: There is plenty of Daytona inexperience in this team, and unfortunately it will start last in class after an accident just prior to qualifying. Jani has only raced here one. Picariello is making his Daytona debut. There are four Porsches in this class and Proton has the least experience with the car. 

What to expect for the full season: Bruni and Jani are a sneaky dangerous pairing, however, Jani has never run a full season of IMSA. Bruni has run almost all the track in IMSA but has never done a full season. Bruni has never race a prototype full-time. Proton will have a few races where it is in the mix for the podium or more, but there will be a handful of days it is struggling to break the top half of the field. 

#6 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963
Drivers: Nick Tandy, Mathieu Jaminet, Kévin Estre, Laurens Vanthoor

Why this car could win: Look at this lineup! Tandy and Jaminet won twice last year. Estre and Vanthoor was in the best Porsche in the World Endurance Championship last year. This lineup has plenty of Daytona experience and, more importantly, Daytona success.

Why this car will not win: The #6 Porsche did not finish any of the endurance races last year. Now, one of those retirements was the 12 Hours of Sebring where it was battling for the lead and was taken out when the top three all took each other out with 15 minutes remaining, but this car has been snakebitten in endurance races since it had an accident in qualifying for Daytona last year where it looked set for pole position.

What to expect for the full season: Results will remain good. I do think the #6 Porsche will finish behind the #7 Porsche in the championship, but it will not be without a few impressive days from the #6 camp.

#7 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963
Drivers: Dane Cameron, Felipe Nasr, Matt Campbell, Josef Newgarden

Why this car could win: Cameron is back to IMSA full-time. Nasr has a great track record at Daytona in the overall class. Nasr and Campbell won in GTD Pro at Daytona in 2022. This team is adding Newgarden, a driver fresh off an Indianapolis 500 victory and a good first step into sports car racing. 

Why this car will not win: Cameron has not even finished on the podium at the 24 Hours of Daytona, overall or class. Campbell is still rather new to prototype racing and this will only be Newgarden's second race in the Porsche.

What to expect for the full season: With Cameron back as a full-time IMSA driver, it should lift this entry and he and Nasr should be challenging for the championship. The #7 Porsche will be on the podium frequently. 

#10 Acura/HRC/Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06
Drivers: Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque, Brendon Hartley, Marcus Ericsson

Why this car could win: Acura has won three consecutive races. WTRAndretti's average finish in the last five 24 Hours of Daytona is 1.4. First, first, first, second and second. Taylor and Albuquerque have great chemistry and it has added a proven sports car ace in Hartley with Ericsson joining the team. WTRAndretti did not win a race last year. It is due. 

Why this car will not win: An average finish of 1.4 is not going to last forever. Acura winning is not going to last forever. The only manufacturer to win four consecutive times at Daytona is Porsche, which won four on the spin the 1970s and then 11 consecutive times from 1977-87. Life is a numbers game. The numbers will eventually go against WTRAndretti.

What to expect for the full season: A championship push that will either end in cheers or tears. That has been the M.O. for WTRAndretti for the last few years. Taylor and Albuquerque are going to win a race this year after going winless in 2023. They will be in the title fight until the very end. Will this be the year it ends in WTRAndretti's favor? 

#24 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8
Drivers: Jesse Krohn, Philipp Eng, Augusto Farfus, Dries Vanthoor

Why this car could win: BMW is in a much better place than it was this time a year ago entering Daytona. BMW was competing for race victories last season. This is a group of drivers that has raced with each other frequently, and it is adding Vanthoor who has great success in GT competition. 

Why this car will not win: This was the worst GTP car last year. The #24 BMW will start eighth of ten GTP cars. It is a group that isn't versed in prototype cars. Krohn is coming off the bench after being sporadically used across a bunch of GT3 series last year. Vanthoor has three prototype starts to his name and it will be his first visit to Daytona.  

What to expect for the full season: For all the gains BMW has made, this still feels like one of the weaker entries in class. It was the one full-time GTP car that did not have a shot at the title at Petit Le Mans last year. That will remain the same in 2024.

#25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8
Drivers: Connor De Phillippi, Nick Yelloly, Maxime Martin, René Rast

Why this car could win: De Phillippi and Yelloly stood on the podium four time last season and are responsible for BMW's only victory. Rast has continued his winning ways in LMP2 competition after winning in everything from Porsche SuperCup, Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters and GT3 competition. 

Why this car will not win: BMW was dreadful for the most part in endurance races last year. It won Watkins Glen, but that was after the Porsche was disqualified. I twas second at Sebring, but that was after the top three took each other out with 15 minutes left. The team's average finish in endurance races last year was 6.125.

What to expect for the full season: BMW looks more competitive. This should be the better of the two BMWs. De Phillippi and Yelloly should get decent results, but this will be a tougher season as the quality has increased in GTP. It will likely take more than being second at the right race where a car fails inspection to win a race this year.

#31 Whelen Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-LMDh
Drivers: Pipo Derani, Jack Aitken, Tom Blomqvist

Why this car could win: It is the defending GTP champions adding a man who has won the 24 Hours of Daytona the last two years, oh, and it won pole position for this race. Need I say anymore? Ok, I will. Derani has been one of IMSA's best drivers for the last decade. Blomqvist hasn't been quite bad in his own right. Aitken did a suitable job in his first year as an endurance driver for the #31 team.

Why this car will not win: It is the only three-driver lineup in the class. Could it come down to these drivers being a little more fatigued as we get into Sunday morning and afternoon? Also, defending champions, pole-sitter, nobody stays on top forever, and not winning the race would not be a surprise. Two out of three ain't bad, but it will not be enough in the case of the #31 Cadillac.

What to expect for the full season: It will be difficult to repeat as champions, especially considering the strength of this class. I expect the #31 Cadillac to take a slight step back, but it will remain competitive. 

#40 Acura/HRC/DEX Imaging Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06
Drivers: Jordan Taylor, Louis Déletraz, Colton Herta, Jenson Button

Why this car could win: Déletraz is getting his big break after being a menace in LMP2 competition and winning nearly everything over the last three years. Taylor is back to prototypes after his stint with Corvette, and he left coming off winning Daytona in two of his final five seasons. Herta has multiple Daytona victories already. Button is a past World Drivers' Champion. There are no weak links in this team.

Why this car will not win: It goes back to Acura and the fact it is hard to win four consecutive years. Taylor has been away from prototype racing for the last four years. This is a new car for Herta and Button.

What to expect for the full season: Déletraz can lead this team as Taylor adjusts to returning to prototype competition full-time. There will be a few races where this car is off, but it should be competing for podium positions on a regular basis.

#85 JDC-Miller MotorSports Porsche 963
Drivers: Tijmen van der Helm, Richard Westbrook, Phil Hanson, Ben Keating

Why this car could win: JDC-Miller received its Porsche late last year, but it has had time to develop. Van der Helm has respectable ELMS results in LMP2 while Hanson is a regular winner in ELMS. Hanson already has a class victory at Le Mans.  Westbrook provides the steady hand to guide this team. Keating is smart and will not overdrive the car. 

Why this car will not win: There are three other Porsches that will be difficult to beat. Keating is a good driver, but he is an amateur in a pool full of professionals. He will not be driving long, but he will have to do a stint and this will effectively make the #85 Porsche a three-driver lineup. There are stronger cars in this class than van der Helm, Westbrook and Hanson.  

What to expect for the full season: Van der Helm did well last year in his first taste of IMSA, and he will have Westbrook adding a wealth of experience. Somebody has to finish toward the back of this class on a regular basis. I think JDC-Miller will be in the middle at best. 

#2 United Autosports Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Ben Keating, Nico Pino, Ben Hanley, Patricio O'Ward

Why this car could win: It honestly might be the strongest team in the class. Keating is perhaps the best bronze driver in the world, and he won pole position. Hanley has won this race before and is as good as they come among the career LMP2 drivers. Pino was second in this race last year in LMP3, and he had a strong first season in LMP2 driving in ELMS. O'Ward has won this race twice, and could be the best talent in the class.

Why this car will not win: Keating is double-dipping again, and it has yet to pay off, though he has had a few close calls. It also doesn't help that in the pro-am classes it just doesn't seem to matter how deep the teams are. Crazy things happen all the time.

What to expect for the full season: Keating won the championship last year with PR1/Mathiasen and he is now moving to the stout United Autosport. Hanley was second in LMP2 last year behind Keating. They are combining for this season. It will be a pairing that will be at the top constantly and will prove tough to beat.

#04 CrowdStrike Racing by APR Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: George Kurtz, Colin Braun, Toby Sowery, Malthe Jakobsen

Why this car could win: This car lost by an eyelash last year. Kurtz and Braun have raced together in multiple categories and won together in all of them. Braun was the overall winner last year with Meyer Shank Racing. Sowery has won in Indy Lights and found success everywhere. Jakobsen also made his first starts in LMP2 last year, and did well in the Asian Le Mans Series as well as ELMS.

Why this car will not win: Sowery is still new to LMP2 racing, sports car racing and endurance racing. This is only Jakobsen's second trip to Daytona. It is a good lineup, but there are a few weaknesses.

What to expect for the full season: It is Braun leading an LMP2 lineup with a co-driver that is competent and the two have succeed together in other series. Kurtz was only 37 points short of a championship last year. With Braun in the team, this pairing should push for the title in 2024.

#8 Tower Motorsports Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: John Farano, Michael Dinan, Ferdinand Habsburg, Scott McLaughlin

Why this car could win: McLaughlin willed this car to victory last year at Sebring after an accident. If it wasn't for a fuel line issue at the start of last year's 24 Hours of Daytona, Tower could have contended for the race victory. Habsburg has won the world championship at the LMP2 level, as well as ELMS and ALMS titles.

Why this car will not win: It is starting last in class, and Dinan has only run two LMP2 races before, both were at Sepang last month in the Asian Le Mans Series. I don't think McLaughlin and Habsburg are enough to counter Dinan and Farano.   

What to expect for the full season: Charlie Eastwood will be Farano's co-driver for the full season starting at Sebring. Eastwood has been respectable in LMP2 competition, IMSA will be new for him, but he should keep Tower and Farano in the mix at most rounds.

#11 TDS Racing Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Steven Thomas, Mikkel Jensen, Hunter McElrea, Charles Milesi

Why this car could win: Thomas and Jensen are back together after a strong season last year. In 19 IMSA starts, Jensen has won eight times McElrea is coming off two good years in Indy Lights while hoping to expand into IndyCar or sports cars. Milesi has won the LMP2 in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Why this car will not win: It is too dependent on Jensen, and Milesi won that WEC title with Team WRT with Robin Frijns and Ferdinand Habsburg as his co-drivers. Since then, this results in class have been pedestrian. 

What to expect for the full season: The lineup remains the same. Thomas and Jensen were third, 53 points off the championship in 2023. This car will win races. The championship remains a strong possibility, but this class has gotten much stronger.

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

Why this car could win: Dalziel and Merriman have been racing together for four years. They won this race three years ago. Rasmussen was the endurance driver in this car last year and he is back this year while he is coming off an Indy Lights championship. Zilisch is a 17-year-old prospect that has a bright future in sports cars and possibly NASCAR.

Why this car will not win: Era Motorsport has struggled in this race the last two years as the class has gotten stronger. Zilisch is making his prototype debut in this race let alone his LMP2 debut. 

What to expect for the full season: Close to last season. Era Motorsport was fifth in the championship with two podium finishes but no victories. Era could win this year, but there are some strong entries in this class and a championship will require rising to a higher level.

#20 MDK by High Class Racing Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Dennis Andersen, Seth Lucas, Laurents Hörr, Scott Huffaker

Why this car could win: Huffaker has found much success as an endurance driver in IMSA with five victories in 15 starts. Andersen has spent the last two seasons in IMSA. 

Why this car will not win: Lucas is making his 24 Hours of Daytona debut, and he has only competed in two LMP2 races, the first two rounds of the ALMS season. Hörr has not raced at Daytona since 2021.

What to expect for the full season: Lucas is only 17 years old and High Class Racing is historically an under-performing LMP2 team. A trip to the podium would be a good season, but at best this entry is looking at finishing in the middle of the championship.

#22 United Autosports Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Dan Goldburg, Paul di Resta, Bijoy Garg, Felix Rosenqvist

Why this car could win: Di Resta has good results in LMP2 competition and he now drives for Peugeot's Hypercar program. Garg is coming off a successful transition to sports car racing as he won the LMP3 championship in the VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, and he won in the LMP3 class at Petit Le Mans. Rosenqvist brings in some speed and a steady pari of hands. 

Why this car will not win: This will be Garg's first 24-hour race. Goldburg has only one Daytona appearance. Rosenqvist has raced at Daytona since 2018. This lineup doesn't feel like it has the strength as some other in class, especially its sister car. 

What to expect for the full season: Di Resta is a good lead driver, but Goldburg is too much of an unknown competing in what will be a competitive class. There could be a few races where di Resta can carry the team up the grid, but a championship is a daunting task.

#33 Sean Creech Motorsports Ligier-Gibson
Drivers: Lance Willsey, João Barbosa, Nolan Siegel, Jonny Edgar

Why this car could win: In the last three years, SCM has finished second at Daytona in LMP3. Barbosa and Willsey have been together that entire time. Siegel was in the team last year, and Siegel won in MP2 last year driving for CrowdStrike Racing by APR at Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans as its endurance driver. Edgar is coming in from Formula Three, where he won the 2023 FIA Formula Three finale at Monza.

Why this car will not win: This is the only Ligier in the class. It was 12th in qualifying. There is a reason why the Oreca is the chassis of choice. Willsey is a good, but I am not sure he is LMP2 good, and Edgar will be making his LMP2 debut in this race.

What to expect for the full season: It will be the only Ligier on the grid, and Oreca is clearly the superior LMP2 chassis. There could be some good races, but I do not anticipate SCM pushing for the championship.

#52 Inter Europol by PR1 Mathiansen Motorsports Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Jakub Śmiechowski, Nick Boulle, Tom Dillmann, Clément Novalak

Why this car could win: Boulle qualified second in class, and he won at Daytona in 2017 in the Prototype Challenge class. Śmiechowski has plenty of LMP2 experience, and endurance race experience, as he won the LMP2 class at Le Mans last year. Dillmann was a Hypercar driver and Novalak is coming after a stint in Formula Two.

Why this car will not win: Dillmann was mostly on the sidelines for the last four years other than a year the Le Mans Cup LMP3 class in 2022. Novalak has no sports car experience. Śmiechowski might have won at Le Mans, but that is his only victory in five years racing in LMP2.

What to expect for the full season: Mostly middle of the pack races. I don't see the results being much different in IMSA for Šmiechowski compared to other series. All of these tracks will be new. Boulle will be competing full-time for the first time ever in IMSA. There will be some tough days for this entry.

#74 Riley Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Gar Robinson, Felipe Fraga, Josh Burdon, Felipe Massa

Why this car could win: Riley dominated LMP3 competition with Robinson, Fraga and Burdon. Adding Massa brings a massive amount of experience to this entry. Robinson qualified fourth. 

Why this car will not win: This will be the first LMP2 race for all four drivers. Massa has never raced an endurance race before.

What to expect for the full season: Robinson and Fraga were a dominant duo in LMP3. They are moving up to LMP2. It looks like they will remain competitive, but that dominance will not be duplicated considering the dept of this class. Riley should win a race. A championship push is not out of the question, but it is not a guarantee. 

#81 DragonSpeed Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Eric Lux, Kyffin Simpson, James Allen, Sebastián Álvarez

Why this car could win: Allen is coming off a career year in 2023 where he won in LMP2 at Daytona last year and then won the ELMS championship. Simpson was one of Allen's co-drivers in ELMS last year and won the championship. Simpson also had good results in the IMSA endurance races last year driving for Tower Motorsports. Álvarez moved up to LMP2 last year and Lux won at Daytona in this class two years ago.

Why this car will not win: Lux qualified ninth. It is a good lineup. Álvarez is an unknown, and Lux is good but not great. This isn't the same quality lineup as the 2022 drivers Lux had around him.  

What to expect for the full season: DragonSpeed will only be competing in the Endurance Cup races.

#88 Richard Mille AF Corse Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Luis Pérez Companc, Nicklas Nielsen, Lilou Wadoux, Matthieu Vaxivière

Why this car could win: AF Corse made its LMP2 debut at Daytona last year and wound up third in class. Nielsen and Vaxivière return from that lineup. Nielsen was third in the World Endurance Drivers' championship driving for Ferrari. Pérez Companc and Wadoux raced together in WEC's GTE Am class last year

Why this car will not win: Pérez Companc has not raced an LMP2 car since 2013, and Wadoux's only year in LMP2 machines was in 2022.

What to expect for the full season: AF Corse is only planning on running the 24 Hours of Daytona.

#99 AO Racing Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: P.J. Hyett, Paul-Loup Chatin, Matthew Brabham, Alex Quinn

Why this car could win: Chatin has won multiple ELMS championship and he won at Daytona in 2021. Quinn had good performances last year as PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports' endurance driver. Brabham had success in Indy Lights

Why this car will not win: Hyett is moving up from GTD where he wasn't that impressive. Brabham is making his first start in an LMP2 car. Quinn has only compete in seven races over the previous two years.

What to expect for the full season: Hyett and Chatin wil be the full-time drivers. Hyett did well in GTD last year, but this is a massive leap up into LMP2. His best finish in GTD was sixth with five top ten finishes in nine starts. I don't think this entry will be competing for podium finishes on a regular basis.

#1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3
Drivers: Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, Neil Verhagen, Sheldon van der Linde

Why this car could win: Sellers and Snow won the GTD championship last year. They have a Daytona class victory dating back to 2020. Van der Linde was the DTM champion in 2022 and he was fourth in that championship last year. Verhagen has been a promising BMW junior driver competing mostly in Europe.

Why this car will not win: BMW doesn't appear to have the pace in it this year, as Paul Miller Racing will start 12th out of 13 cars. This is Verhagen's IMSA debut.   

What to expect for the full season: It is Paul Miller Racing. Though stepping up from GTD, Sellers and Snow will win a few races, stand on the podium for some others and, come Petit Let Mans, it will have a shout at the championship. I don't think they will close to same level of dominance after winning five races in 2023. However, PMR will remain a factor.

#3 Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports Corvette Z06 GT3.R
Drivers: António García, Alexander Sims, Daniel Juncadella

Why this car could win: García has two class victories and an overall victory at Daytona. Sims is coming off the GTP championship. Juncadella won this race last year with WeatherTech Racing and he wound up second int he GTD Pro championship in his first IMSA season last year.

Why this car will not win: It is a combination of new pieces. Sims is back at Corvette. Juncadella is new. It is a new car and problems pop up   

What to expect for the full season: Good but not great. This is a change with Sims replacing Jordan Taylor. Sims had good success in GT competition driving for BMW. I think the change in drivers will take some adjusting.

#4 Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports Corvette Z06 GT3.R
Drivers: Tommy Milner, Nicky Catsburg, Earl Bamber

Why this car could win: Miller is a trusted IMSA veteran combined with Catsburg coming off a great season that saw him win the GTE Am championship in WEC. Bamber is good as they come with success nearly everywhere he has driven. 

Why this car will not win:  The #4 Corvette was notably off the #3 Corvette, qualifying seventh to the #3 Corvette's third. Milner spent much of last year on the sideline. Bamber hasn't been full-time in a GT car since 2020. Bamber has yet to win at Daytona. 

What to expect for the full season: Catsburg can carry this entry as Milner only ran three endurance's last year. I don't think the Corvettes will be far a part, but if one was languishing behind the other, it would be the #4 Corvette based on repetitions from last year.

#9 Pfaff Motorsports McLaren 720S GT3 EVO
Drivers: Marvin Kirchhöfer, Oliver Jarvis, James Hinchcliffe, Alexander Rossi

Why this car could win: Pfaff is a championship winning team with quality drivers. Jarvis won the 24 Hours of Daytona overall two years ago on his way to a DPi championship. Rossi has an overall Daytona victory. Kirchhöfer has spent the last few seasons racing McLarens in a variety of series.

Why this car will not win: It is Pfaff's first race with the McLaren. Hinchcliffe's only race in the last two years was in Mazda MX-5 Cup. Rossi has never raced a GT car. Jarvis hasn't raced a GT car since the 2020 Kyalami 9 Hours. Kirchhöfer didn't have great results last year in the British GT Championship nor GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup.

What to expect for the full season: Pfaff will be adjusting to a new car as will Jarvis. Combined with Kirchhöfer in a new series, I think victory will be hard to come by considering the depth of this class. Podium results would be a good benchmark for this team.

#14 VasserSullivan Lexus RC F GT3
Drivers: Jack Hawksworth, Ben Barnicoat, Kyle Kirkwood, Mike Conway

Why this car could win: The Lexus dominated the GTD Pro championship last year with Hawksworth and Barnicoat. This lineup only gets strong with Kirkwood, who has success and comfort with the Lexus, and Conway, an overall winner at Le Mans and an all-around brilliant driver. Oh, and this car qualified second in class.

Why this car will not win: Lexus has never won the 24 Hours of Daytona. This is one of the best cars on paper. The 24 Hours of Daytona doesn't always go to the best car and lineup. It is a long race, but the #14 Lexus should get its say in the final result.

What to expect for the full season: After thrashing the competition in 2023, the expectation is to do the same in 2024. It likely will not play out that way, but Hawksworth and Barnicoat should remain the pairing to beat. They might not finish on the podium nine times, but they should be up their regularly in their title defense.

#19 Iron Lynx Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo 2
Drivers: Franck Perera, Jordan Pepper, Andrea Caldarelli, Mirko Bortolotti

Why this car could win: Lamborghini has a good record at Daytona and three of the four drivers in this lineup have won this race in class. Bortolotti was second in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters championship last year. Pepper and Caldarelli have familiarity competing together in GT World Challenge America. 

Why this car will not win: Since winning three consecutive years in GTD at Daytona, Lamborghini has only one podium finish in the three years since that streak.   

What to expect for the full season: This will be a Daytona-only entry at the moment, but could run other endurance races.

#23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Evo
Drivers: Ross Gunn, Alex Riberas, Mario Farnbacher

Why this car could win: Gunn and Riberas are co-drivers for a third consecutive season. They have won two races in each of their first two years together. Farnbacher has won the GTD championship twice. 

Why this car will not win: Heart of Racing Team does not have great results at Daytona, and the car is already set back starting 11th in class. 

What to expect for the full season: Good results, but a repeat of 2023 will not be enough. Heart of Racing Team won twice but it was not enough to overcome a slow start. Any stumble out of the gate will set its championship hopes back.

#60 Iron Lynx Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2
Drivers: Claudio Schiavoni, Matteo Cressoni, Romain Grosjean, Matteo Cairoli

Why this car could win: Cairoli had good results driving for Porsche in ELMS and WEC. Cressoni and Schiavoni were co-drivers last year in WEC. Grosjean was fourth in both of his IMSA starts last year with Iron Lynx. 

Why this car will not win: In a strange twist, this entry was re-classified to GTD Pro due to a regulation preventing a GTD team from entering multiple platinum-rated drivers in one entry for the 24 Hours of Daytona. Grosjean and Cairoli are both platinum drivers. Schiavoni is a weak link in a pro class. Grosjean still has limited GT experience. It isn't even the best Lamborghini in the class.  

What to expect for the full season: Like its sister car, this entry could run a few endurance races. However, it may be a GTD entry as this should be the only race it has multiple platinum drivers as Grosjean should be in Lamborghini's GTP program later this season.

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

Why this car could win: Calado and Pier Guidi won Le Mans overall last year. Serra was the third driver with Caladao and Pier Guidi at Le Mans four times in GTE Pro, which saw the three win the class once and finish second twice. Rigon has competed at Daytona the lsat ten years, eight of those with Risi.

Why this car will not win: It is difficult to argue against Risi. Though half of this lineup spent 2023 focused on Hypercar competition, it shouldn't hurt their ability. Other than this is an endurance-only team and it isn't as battle tested as the full-time teams, there are not many knocks. 

What to expect for the full season: Risi will contest the Endurance Cup rounds.

#64 Ford Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT3
Drivers: Harry Tincknell, Mike Rockenfeller, Christopher Mies

Why this car could win: Rockenfeller is a past Daytona overall winner. Tincknell has a great relationship with Multimatic having raced the Ford GT program and the Mazda DPi program. Mies has won multiple GT3 championships in Europe as well as multiple Nürburgring 24 Hours.

Why this car will not win: This was the slowest GTD Pro car in qualifying. It doesn't feel like the Ford is fully developed to compete with the established entries. I am not sure we can be certain the car will last the entire race.

What to expect for the full season: Teething problems. It is a new car, and the Ford GT had its issues but ultimately won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in its first year. Ford has shown it can rise up quickly. Tincknell and Rockenfeller are a suitable pairing and any success from those two will not surprise anyone.

#65 Ford Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT3
Drivers: Joey Hand, Dirk Müller, Frédéric Vervisch

Why this car could win: Hand and Müller have a long relationship racing with one another. They were co-drivers at BMW and in the Ford GT program. In 2011, they were American Le Mans Series GT champions. They won in GTLM in the 2017 24 Hours of Daytona and that was a year after a class victory at Le Mans. Vervisch is coming over after being an Audi driver since 2015.

Why this car will not win:  Hand has not competed in IMSA since the 2020 12 Hours of Sebring. He has spent the last few seasons part-time in Michelin Pilot Challenge and NASCAR. Müller was on the sidelines for most of the last two years. Vervisch doesn't really blow you away.

What to expect for the full season: This has the makings of the "ain't good as I once was" entries. Hand and Müller have not been competing on a full-time basis the last few years. They haven't completely lost it, but the field has gotten stronger. This year could be an eye-opener.

#75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: Kenny Habul, Jules Gounon, Luca Stolz, Maro Engel

Why this car could win: Gounon and Engel won this race last year with WeatherTech Racing. Gounon is coming off a fabulous season where he won two championships and was second in IMSA's GTD Pro championship. Engel has won at Daytona in two of the last three years. Stolz is a trusted driver with Mercedes-AMG.

Why this car will not win: The car is pegged back, and I don't think Mercedes-AMG can recreate it magic from last year.  

What to expect for the full season: SunEnergy1 will only be at Daytona, but we could see it in additional races.

#77 AO Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R (992)
Drivers: Laurin Heinrich, Sebastian Priaulx, Michael Christensen

Why this car could win: Well, it is starting on pole position thanks to Priaulx. Heinrich won the 2022 Porsche Carrera Cup Germany championship and he was third in the Porsche SuperCup that same season. Christensen is a proven driver with victories at Daytona and Le Mans, as well as having a world championship to his name.

Why this car will not win: Heinrich is making his IMSA debut and Daytona will be his endurance racing debut as well. Between Priaulx and Heinrich, it is a rather young lineup.

What to expect for the full season: Heinrich is making the leap to IMSA and every track will be new for him. This will be a good chance for Priaulx to lead the way. This team could take a surprise victory but also have a few off days where no one notices.

#12 VasserSullivan Lexus RC F GT3
Drivers: Frankie Montecalvo, Parker Thompson, Aaron Teliz, Ritomo Miyata

Why this car could win: It is a Lexus and it is as strong of a lineup you could ask for. Three-quarters of this team has been in this organization for years, they are race winners and are comfortable with the car. Added to the mix is the Super GT and Super Formula champion who is about to race in Formula Two and Miyata could be on the verge of taking the world by stor. Oh, and this car will be starting on pole position.

Why this car will not win: It is hard to find flaws with this car. Unfortunately, motorsports isn't fair and the best car doesn't always win.  

What to expect for the full season: Considering what the sister car did in GTD Pro, the #12 Lexus should show some muscle. Thompson is moving into the full-time seat alongside Montecalvo. This team was third in the championship last year in what wasn't a spectacular year. They could be third again but have much better results.

#13 AWA Corvette C8.R GTD
Drivers: Orey Fidani, Matthew Bell, Lars Kern, Alex Lynn

Why this car could win: Fidani, Bell and Kern all raced together with AWA in the LMP3 class last year. Lynn is a top-tier prototype driver dropping in to run at Daytona, and Lynn has GT success.

Why this car will not win: There are better cars in this class, and this is AWA's first race with the Corvette. None of the other three drivers are close to Lynn's talent.

What to expect for the full season: GTD is quite a strong class. Fidani and Bell will be fighting uphill.

#17 AWA Corvette C8.R GTD
Drivers: Anthony Mantella, Nico Varrone, Thomas Merrill, Charlie Eastwood

Why this car could win: Three of these four driers raced together at Daytona last year in LMP3, and they won. Eastwood is the new addition. Merrill was second in the Trans-Am TA2 championship last year. Varrone is coming off winning the GTE AM title in WEC. Eastwood's WEC results are impressive.

Why this car will not win: Ninth in qualifying is good, but not great. Eastwood has run primarily Aston Martin machines since 2018. Mantella is lacking GT3 experience and hasn't raced anything GT related since 2017.

What to expect for the full season: Varrone is enough to make sure this entry finishes ahead of the other AWA Corvette. I feel more confident the #17 Corvette ends up on the podium or steals a victory than the #13 Corvette.

#21 AF Corse Ferrari 296 GT3
Drivers: Simon Mann, François Heriau, Miguel Molina, Kei Cozzolino

Why this car could win: Molina had a good first season in the Ferrari Hypercar and he has plenty of GT experience. Mann has been a regular in WEC and IMSA the last few years. Cozzolino is an Asian Le Mans Series GT champion and Heriau has plenty of endurance race experience.

Why this car will not win: Heriau and Cozzolino are making their Daytona debuts and Mann is not a strong amateur driver compared to others in the class.

What to expect for the full season: This will be an Endurance Cup entry.

#023 Triarsi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3
Drivers: Onofrio Triarsi, Charles Scardina, Riccardo Agostini, Alessio Rovera

Why this car could win: Scardina Triarsi and Rovera raced the IMSA Endurance Cup last year. Rovera won in WEC and ELMS last year. Agostini had a good season in International GT Open.

Why this car will not win: While qualifying eighth in class, it wasn't even one of the top three Ferraris. I don't think it has the depth to compete for a class victory.

What to expect for the full season: This will be an Endurance Cup entry.

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

Why this car could win: This car won the class at Daytona last year and the only chance is Robichon, a past GTD champion and one of the 2022 24 Hours of Daytona GTD winners, joining the entry in place of Darren Turner. Robichon also won the ELMS GT championship in 2023. De Angelis and Sørensen were second in the GTD championship last year

Why this car will not win: The Aston Martins do not appear to have the same speed as last year.  

What to expect for the full season: De Angelis and Sorensen were a distant second last year but they were the clear second best team in 2023. De Angelis has finished third, first and second in GTD the last three years. This entry should be up there again, and with Paul Miller Racing now in GTD Pro, the #27 Aston Martin is the favorite entering the season.

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

Why this car could win: Grenier, Skeen and Koch won the Endurance Cup championship in GTD last year and Götz makes this an unchanged lineup form 2023. Skeen and Grenier have finished on the podium in this class in recent years. Koch won in Prototype Challenge in 2016.

Why this car will not win: Though this car won the Endurance Cup title last year, its best endurance race result was sixth at Petit Le Mans. It was kind of a fluky title.  

What to expect for the full season: Skeen and Grenier were third in two races last year and had eight finishes outside the top ten in 11 races. They were seventh in the championship. Seventh again might be as good as it gets.

#34 Conquest Racing Ferrari 296 GT3
Drivers: Manny Franco, Albert Costa, Alessandro Balzan, Cédric Sbirrazzuoli

Why this car could win: A surprise in qualifying, Conquest ended up sixth in class. Balzan is a two-time GTD champion while Costa is coming over after success in GT World Challenge Europe and he had a good year in LMP2 last year driving for Inter Europol Competition in WEC. Franco and Balzan drove together in GT World Challenge America and swept the Road America weekend. Sbirrazzuoli has also done well in the GTWCE pro-am classes.

Why this car will not win: Franco will be making his Daytona debut. Sbirrazzuoli's only Daytona start was in 2017. Balzan has not been a regular competitor in recent years.   

What to expect for the full season: Conquest is moving to IMSA from GT World Challenge America. Costa is a good driver, but Franco is taking a plunge into stiffer competition. Top five in the championship is unlikely. Maybe championship top ten could be too much.

#43 Andretti Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R (992)
Drivers: Jarett Andretti, Gabby Chaves, Scott Hargrove, Thomas Preining

Why this car could win: Chaves has won in LMP3 and Michelin Pilot Challenge while having strong runs in prototype. Hargrove was a top driver in IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada and USA. Preining is coming off the DTM championship. This will be Andretti's fourth Daytona start. Andretti was the second fastest Porsche in class.

Why this car will not win: It was the second fastest Porsche and 12th in class. Andretti is not at the level of the other three drivers.  

What to expect for the full season: Andretti and Chaves were not competitive in their three-race sample of GTD last year. I think it will be tough for this team to break into the top five of races let alone get on the podium and possibly win.

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

Why this car could win: Magnus Racing has been runner-up in class the last two years and in three of the last four 24 Hours of Daytona. 

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

What to expect for the full season: Potter and Lally are back to full-time. Results should be respectable, enough to finish in the top ten of the championship. That winless drought has a chance of coming to an end.

#45 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2
Drivers: Kyle Marcelli, Danny Formal, Graham Doyle, Ashton Harrison

Why this car could win: Marcelli and Formal dominated the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America championship last year. Those two and Harrison raced together in the endurance races last year driving an Acura. Doyle was second in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo LB Cup championship last year. This car will start fourth.

Why this car will not win: It does not feel like the depth matches some of the other cars in this class.   

What to expect for the full season: This is a different zip code than Lamborghini Super Trofeo, but Marcelli and Formal's familiarity is their greatest strength. This could be the sleeper for the season and turn some heads.

#47 Cetilar Racing Ferrari 296 GT3
Drivers: Roberto Lacorte, Giorgio Sernagiotto, Antonio Fuoco, Eddie Cheever III

Why this car could win: Fuoco is coming off a standout season in WEC's Hypercar class. Fucoco, Lacorte and Sernagiotto ran for the Endurance Cup last year. Cheever III won the International GT Open Pro-Am championship and the Bronze Cup championship in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup.

Why this car will not win: Cetilar failed to finish better than 13th last year in its four IMSA races.  

What to expect for the full season: This will be an Endurance Cup entry. 

#55 Proton Competition Ford Mustang GT3
Drivers: Ryan Hardwick, Dennis Olsen, Giammarco Levorato, Corey Lewis

Why this car could win: Hardwick has won in GTD, as has Lewis. Olsen is moving over after some success with Porsche. Levorato won multiple times and finished second in the ELMS GT championship.

Why this car will not win: Ford did not have the pace in qualifying. Everyone is new to the car and Levorato is making his Daytona debut.   

What to expect for the full season: We are not sure how many races this car will run in IMSA. It should have similar issues as the Ford Multimatic Motorsports Mustangs in GTD Pro.

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

Why this car could win: Winward Racing has won this race before, with three of these drivers as well in 2023. Between racing in IMSA and in Europe, the Winward drivers all know each other and there are no surprises in this group.

Why this car will not win: The Mercedes-AMG were not particularly strong in qualifying and Winward will roll off from 17th in GTD.  

What to expect for the full season: Winward went from fifth in the championship in 2022 to tenth in 2023. Results should be better than last year. Winward won at Indianapolis and was third at VIR, but it finished ninth or worse in eight of the other nine races. There should be a few more top five finishes this year.

#66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3
Drivers: Sheena Monk, Katherine Legge, Tatiana Calderón, Stevan McAleer

Why this car could win: Monk and Legge are back for a second season together. They were fourth in this race last year. Legge is a past champion in GTD. McAleer was the GT World Challenge America champion last year. 

Why this car will not win: Calderón spent last year competing in ELMS' LMP2 class and this is a new car for her. Legge and Monk could not quite get on the podium last year.  

What to expect for the full season: A battle to make the championship top ten that could see the #66 Acura fall short once again after being ten points off of tenth in 2023.

#70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3 EVO
Drivers: Brendan Iribe, Frederik Schandorff, Ollie Millroy, Tom Gamble

Why this car could win: Iribe, Schandorff and Millroy were third in class last year. Iribe and Schandorff had two runner-up finishes last year. Gamble has won in LMP3 and LMP2 in ELMS, and he won the Gold Cup class at the 24 Hours of Spa last year.

Why this car will not win: Gamble only ran four races last year. Qualifying tenth in class, I am not sure it can stand above the rest. 

What to expect for the full season: Iribe and Schandorff had three podium finishes last year. Sixth in the championship was likely better than they expected. Finishing sixth again might sound disappointing but with the size of this class it shouldn't be.

#78 Forte Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2
Drivers: Misha Goikhberg, Loris Spinelli, Devlin DeFrancesco, Sandy Mitchell

Why this car could win: Forte Racing took a stunning victory at Petit Le Mans to close out the 2023 season. Spinelli and Goikhberg ended up fifth in the GTD championship. DeFrancesco won in LMP2 at Daytona two years ago. Mitchell has been a regular winner in the British GT Championship. 

Why this car will not win: It seems unlikely it will follow up ending 2023 with a victory by starting 2024 with a victory.  

What to expect for the full season: Finishing second and first in the final two races, along with four top five finishes in the final five events lifted the #78 Lamborghini from tenth in the championship to fifth. I don't think the results will ebb and flow as much as they did in 2023. It could be more consistent but lead to a dip in the championship standings.

#80 Lone Star Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: Rui Andrade, Scott Andrews, Adam Christodoulou, Salih Yoluç

Why this car could win: Andrade is coming off the LMP2 championship in WEC. Andrews has won at Daytona before, he won in LMP3 in 2021. Yoluç has been a dependable amateur driver, winning in WEC and ELMS. Christodoulou competed in GT World Challenge America last year and was the 2009 Star Mazda champion. 

Why this car will not win: This group was put together late in the game, and it was 20th in class in qualifying. Andrade has never raced a GT car before. Christodoulou is making his first Daytona appearance since 2011.  

What to expect for the full season: This will be an Endurance Cup entry.

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

Why this car could win: Iron Dames was second in the GTE Am championship in WEC last year with a victory in the season finale. Pin had a podium in LMP2 and she has been signed for the Mercedes Junior Team and will compete in F1 Academy later this year.

Why this car will not win: Iron Dames didn't finish in the top ten in any of its four starts last year, and the #83 Lamborghini qualified 13th in class for Daytona.  

What to expect for the full season: This will be an Endurance Cup entry.

#86 MDK Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R (992)
Drivers: Kerong Li, Andres Fjordbach, Larry ten Voorde, Klaus Bachler

Why this car could win: Starting a stunning second in class, Bachler had a great season last year driving for Pfaff Motorsports. Ten Voorde has been outstanding in Porsche SuperCup the last four seasons with two championships and two vice-championships. Fjordbach has plenty of endurance racing experience in LMP2. Li made his Daytona debut last year.

Why this car will not win: Li is still rather unproven. This will be ten Voorde's first 24 Hours of Daytona as well.

What to expect for the full season: Keep expectations low. MDK is full-time for the first time. Li raced in Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe's amateur class last year. There are going to be some tough days for this team.

#92 KellyMoss with Riley Porsche 911 GT3 R (992)
Drivers: David Brule, Alec Udell, Trent Hindman, Julien Andlauer

Why this car could win: Udell and Andlauer had good results last year, standing the podium three times together and having four top five finishes in five starts together. Hindman is a past GTD champion and has always been competitive in this class.

Why this car will not win: Brule had an accident in practice and kept the team from qualifying. KellyMoss may have to switch to a spare car. Brule is one of the weaker amateurs in this class.

What to expect for the full season: At the moment, all we know about this entry is its plans for Daytona.

#96 Turner Motosport BMW M4 GT3
Drivers: Robby Foley, Patrick Gallagher, Jake Walker, Jens Klingmann

Why this car could win: Foley has finished in the GTD championship top five in each of the last five seasons. Foley and Gallagher had three podium finishes together last season. Klingmann won with Turner not so long ago. Walker was sixth in the 2023 Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America Pro championship.

Why this car will not win: Walker is stepping into his first major endurance race, and Turner has never finished on the podium at Daytona in the GTD class let aloe won the class.  

What to expect for the full season: Foley and Gallagher were fourth in the championship last year after three runner-up finishes but no victories. It was feast or famine for these two. five top five finishes, four finishes of 12th or worse. Results should not be that fluid. Turner should also win a race.

#120 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R (992)
Drivers: Adam Adelson, Elliott Skeer, Jan Heylen, Frédéric Makowiecki

Why this car could win: Heylen has a good record at Daytona and Makowiecki has done well here. Adelson and Skeer were second in the GT World Challenge America Pro-Am class last year with six victories in 13 races and finishing 17 points behind Colin Braun and George Kurtz.

Why this car will not win: Adelson and Skeer are making big step forward into IMSA. Heylen and Makowiecki can only do so much. Plus, this car has the distraction of being a prop for a film. 

What to expect for the full season: Wright Motorsports does not have full-time aspirations for 2024, but could contest a handful of races this season.

IMSA will be on track for practice on Thursday January 25 at 10:05 a.m. ET for 90 minutes. There will be a second session at 2:10 p.m. that will last an hour and 45 minutes. Night practice will take place for 90 minutes starting at 6:35 p.m. ET. The final practice session will be a one-hour session at 11:20 a.m. ET o Friday January 26.

The 62nd 24 Hours of Daytona will begin at 1:40 p.m. on Sunday January 27.