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Weekend Lowdown: Rolex 24 Symbolizes Fresh Start

With the 2010 season upon us, Frontstretch not only has a new design, but will now also occasionally cover: ARCA, IndyCar and Grand-Am.

Today’s column is the first installment of a new column that will run every Friday morning as a preview for the weekend’s events.

As the sun rises over the east bank of Daytona International Speedway on Saturday morning and drivers and teams make their final preparations for the marathon that is the Rolex 24 at Daytona, a new year in the American motor racing calendar will begin.

For those fans who have longed for on-track action over the winter months – whether they’re fans of Grand-Am, IndyCar or NASCAR – the drop of the green flag over 40 legendary drivers of various backgrounds symbolizes hope.

Hope that this season will be better than the last. Hope that this could be the year their driver reaches victory lane. Hope that weekends continue to be a break from reality amidst tough economic times.

For drivers and teams, it’s much of the same. Sprint Cup drivers: Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya, Max Papis, AJ Allmendinger, Paul Menard, Bobby Labonte and four-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson get to shake off the rust before the start of Speedweeks in their first competitive race of the season. They get to test their skills against the stars of IndyCar and Grand-Am. They get to test themselves in the country’s premier endurance race for one of the most coveted possessions in racing – the Rolex watch.

This weekend’s race does, however, offer up a few questions of its own. Once again, there will be under 50 cars taking the green flag, and the premier Daytona Prototype class only makes a third of the field. How many teams will show up for the remainder of the Grand-Am schedule?

But you see, none of this really matters. Not right now at least. Fans will still flock through the tunnel and scatter like ants throughout the Daytona International Speedway infield and set up camp for the next 24 hours. Fans everywhere will still gather around the TV. Not necessarily because this is their favorite race, or even their favorite series to watch.

They watch to get that feeling again and say to themselves, “Racing is back.”

Welcome back race fans.

What You Need To Know

Course: 3.56-mile combined road course
Polesitter: No. 10 SunTrust Racing (Max Angelelli, Pedro Lamy, Ricky Taylor, Wayne Taylor)

TV Coverage

SPEED
Saturday: 3 p.m. -10 p.m.
Sunday: 7 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Green Flag: 3:30 p.m. ET

Teams to Watch

  • No. 59 Brumos Racing (DP) – Five-time Rolex 24 champion Hurley Haywood makes his final Rolex 24 start.
  • No. 01/No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing w/ Felix Sabates (DP) – Won three of last four and finished second last year. All-star lineups include: Papis, Scott Pruett, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, McMurray and Montoya.
  • No. 10 SunTrust Racing (DP) – Saturday’s polesitting is both quick and experienced, with a veteran cast of drivers led by Angelelli.
  • No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing (DP) – Always quick at Daytona. Experienced, quick lineup of: Jimmy Vasser, Jon Fogarty, Johnson, Jimmy Vasser.
  • No. 90 Spirit of Daytona (DP) – Underdog team represents the city of Daytona Beach. Team includes: 2004 Indy 500 champion Buddy Rice and NASCAR driver Menard.

LOOKING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL

With rain projected all day on Saturday, look for those sports car drivers who are experienced under wet conditions to rise to the front. With the exception of Allmendinger and Montoya, NASCAR regulars make for big names, but I don’t trust them against the Grand-Am stalwarts.

WINNER: No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing w/Felix Sabates (Papis, Pruett, Memo Rojas, Justin Wilson).

Have a prediction/thought on the race? Send Mike a Tweet

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