On Thursday afternoon, Michael Shank Racing (MSR) announced the final two drivers that will complete their driver lineups for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Verizon IndyCar Series regulars Ryan Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal, both of whom race Honda-powered entries, have joined the team to race their brand-new Acura NSX GT3’s.
Team owner Michael Shank is happy to have Hunter-Reay and Rahal in the fold for Daytona.
“We are obviously very excited to have Ryan (Hunter-Reay) and Graham (Rahal) back with us again for the 24,” Shank said in a press release. “No matter what class you are racing, how you can work through traffic is always important in the 24. So with Ryan and Graham both having experience driving different classes of cars in this race, hopefully that just adds to our strength for the 24. Speed is key, but experience is also critical so to have Ryan and Graham back with us is another great addition for this effort.”
Both drivers are known quantities to the MSR operation. For Hunter-Reay, he has one previous start with the team, the 2009 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Hunter-Reay teamed with Oswaldo Negri, Jr., Colin Braun and Mark Patterson in the team’s Ford Riley Mk. XX. Unfortunately, they were forced to retire due to electrical problems and finished 16th in the Daytona Prototype class (41st overall). Hunter-Reay has 10 previous starts in the Rolex 24 with a best finish of second overall with Wayne Taylor Racing in 2013.
Rahal also has one previous start with the team. That came in the 2008 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Rahal, sharing with Negri, Patterson and the late Justin Wilson, started from pole and led early before running into problems. The team would eventually finish sixth in class, 15 laps down. Rahal was part of the winning No. 01 BMW Riley Mk. XX for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates in 2012.
Acura is also pleased with Honda-powered INDYCAR drivers joining up for their big return to IMSA.
“We’re thrilled to have Graham (Rahal) and Ryan (Hunter-Reay) join the Michael Shank Racing effort at Daytona,” said Art St. Cyr, president of Honda Performance Development (HPD). “The debut of the NSX GT3 at the prestigious Rolex 24 will mark the return of the Acura brand to IMSA sports car competition. The addition of Graham and Ryan to an already excellent driver lineup, coupled with the experience provided by Michael Shank and his team, will make the NSX GT3 a serious contender for the GTD class victory at Daytona.”
Longtime sports car racing fans may remember that Acura-powered entries dominated the Camel Lights class in the IMSA GT Championship in the early 1990s. Comptech Racing’s Parker Johnstone ran roughshod over the field before transitioning to open-wheel racing following the cancellation of both the Camel GT and Camel Lights classes at the end of the 1993.
Hunter-Reay and Rahal join the already announced driver lineups for the endurance races. Negri and Katherine Legge will be in the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 full-time with Tom Dyer joining up for the four races comprising the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup. The No. 93 will be shared full-time by Andy Lally and Jeff Segal. Mark Wilkins will be the third driver in the four endurance races. However, MSR did not announce which car that Hunter-Reay and Rahal will serve as the fourth driver for.