GANASSI RACING GETS READY FOR ROLEX 24
Ganassi Racing gets ready for Rolex 24
By GODWIN KELLY January 23, 2012
DAYTONA BEACH -- The No. 02 BMW Riley is Chip Ganassi Racing's Rolex 24 At Daytona "gumbo team," because the drivers and mechanics come from different disciplines of racing.
While Ganassi and co-owner Felix Sabates send the No. 01 BMW Riley to the start of the Grand-Am Rolex Series looking for a championship at season's end, the No. 02 is a composite of Ganassi's racing empire.
The majority of the crew comes from the IndyCar Series team while the drivers are open-wheel or stock-car pilots -- not fulltime sportscar racers.
The No. 01 car will be wheeled by Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Graham Rahal and Joey Hand, the defending race champions.
This week IndyCar's Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon will join NASCAR Sprint Cup regulars Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray in the No. 02.
Each year, Ganassi throws them together to make this unique racing soup of talent. The No. 02 entry won in 2006 with Casey Mears, Dixon and the late Dan Wheldon.
Ganassi shuffles his talent year to year, but the No. 01 and No. 02 are equals. Out of the eight drivers on the roster, only McMurray is without a Rolex 24 victory.
"But he's won the Daytona 500, so he's not worrying too much," Franchitti said.
Since 2006, Ganassi has won four Rolex 24s and finished runner-up twice. Ganassi became the first car owner to win three consecutive (2006-08) 24s.
"It's a fun weekend," Franchitti said. "You try not to take it too seriously, then you take it seriously when you get into the car. That's part of life. It's good fun.
"Chip loves to win and hates to lose. He is 'Do whatever it takes.' Certainly, his IndyCar and Grand-Am teams have done well, and you've seen his NASCAR have some big changes down there. He's a good guy to drive for."
Drivers like Ganassi because he was a driver before becoming a team owner/manager.
"We have a very good relationship with Chip," Montoya said. "We understand each other. He respects all the drivers. If he has an issue, he'll tell you. If it's all good, it's all good. He is very upfront."
Leading the overall Ganassi charge is Pruett, who has four overall Rolex 24 victories and nine class victories. Three of his wins have come since 2007.
Ironically, Pruett may have to drive an old-style Daytona Prototype after busting the "Generation 3" No. 01 during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test session.
He damaged the new bodywork on the car and Riley is working to replace those parts and pieces. If the chassis/body company can't fill the order, Pruett will drive in the older body style.
While sportscar fanatics will keep an eye on Pruett and his drive to tie Hurley Haywood's record five Rolex 24 victories, others will be rooting the No. 02, Ganassi's pickup team.
"It's really cool," McMurray said of his No. 02 experience. "It's the same group of guys the last two years.
"The first year, I wouldn't say it was intimidating, but you're trying to get used to knowing everybody and it's a little different for the IndyCar guys, because it is their teams working on this car."
The interesting aspect of the No. 02 car is how the drivers unify for a common goal. In this case, winning the most prestigious sportscar endurance race in North America; a racing event celebrating its 50th anniversary this week.
"I'm not big into numbers, I just want to win," Montoya said. "If you come here thinking you don't have a chance to win, you should not be here. This team has four really strong drivers, who can get it done in any condition."
This race is a bit strange for Montoya and McMurray. They will be powered by BMW engines and racing against five Corvettes powered by Earnhardt Childress Racing motors. ECR is the same company that builds Montoya's and McMurray's stock car engines during the season.
"It's kind of awkward because I run Chevy all year; I am a Chevy driver," Montoya said. "This 24-hour weekend, I'm sorry, I want to beat them pretty bad."