The GRAND-AM Rolex Series signs off as a series this weekend before the merged Tudor United SportsCar Championship premieres in 2014.
This marks the last race for the foreseeable future where it will just be Daytona Prototypes in the top class, before the fusion of DPs and P2s and the DeltaWing from the American Le Mans Series in 2014.
Here’s a look at the protagonists for this year’s DP championship battle:
- It’s Wayne Taylor Racing’s to lose. Jordan Taylor is only 22 but drove with the will, resolve and determination of a champion the last two races at Kansas and Monterey, leading the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide/Toshiba Corvette DP to back-to-back wins. He and Max Angelelli enter with an eight-point lead, and Angelelli is the defending race winner at Lime Rock with Taylor’s older brother Ricky. Prohibitive favorites if they stay out of trouble and within range of their rivals.
- For Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, it’s the “drive for five.” The pair of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas have won the last three consecutive, and four of the last five, Rolex DP titles in the No. 01 Riley BMW. They’re second and eight points back. A win (35 points) and fifth (26 points) or worse for the No. 10 Corvette nets them yet another crown.
- GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing could secure its third DP title with a bit of bad luck affecting the two cars in front of them. Despite only one podium finish in the last seven races, Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney have stayed close to the title lead and enter Lime Rock 11 points back. They need their second win in the No. 99 GAINSCO “Red Dragon” and for both of the two in front of them to finish seventh or worse.
- Action Express’ No. 5 Corvette DP has one of its two drivers who could win the title, Christian Fittipaldi, but not co-driver Joao Barbosa. The pair were split earlier this year and Fittipaldi has two more points. He needs a win and the other three ahead to finish 10th or worse to pull off the crown.
- Starworks Motorsport is still mathematically eligible but at 20 points back, the No. 2 Riley BMW pair of Alex Popow and Ryan Dalziel would need to hope for early-race chaos that eliminates all cars ahead of them before completing 30 minutes, the minimum time needed to score points.
1. Jordan Taylor/Max Angelelli, 304
2. Scott Pruett/Memo Rojas, 296
3. Alex Gurney/Jon Fogarty, 293
4. Christian Fittipaldi, 291
5. Joao Barbosa, 289
6. Ryan Dalziel/Alex Popow, 284
MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the Verizon IndyCar Series field in 2015 with Marco Andretti, who finished ninth after another top-10 season in points.
Marco Andretti, No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda
- 2014: 9th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 5th, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 23 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 12.2 Avg. Finish
- 2015: 9th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 3rd, 2 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 60 Laps Led, 11.5 Avg. Start, 9.1 Avg. Finish
It was a dependable, quiet but usually consistent season from Marco Andretti, who up until the final quarter of the season had actually been his father’s most reliable finisher.
Andretti didn’t necessarily have a ton of standout drives but he was usually there or thereabouts, and by the end of the day he was often at the low ends of the top-10, which earlier this year given the at-times troublesome Honda aero kit package on road and street courses was more of an accomplishment than you’d think. Three top-10 results in the first four races was proof positive of that.
As ever Andretti excelled most on the big ovals. Sixth at the Indianapolis 500 was as good as was possible given the lack of top-end speed; similarly, he probably could have emerged at the head of the field at Fontana, ending third when all was said and done.
His best result was second in the rain at Detroit race one, although coming second to teammate Carlos Munoz had to sting a little bit. Andretti had driven well that race, and was unfortunate not to be rewarded with his first win in four years.
The thing that would have been his standout stat of the year, finishing every lap, game unglued with an odd accident on home soil in Pocono. It was a shame to see because Andretti was typically good, if not great, for yet another season.
MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver lineup in the Verizon IndyCar Series, after the 2015 season, with eighth-placed Tony Kanaan.
Tony Kanaan, No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
- 2014: 7th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 2nd, 6 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 12 Top-10, 407 Laps Led, 9.2 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish
- 2015: 8th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 2nd, 3 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 213 Laps Led, 7.6 Avg Start, 9.9 Avg. Finish
You have to give TK credit. Armed with one of the best cars on the grid, Kanaan has certainly raised his game the last two years, and probably hasn’t received enough credit or enough results for some of his drives he’s put in since joining Chip Ganassi Racing after the 2013 season.
The 2015 season was no exception. All 10 of his top-10 finishes were between second and seventh, so there were plenty of times he was in win and podium contention. The other area where he improved was his qualifying. Kanaan only had two starts outside the top-12 all season, one of which occurred at Detroit race two, where the grid was set by points following a rain cancellation. Detroit was pretty much the only weekend where Kanaan didn’t figure into qualifying or the race. Blame the Taylor Swift-inspired Big Machine Records livery for that one if you want.
Accidents at the Indianapolis 500 and Pocono were costly retirements as Kanaan definitely had a shot to win both those races. But realistically you couldn’t find many other faults. Losing a sure win at Iowa due to a mechanical issue was a gutting blow. He was also unlucky to come up just shy at Fontana, and may have prevailed in a last-lap shootout.
More often that not however, Kanaan was firmly on top of his game, and reliably on par with his championship-winning teammate Scott Dixon, which was all you could ask for. It’s fitting the two of them opened the year as part of the winning lineup in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with Kanaan then helping out matters by finishing ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya at Sonoma, to ensure Dixon had enough points to win the title on countback.