IndyCar and NASCAR presence basically set for Rolex 24

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One of the best parts about the Rolex 24 at Daytona is the volume of Verizon IndyCar Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stars that will be in the race, considering their seasons don’t start for at least another month or two.

There’s inevitably a bumper crop of drivers from both that pop up. Thus far, that includes at least 13 of the 33 starters in the 2014 Indianapolis 500 (more than one-third of the field), and three from NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Here’s a rundown of confirmed and possible drivers from IndyCar and NASCAR set for the Rolex 24:

INDYCAR

  • Sebastien Bourdais, No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP (P)
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay, No. 7 Starworks Motorsport Riley-Dinan BMW (P)
  • Charlie Kimball, No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford (P)
  • Sage Karam, No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford (P)
  • Tony Kanaan, No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford (P)
  • Scott Dixon, No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford (P)
  • Jack Hawksworth, No. 11 RSR Racing Oreca FLM09 (PC)
  • Martin Plowman, No. 61 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09 (PC)
  • Ryan Briscoe, No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R (GTLM)
  • Simon Pagenaud, No. 4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R (GTLM)
  • Graham Rahal, No. 24 BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE (GTLM)
  • Townsend Bell, No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 (GTD)
  • James Davison, No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage (GTD)

Bourdais, Hunter-Reay, Kimball, Kanaan, Dixon, Hawksworth, Briscoe, Pagenaud and Rahal all raced the full 2014 season, with Karam, Bell, Davison and Plowman each racing in the Indianapolis 500. Bell also serves as NBCSN’s IndyCar analyst.

NASCAR

  • AJ Allmendinger, No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda (P)
  • Jamie McMurray, No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford (P)
  • Kyle Larson, No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford (P)

The NASCAR contingent is much smaller but it’s three full-timers in Allmendinger, McMurray and Larson, plus Max Papis, who of course races sporadically in Cup, XFINITY and Camping World Trucks, in the No. 31 Whelen/Action Express Racing Corvette DP. Papis did not run a single NASCAR race in 2014.

More to come?

Chances are strong at least two more IndyCar-affiliated drivers will be joining the IndyCar list later this month.

Beyond the ones already listed, James Hinchcliffe is a likely candidate somewhere. Hinchcliffe told this writer last month he was close on a couple things, but wouldn’t be returning to the SpeedSource Mazda team he’s driven for the last three years.

Justin Wilson does not have a confirmed IndyCar ride for 2015, but would be a good get for any team for the Rolex 24. Wilson is out at Michael Shank Racing, replaced by teenaged rookie Matt McMurry.

The 2014 Indy Lights champion, Gabby Chaves, figures to return with the DeltaWing team. Chaves is seeking a full-time ride in IndyCar next season.

It’s doubtful any further NASCAR-affiliated drivers will join beyond the four mentioned above.

Most P and GTLM class rides are confirmed, which leaves only the pro-am PC and GTD classes as outlets for drivers to go.

Either way, the already confirmed drivers will have a chance to shake the rust off and get going starting with this weekend’s Roar and the Rolex 24 later this month, January 24-25.

An IndyCar iRacing Challenge at Talladega? Drivers have discussed it

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If Dale Earnhardt Jr. is interested in an IndyCar iRacing event on an oval, he might like the latest idea being kicked around by NTT Series drivers.

“I personally would want to run at Talladega, but I don’t think that’s an option,” Arrow McLaren SP driver rookie Oliver Askew told NBCSports.com in a Friday interview about his simulation work for the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “IndyCar drivers have a group chat with iRacing, and someone had the idea of running at Talladega, and I thought it was brilliant.”

It actually would be a throwback of sorts as a USAC-sanctioned race with Indy cars at Talladega nearly happened 40 years ago.

The IndyCar iRacing Challenge will be running its second consecutive road course Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN or streaming here).

Of the four remaining races in the six-race series, there’s a chance that three of them could be ovals: A Drivers’ Choice track April 11; a “Random Draw” April 18 and a non-IndyCar “Dream” track May 2 (the April 25 race will be at Circuit of the Americas).

ENTRY LIST: Who will be racing at Barber

SPOTTER GUIDE: All 29 of this weekend’s paint schemes

IndyCar drivers are voting on next week’s track, and the options include high-speed ovals such as Texas Motor Speedway and Michigan Speedway.

A multicar crash at Talladega last October. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Talladega apparently isn’t on the list for next week, but surely it could be considered for a future race if it meant having Earnhardt in the field. The 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver is a six-time winner at Talladega, and the NASCAR on NBC analyst’s family is synonymous with the 2.66-mile oval where his late seven-time champion father won a record 10 times.

“I hope he can make that happen,” Askew said of racing against Earnhardt. “I hope IndyCar can grant his wish on that.”

The addition of Earnhardt would fit well with an IndyCar iRacing Challenge that already features champions from NASCAR (Jimmie Johnson) and Supercars (Scott McLaughlin).

Will Power would like to see more of that.

“I think that would be great if we can get big-name drivers from other series,” Power said. “Getting a couple guys from Europe would be cool.”