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Daly goes from busy IndyCar test to last-minute Rolex 24 drive

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Conor Daly’s week in Florida has been extended through the weekend thanks to a last-minute call from Starworks Motorsport team principal Peter Baron.

The 25-year-old has been added to the lineup of the No. 88 Oreca FLM09 in the Prototype Challenge class for this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. Daly joins fellow young star Sean Rayhall, along with race debutante James Dayson, Alex Popow and Scott Mayer. Sebastian Saavedra tested for the team at the Rolex 24 in that car but had not been confirmed for the race.

For Daly, nearly 200 laps of running (he estimated 180 laps) in his No. 4 ABC Supply Co. Chevrolet IndyCar over two days at Sebring International Raceway was the start of his week.

And then he got interrupted as his A.J. Foyt Racing crew was doing a damper change.

“I’m in the pits in-between runs, and I ask my crew to hand me my phone,” Daly told NBC Sports. “I look down and all of a sudden there’s a few messages from Peter asking if I was available to drive. It’s a great opportunity and I figured I’d jump at it.”

Daly has one past Rolex 24 start, with RSR Racing in 2014, and also in the PC class.

His most recent IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship experience came in 2015 with Performance Tech Motorsports, running the balance of the season from the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring onwards. Daly impressed many in the paddock with his speed, and will look to capture an elusive first class victory as part of this lineup this weekend – one which would also be overdue and deserved for Baron and his Starworks team.

Daly joins the list of IndyCar drivers racing at this year’s Rolex 24 as well. That list grows to 12 drivers who competed in 2016, and eight who are confirmed for the full season in 2017.

Starworks’ two cars are adorned in special bright colors, which Baron has referred to as “Please Don’t Hit Me Pink” for the No. 8 and “Hey, We’re Right Here Orange” for the No. 88, according to Sportscar365.

The No. 8 car features the lineup of Robert Wickens, Remo Ruscitti, John Falb, Chris Cumming and Ben Keating, the latter of whom is also in the No. 33 Riley Motorsports-Team AMG Mercedes AMG-GT3 in the GT Daytona class.

Practice for the Rolex 24 at Daytona begins at 10:20 a.m. ET this morning.

Former 5-time ALMS and Le Mans-winning team owner Dave Maraj killed in accident

Photo courtesy Dave Maraj Facebook page
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Well-known sports car team owner and automobile dealership owner Dave Maraj was killed Saturday night in a boating accident in Florida, according to SportsCar365.com.

Maraj’s Champion Racing teams won five consecutive American Le Mans Series championships from 2004 through 2008, and also captured the overall win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2005, the last American team to do so in the iconic sports car race.

IMSA President Scott Atherton released the following statement mourning Maraj’s passing:

Dave Maraj. Photo courtesy IMSA.

“All of us at IMSA are shocked and saddened by the news of Dave Maraj’s passing. As a team owner in the American Le Mans Series, Dave and his Champion Racing organization were the epitome of professionalism and excellence, as their five series championships and 24 Hours of Le Mans victory will attest.

“Dave was a tremendous competitor and a great friend to all in the paddock throughout his time in our sport. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dave’s family and friends and to all of his associates at Champion Motors.”

Maraj was a very successful automobile dealership owner, most notably Champion Motors and Champion Porsche in Pompano Beach, Florida, the latter considered the No. 1 Porsche dealer in the U.S.

Details of how Maraj died have not been released.

Maraj sold his racing operation after the 2008 season and devoted himself to his Porsche and Audi auto dealerships, as well as competitive sailing.