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Start your engines: What you need to know about the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona

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The 56th edition of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona once again promises lots of action and excitement.

The race starts this afternoon and will go 24 hours straight – and unless there is a full-course caution, cars will keep going no matter what, including racing in the rain.

Here’s a quick primer to give you the key details for today’s race:

RACE: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener – the Rolex 24 at Daytona

TIME: Race begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday and concludes 24 hours later at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

WEATHER: The race should be dry until around 10 a.m. ET on Sunday, when the Wunderground.com forecast says precipitation chances will be 25 percent, increasing to 48 percent and chance of scattered thunderstorms at 1 p.m. ET and with a good likelihood the race will finish wet, with rain chances increasing to 63 percent by 2 p.m. ET. The race concludes at 2:30 p.m. ET.

TV BROADCAST SCHEDULE:

SATURDAY

2-5 p.m. ET – FOX (green flag at 2:30 p.m. ET)

5-10 p.m. ET – FS2

10-11 p.m. ET – Fox Sports Go

11 p.m. – 12 a.m. ET – FS1

SUNDAY

12-8 a.m. ET – Fox Sports Go

8-10 a.m. ET – FS2

10 a.m. – 3 p.m. ET – FS1 (checkered flag at 2:30 p.m. ET)

RADIO:

* IMSA Radio (available online) will broadcast the entire race. Will also be broadcast via SiriusXM (Sirius Channel 138/XM 202/Internet App Channel 972).

TIMING & SCORING:

* Available on IMSA.com

NUMBER OF ENTRIES (50 total):

Prototype (20)

GTLM (9)

GTD (21)

TOP QUALIFIERS

Prototype class:

  1. No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac Dpi-V.R Cadillac Dpi – 1:35.083 — Jordan Taylor, Renger Van Der Zande, Ryan Hunter-Reay
  2. No. 7 Acura Team Penske Acura Dpi – 1:36.090 – Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor, Graham Rahal
  3. No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi – 1:36.194 – Filipe Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi

GTLM class:

  1. No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R – 1:42.779 – Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Mike Rockenfeller
  2. No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford – 1:42.798 – Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller, Sebastien Bourdais
  3. No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR – 1:42.927 – Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber, Gianmaria Bruni

GT Daytona class

  1. No. 51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3 – 1:46.049 – Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda, Daniel Serra
  2. No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT3 – 1:46.502 – Miguel Molina, Ricardo Perez de Lara, Martin Fuentes, Santiago Creel, Matt Griffin
  3. No. 15 Racing Lexus RC F GT3 – 1:46.658 – Jack Hawksworth, David Heinemeier Hansson, Scott Pruett, Dominik Farnbacher

NOTES:

* First Rolex 24 race: 1962

* Most wins (driver): Hurley Haywood (5), Scott Pruett (5)

* Most wins (team): Chip Ganassi Racing (6)

* Most wins (manufacturer): Porsche (18)

* Grand Marshal: Chip Ganassi, who is also seeking his 200th career win as a motorsports team owner across all platforms, including IMSA, WEC, IndyCar and NASCAR

* One of the biggest names taking part in his first Rolex 24 is two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso

* Helio Castroneves makes his debut in IMSA as a full-time driver, moving from his previous career in IndyCar

* Acura Team Penske makes its official debut as a full-time IMSA organization, fielding two cars: No. 6 Prototype – Dane Cameron, Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud; No. 7 Prototype – Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor, Graham Rahal

* Active Formula 1 Drivers (2):

Fernando Alonso (two-time World Champion, 32 career Grand Prix victories)

Lance Stroll (20 career Grand Prix starts)

* Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Winners (2): Juan Pablo Montoya (2 career victories), A.J. Allmendinger (1 career victory)

* Indianapolis 500 Winners (4): Helio Castroneves (3 victories), Juan Pablo Montoya (2 victories), Ryan Hunter-Reay (1 victory), Scott Dixon (1 victory)

* Verizon IndyCar Series Champions (4): Scott Dixon (4 championships), Juan Pablo Montoya (1 championship), Ryan Hunter-Reay (1 championship), Simon Pagenaud (1 championship)

* The field include 14 drivers who have won at least one IndyCar race, more than 30 drivers who have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and nine drivers who started the 2017 Indianapolis 500.

* Legendary racer Dan Gurney, who passed away on Jan. 14 at the age of 86, will be honored. Cars and drivers throughout the field will have commemorative car and helmet decals, the Fox Sports telecast has been dedicated to Gurney and a Sam Posey written and narrated tribute will close the Fox telecast following the race’s conclusion.

* The No. 30 Lola T70 that Gurney drove to victory in the 1966 Can-Am race at Bridgehampton, New York – the only Ford-powered car to ever win a Can-Am race – will lead the field around on its pre-race parade lap.

* Scott Pruett competes in the last race of his career. He retires after Sunday’s checkered flag. Pruett hopes to win a sixth Rolex 24, which would set a record for most championships by a driver. Pruett and his No. 14 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 racing team will start fourth in the GT Daytona (GTD) class.

* In case you’re wondering, yes, Jackie Chan Racing is partly owned by Chinese action movie star Jackie Chan.

Could Scott Dixon someday break Foyt, Andretti wins and championships records?

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With five races left in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Scott Dixon is in the driver’s seat to potentially earn a fifth career IndyCar championship.

After winning Sunday at Toronto, Dixon now has a 62-point edge over second-ranked and defending series champ Josef Newgarden and a 70-point lead over third-ranked Alexander Rossi.

The triumph north of the border was Dixon’s third there, as well as his 44th career IndyCar win, third-highest in IndyCar annals.

Add in the four IndyCar championships and those are stellar numbers indeed.

What makes things all the more amazing is Dixon has done all that in under 18 full seasons on the IndyCar circuit. Heck, he’s only 37 years old, too (although he turns 38 on July 22).

Dixon’s championships have come in 2003 (his first full season in IndyCar after two prior seasons in CART/Champ Car), 2008, 2013 and most recently in 2015.

The quiet, unassuming New Zealander has been one of the most successful drivers ever not just in IndyCar, but in all forms of motorsports.

When his name is mentioned, it’s typically included with the only two drivers who have more career wins than he does: A.J. Foyt (67 wins and seven championships, both records) and Mario Andretti (52 wins and four titles).

That’s a pretty lofty pair to be part of.

One might think that after all the success he’s had, Dixon could easily walk away from IndyCar and Chip Ganassi Racing and enjoy an early retirement.

But competing in and winning races isn’t really a job for Dixon. He enjoys what he’s doing so much that he easily could keep doing what he’s doing – and at a high level – for another seven or more years, at least.

So, can Dixon catch Mario and A.J.? The former would be easier than the latter, for sure.

Numerically, it’s possible – at least part of it:

* Dixon can easily be competitive into his mid-40s.

* He’s averaged three-plus wins every season since 2007 (37 wins from then through Sunday). That means if he can keep that average going, he could reach 24 more wins – to overtake Foyt – by 2026. Yes, that may be a stretch to even imagine, but if there’s any current driver who potentially could overtake Foyt, it’s Dixon.

* Dixon already has three wins this season, and with five more races still to go, he could easily win another one, two or maybe even three more in 2018 as he continues his road to the championship. And let’s not forget that with each additional win, that’s one win closer to overtaking Andretti and Foyt.

In his usual modest and humble manner, Dixon downplays not just talk comparing him with Andretti and Foyt, but also overtaking one or both.

“I think A.J. is pretty safe,” he said. “He’s a long ways ahead. … Eight (championships) is an infinity away. Takes a long time to get eight.”

But that doesn’t mean Dixon can’t keep working at approaching Foyt’s mark.

“I think for us, we take it race by race,” he said. “We’re in the business of winning races. If we’re not doing that, I won’t have a job for too long. That’s the focus for right now.”

If he wins the championship this year, he’ll pass Andretti’s championship mark. That would be one record down, three to go.

And if he can win nine more races over the next few seasons, he’ll pass Andretti’s 52 career wins, making it two records down and two more to go.

“Right now with 44 wins, next on the list is Mario I think at 52 or something,” Dixon said after Sunday’s win. “We’ll see how it goes. Right now, we’re just trying to get the job done for the team.”

And he’s doing a darn good job at that indeed – with likely even more success still to come.

Follow @JerryBonkowski