Scott Dixon leads IndyCar drivers in Rolex 24

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The Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona is a race that attracts drivers from across the world of motorsports, and this year’s running of the sports car classic was no exception.

In addition to the presence of reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, several stars from the NTT IndyCar Series competed in the 2020 race.

Among the IndyCar regulars competing this year was five-time champion Scott Dixon, who was part of the No. 10 overall winner from Wayne Taylor Racing.

Joining Dixon in victory lane Sunday afternoon were co-drivers Ryan Briscoe (who competed in IndyCar from 2005-15), Kamui Kobayashi and Regner van der Zande. Dixon previously won the overall in 2006 and 2015; he also took the GLTM class in 2018.

But this was the first time since 2004 that Dixon wasn’t driving in the Rolex for his IndyCar team, Chip Ganassi Racing.

“These situations are just so hard to come by,” Dixon told NBC Sports in victory lane. “I think with Ganassi not being here for the first time in a long time, and having the opportunity to come with such a strong team, the defending champions as well, feels so good for me. I’ll just enjoy it, man. That’s all I can do.

“Hopefully I can come back next year and have another go at it. I just love racing so much, and [I’m] thankful to be part of great teams like this, and part of this whole history.”

Finishing two positions behind Dixon in third was four-time IndyCar champion Sebastien Bourdais, who was competing in his first race at JDC Motorsports/Mustang Sampling Racing.

Though Bourdais will drive for the team full time in IMSA this year after parting ways with Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan, the Frenchman has said he still intends to run a few IndyCar races this season.

Behind Bourdais in fourth pwas the No. 6 Acura Team Penske entry that included Indy 500 winners Simon Pagenaud and Juan Pablo Montoya. Fellow Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay finished sixth overall with Mazda Team Joest.

Among the race’s disappointing finishes was the No. 7 Acura of Team Penske, which was shared between Indy 500 winners Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi with sports car regular Ricky Taylor. 

The trio’s hopes were eliminated just four hours into the race when Harry Tincknell spun Castroneves into a tire barrier in the Bus Stop chicane, sending Castroneves to the garage for repairs.

“It’s not even four hours into the race, I was taking my time, dealing with traffic, and then the guy just decided to dive into [me] in a place that’s probably 120 mph, for a risk that’s not going to pay off,”  a frustrated Castroneves told NBC Sports while his crew repaired the car. “We had a great car. It’s just … 24 hours! Ugh!

“I’m sorry that I expressed my feelings right now, but it’s just ridiculous. Especially when we tell the guy, look, we’re communicating and taking it easy. I’ll let you by, no problem. So many hours to go. It’s just frustrating.”

While most IndyCar drivers competing in the race ran in DPi, a few others raced in other classes.

IndyCar part-timer Ben Hanley was one of the drivers in DragonSpeed’s LMP2 winner, and Colton Herta finished fifth (17th overall) in BMW RLL’s No. 25 car (after winning the GTLM class with the team last year).

Next month, many of the IndyCar drivers who competed at Daytona will return to their day jobs, as the series will conduct a two-day open test session on Feb. 11-12 at Circuit of Americas near Austin, Texas.

The season opener of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series will take place March 15 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, with coverage starting at 3:30 pm ET on NBCSN.

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New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”