Jimmie Johnson will race Cadillac in Rolex 24 with Pagenaud, Kobayashi at Action Express

Jimmie Johnson Rolex 24
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jimmie Johnson will open his first year of semi-retirement by racing the Rolex 24 at Daytona as part of an Action Express Racing lineup revealed Friday that should be among the best in the field.

The seven-time NASCAR champion will be paired with Simon Pagenaud, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Rockenfeller in the marquee IMSA sports car event considered the unofficial opener of the racing season. The 24-hour endurance race at Daytona International Speedway draws drivers from all over the world in a quest to collect the Rolex watches awarded to the winners.

Action Express will field a special, second Cadillac DPi-V.R for the star-studded lineup. It will be the No. 48, Johnson’s number, and sponsored by Ally, which funded the final two seasons of his NASCAR career. The entry is being fielded in conjunction with Hendrick Motorsports.

“The Rolex 24 at Daytona is one of the marquee races in the world,” said Johnson, who called his Rolex teammates “three world-class drivers.”

Johnson will be making his eighth Rolex start and first since 2011. He never has won the Rolex 24 but was part of the runner-up team in both 2005 and 2008.

Pagenaud, an IndyCar champion and Indianapolis 500 winner, raced the Rolex 24 for Team Penske the past three years and is an accomplished sports car veteran. Kobaysahi has won the Rolex 24 the last two years with Wayne Taylor Racing in a Cadillac, and Rockenfeller won the 2010 Rolex in an Action Express prototype and later that year won at Le Mans.

“I think we have a big chance to win,” Kobayashi said. “Jimmie is a NASCAR legend. I am looking forward to racing with him. Simon has a lot of experience in the U.S., and he has endurance experience along with all of his IndyCar success. Mike has a lot of time in fast technical cars.”

The No. 48 entry will test the Daytona road course next week and preparations for the Jan.29-31 Rolex begin a week before the race.

Johnson has retired from full-time NASCAR competition but is rapidly filling his 2021 schedule. He’ll be an IndyCar rookie for Chip Ganassi Racing on the street and road courses and has said he’d like to race sports cars.

He’s expected to be joined at the Rolex by reigning NASCAR champion Chase Elliott, who has also said he is entering the endurance race. Elliott is expected to be in the primary car for Action Express, the team owned by Jim France, leader of the family that owns both NASCAR and IMSA. Action Epxress fields a full-time DPi entry for Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr, and its former endurance driver, Filipe Albuquerque, has joined Wayne Taylor Racing for the 2021 season.

It was Rick Hendrick who initially, and accidentally, revealed after the NASCAR season finale last month that Johnson and Elliott planned to enter the Rolex. In the Action Express lineup reveal, the team said the No. 48 entry was “in concert with 13-time NASCAR Cup Series Champions Hendrick Motorsports.”

Chad Knaus, the seven-time championship-winning crew chief for Johnson, has moved into a management role at Hendrick and had taken a new interest in the sports car series. He was in the IMSA garage at Charlotte Motor Speedway and attended the endurance race at Sebring last month.

“We’ve been talking to Jimmie about running with us for many months,” said Gary Nelson, Action Express Racing team manager. “It all came together in November with the support of Hendrick Motorsports and their tremendous partner, Ally.”

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.