Austin Dillon will race the Rolex 24 at Daytona, joining RWR Eurasia in LMP2

NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America ROVAL 400
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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Austin Dillon is the latest NASCAR driver in the 2021 Rolex 24 at Daytona.

In a release Thursday, the RWR Eurasia team announced Dillon would join Cody Ware and Salih Yoluc on its LMP2 entry for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener on Jan. 30-31 at Daytona International Speedway.

Dillon will become the third NASCAR Cup winner in the field, joining defending series champion Chase Elliott and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

Elliott and Johnson will be driving in separate Cadillacs for Action Express in the premier DPi division (which is faster than the LMP2 Ligier that Dillon will be driving).

The Rolex 24 will mark the IMSA debut for Dillon, who also will be driving the Daytona International Speedway road course for the first time. Because of a positive test for COVID-19, the 2018 Daytona 500 winner missed the Aug. 16 race at Daytona (which replaced Watkins Glen International on the schedule).

The Rolex 24 will serve as a Daytona road course warmup for Dillon and Elliott, who will be racing the layout in their Cup Chevrolets twice in February with the Busch Clash and a Feb. 21 race that will replace Auto Club Speedway on the 2021 schedule.

Ware was announced as a Rolex 24 driver last month for Eurasia Motorsport, which formed a partnership with Rick Ware Racing. The team still has one more driver slot to fill on the car.

Cody Ware, a veteran of NASCAR’s top three national series and the Asian Le Mans Series, also will be making his Rolex 24 debut. He was scheduled to be in last year’s race but withdrew after a team crash in testing.

Here is the release from the RWR Eurasia team:

Having already confirmed its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship debut at the Rolex 24, RWR Eurasia announces that both Austin Dillon and Salih Yoluç will be joining Cody Ware at Daytona International Speedway for the first round of the Michelin Endurance Cup in its Ligier JS P217.

With three out of the four seats now confirmed, the team already has an impressive and experienced driver line-up. Austin is the 2018 Daytona 500 NASCAR Cup Series race winner and competed in the series this year with Richard Childress Racing. He previously claimed titles in both Nationwide and the Camping World Truck Series.

Salih meanwhile is an exceptionally well-qualified Bronze-rated drover courtesy of winning this year’s edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GTE-Am class. Previously, the Turkish racer clinched the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup, took the inaugural FIA Nations Cup victory and is a multiple race winner in both European Le Mans Series and International GT Open. In addition, Salih has experience of the Ligier LMP2 machinery having competed in the class in the Asian Le Mans Series in 2018/19.

The two new signings will complement the talents of defending Asian Le Mans Series champion Cody Ware, solidifying the firm foundations for the RWR Eurasia challenge at Daytona International Raceway. The team are now assessing options for the final race seat in readiness to compete in the ROAR Before the Rolex 24.

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
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Results and points from Anaheim 2