2021 Rolex 24 at Daytona: Schedule, TV info, start times, entry lists, more

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The 59th Rolex 24 at Daytona, the unofficial annual start to the auto racing season, will begin ramping up its schedule this week.

The 24-hour sports car endurance classic will attract a typically star-studded field that will include NASCAR and IndyCar champions and winners of the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500.

In a scheduling twist, the Roar before the Rolex 24 — a preseason test session that usually takes place during the first week of January — will lead directly into the main event this season.

And for the first time in the event’s history, it will be capped by a 100-minute qualifying race Jan. 24 that will set the starting grid for the Rolex 24.

Here’s what you need to know about IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener Jan. 30-31 at Daytona International Speedway:

WHAT’S NEW

There are numerous driver and manufacturer changes in the premier DPi division, starting with the two-time defending Rolex 24 at Daytona winner.

Wayne Taylor Racing has switched from Cadillac to Acura and also brought in new full-time drivers Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque. Joining the No. 10 at Daytona will be Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi.

The split of Acura and Team Penske also will result in Meyer Shank Racing moving into the prototype class to run an Acura.

Chip Ganassi Racing will return to IMSA, fielding a Cadillac for Renger van der Zande (a winner in the past two Rolex 24s with WTR) and Kevin Magnussen (who arrives after four seasons with the Haas F1 team).

In the GTLM division, the exit of Porsche (which will focus on returning in the LMDh class in 2023) has led to some driver shuffling. Nick Tandy has remained in GTLM with Corvette Racing, while Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor have moved to GTD.

In addition to the new Rolex 24 qualifying race, IMSA also has several other wrinkles for the 2021 season, including a new points structure that includes points for qualifying and a new class in LMP3 for six races.

Under the new championship structure, points will increase by a factor of 10 with a victory now worth 350 points (previously 35). Points still are awarded from first to 30th.

Points also will be awarded for qualifying at 10 percent of the total (35 points for a pole). Qualifying points are awarded to all drivers in each car.

NOTABLE DRIVER ADDITIONS

Per usual, the Rolex 24 has attracted numerous drivers in other disciplines who will be paired with full-time IMSA drivers.

Here’s a few of the stars crossing over from other series to the sports car classic that will open the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season:

NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, AJ Allmendinger

INDYCAR: Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves, Colton Herta, Rinus Veekay, J.R. Hildebrand, Oliver Askew.

OTHERS (veterans of WEC, F1, DTM, etc.): Kamui Kobayashi, Robert Kubica, Kevin Magnussen (joining Ganassi’s team full time)

CAR COUNT

There are 49 cars on the entry list for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. That’s up from a record-low 38 cars in 2020.

The addition of a new LMP3 class and growth of the LMP2 and GTD divisions have offset some departures in DPi and GTLM.

Click here for the Rolex 24 entry list.

RACE BROADCAST

The Rolex 24 at Daytona will be shown flag to flag via TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold. It also will be streamed on the NBC Sports AppNBCSports.com and TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.

Broadcast coverage of the race coverage will begin at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 30 on NBC and then move to NBCSN from 4:30-8 p.m. ET. Coverage will move to the NBC Sports App from 8-11 p.m. ET and then back to NBCSN from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. ET on Jan. 31.

Coverage will move to the NBC Sports App from 3-6 a.m. ET and then to NBCSN from 6 a.m.-2 p.m. ET.

The Jan. 31 conclusion of the race will run from 2-4 p.m. ET on NBC.

DAILY SCHEDULE

Here’s a rundown of everything happening at Daytona International Speedway, starting with the Roar before the Rolex 24 test session this weekend.

Friday, Jan. 22

7 a.m. — Garage opens

9-9:45 a.m. — Prototype Challenge practice

10-11:15 a.m. — Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. — Rolex 24 practice (all classes)

2-2:30 p.m. — Prototype Challenge practice

2:45-4:15 p.m. — Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

4:15-5:30 p.m. — Rolex 24 practice (4:15-4:45, GTD silver/bronze; LMP3, LMP2 bronze; 4:45-5:15, all GTD, LMP2, LMP3; 4:30-5:30, GTLM/DPi)

8 p.m. — Garage closes

Saturday, Jan. 23

7 a.m. — Garage opens

8:45-9 a.m. — Prototype Challenge qualifying

9:15-10:15 a.m. — Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

10:30-11:30 a.m. — Rolex 24 practice (all classes)

12:50-2:35 p.m. — IMSA Prototype Challenge at Daytona race

3-4:05 p.m.  — Qualifying for Motul Pole Award 100 (3-3:15, GTD, 3:25-3:40, LMP3; 3:50-4:05, DPi)

4:25-5:20 p.m. — Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

7-9 p.m. — Rolex 24 practice (all classes)

10 p.m. — Garage closes

Sunday, Jan. 24

7 a.m. — Garage opens

10-10:20 a.m. — Motul 100 warmup (all classes)

10:35-11:50 a.m. — MIchelin Pilot Challenge practice

2:05-3:45 p.m. — Motul 100 Pole Award qualifying race for the Rolex 24 at Daytona (100 minutes); tape-delayed coverage: 4:30 p.m., NBCSN

7 p.m. — Garage closes

Monday, Jan. 25-Tuesday, Jan. 26

8 a.m.-5 p.m. — Garages open

Wednesday, Jan. 27

6 a.m. — Garages open

1:45-2:45 p.m. — Michelin Challenge practice

3-3:30 p.m. — MX-5 practice

6:45 p.m. — Garages close

Thursday Jan. 28

7 a.m. — Garages open

9-9:30 a.m. — MX-5 practice

9:45-10:45 a.m. — Michelin Challenge practice

11:05 a.m.-12:05 p.m. — Rolex 24 practice (all classes)

12:25-12:55 p.m. — MX-5 qualifying

2:25-3 p.m. — Michelin Challenge qualifying

3:20-4:35 p.m. — Rolex 24 practice (3:20-3:50, GTD silver/bronze; LMP3, LMP2 bronze; 3:35-4:35, GTLM, DPI; 3:50-4:20, all drivers)

5-5:45 p.m. — MX-5, Race #1

7:15-9 p.m. — Rolex 24 practice (all classes)

Friday, Jan. 29

7 a.m. — Garages open

9:25-9:55 a.m. — Michelin Challenge practice

10:15-11 a.m. — MX-5 Race #2

11:20 a.m.-12:20 p.m. — Rolex 24 practice (all classes)

1:35-5:35 p.m. — BMW Endurance Challenge

Saturday, Jan. 30

8:30 a.m. — Garages open

1:50-2:45 p.m. — Grid cars in reverse order: GTD/GTLM-LMP3/LMP2/DPi

3:40 p.m. — Rolex 24 at Daytona green flag

Sunday, Jan. 31

3:40 p.m. — Rolex 24 at Daytona checkered flag

7:30 p.m. — Garages close

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)