IndyCar stars Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward set as Rolex 24 teammates in DragonSpeed LMP2

Penske Entertainment

Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward, two of the NTT IndyCar Series brightest young stars, will be entering the 2022 Rolex 24 at Daytona as teammates in the LMP2 division.

Herta and O’Ward will be paired with Devlin DeFrancesco (who will be an IndyCar rookie with Herta at Andretti Autosport next season) and Eric Lux for DragonSpeed’s No. 81. DeFrancesco will make his fourth LMP2 start at Daytona, and Lux, the team’s bronze-rated driver, will be attempting his 12th Rolex 24 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series season opener Jan. 29-30 (which will be broadcast by NBC Sports).

O’Ward, 22, will be making his third start in the Rolex 24 but first since 2018, having won the LMPC class as a rookie in ’17.

“I’m so pumped for this,” O’Ward said during a Zoom news conference Wednesday. “I just think it’s so exciting. It’s such a good way to start off the season. DragonSpeed has their own record of being so competitive. I know they’re going to give us the tools to challenge for a Rolex. And great driver lineup. I couldn’t have thought of a better one to try and accomplish this. So I think we’re in good hands.

“Just really looking forward to having fun and truly enjoying everything.”

This will be the fourth consecutive Rolex 24 start for Herta, 21, but his first in a prototype. He was part of the GTLM-winning entry of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with the BMW M8 GTE in 2019. In addition to being an Indy Lights teammate with O’Ward at Andretti in 2018, Herta also raced against him and DeFrancesco in the junior ranks.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun racing with Devlin, Pato and Eric,” Herta said. “The last time that we were all racing against each other would have been back in go karts around 2011-12. And it’s cool to see us come this far and be teammates in this effort. I’m really looking forward to it. DragonSpeed has shown numerous times that they can put a really good car together for a 24-hour race, so I’m excited about that. We have a really good driver lineup, so it’s going to be super cool, and I’m really excited about it.”

DragonSpeed won the LMP2 division at the Rolex 24 in 2019-20 and finished third at Daytona last season. The team won the LMP2 Pro-Am division at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2021.

“This gives our streak of attracting the best driving talent to DragonSpeed another massive bump,” Elton Julian, the team principal for DragonSpeed, said in a release. “We already know how well Eric and Devlin can perform with us at Daytona from last year, and adding two of IndyCar’s brightest stars to our 2022 squad makes our prospects even more exciting. I can’t help but think it’s too bad we couldn’t secure a DPi for this race, as this lineup clearly deserves one. We certainly tried!

“Most of our LMP2 rivals are capable of delivering a fast, efficient, and reliable run. We aim to do the same and give our all-stars – all with plenty of Daytona experience – the platform they need to make the difference.”

O’Ward and Herta both won multiple races in the NTT IndyCar Series last year. O’Ward broke for his first career victory at Texas Motor Speedway with Arrow McLaren SP, and Herta tied for the series lead with three victories, including the final two at Laguna Seca and Long Beach.

DeFrancesco, 21, was the Indy Lights rookie of the year last season.

“The Rolex 24 is always an awesome way to kick off the racing season, and I’m really looking forward to returning in 2022 with DragonSpeed and having my old friends Pato and Colton as part of the package,” DeFrancesco said in a release. “I have a big season ahead stepping into IndyCarbut I always find Daytona an energizing start to the year. I expect that will be even more so this January sharing the experience with Colton and Pato! I really enjoyed driving with Elton and the team last year and to return with this line-up in 2022 is just brilliant.”

The Rolex 24 car will be sponsored by Kimoa, the clothing and accessories brand founded by two-time F1 champion and 2019 Rolex 24 winner Fernando Alonso.

The No. 81 LMP2 for the 60th Rolex 24 (DragonSpeed)

Sergio Perez wins rain-delayed race in Singapore over Leclerc; Verstappen seventh

Sergio Perez Singapore
Clive Rose/Getty Images,

SINGAPORE — Max Verstappen’s Formula One title celebrations were put on hold after the Red Bull driver placed seventh at a chaotic Singapore Grand Prix, won by his teammate Sergio Perez on Sunday.

Perez’s second win of the season saw him finish 7.6 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. in third place.

Perez was investigated for a potential safety car infringement but still kept the win after a 5-second time penalty for dropping too far back after being warned.

Verstappen had won the past five races but needed to win here and finish 22 points ahead of Leclerc to be crowned champion for a second straight season. That could happen next weekend at the Japanese GP.

Verstappen made a mistake after the second safety car restart, following AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda’s crash on Lap 36. When Verstappen tried to overtake Lando Norris’ McLaren, he locked his tires and needed to pit again.

Leclerc started from pole position with Verstappen going from eighth after a team blunder in qualifying.

The race start was delayed by more than an hour to clear water off the Marina Bay Circuit track following heavy rainfall. Drivers had to finish the 61-lap race within a two-hour window; 59 laps were completed.

Tricky conditions saw the virtual safety car deployed three times and DRS was allowed with about 30 minutes remaining.

Perez made a good start and jumped past Leclerc while Verstappen dropped several places. The first safety car was on Lap 8 when Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo was cut off by Nicholas Latifi’s Williams.

Perez got away cleanly at the restart, while Verstappen climbed into seventh behind Fernando Alonso – whose 350th F1 race ended disappointingly when his engine failed on Lap 21, bringing out the first VSC.

With the track still damp, drivers decided against changing to quicker tires – apart from Mercedes’ George Russell, who struggled for grip.

Hamilton made a rare mistake on Lap 33 and thudded into the crash barrier. Soon after, the leading drivers changed tires in a flurry of stops. They did so just before the safety car was deployed again following Tsunoda’s error.

Verstappen overtook Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin right at the end for seventh place.