Will Power enters Rolex 24 at Daytona as IndyCar champ makes IMSA sports car debut


Fresh off conquering the NTT IndyCar Series yet again, Will Power will try a new series — entering the Rolex 24 at Daytona for his IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship debut.

The Team Penske driver, who won his second IndyCar championship four months ago, will be in the lineup of the No. 75 Mercedes-AMG in the GTD class. The SunEnergy1 Racing entry was the last addition to the 61-car field on the preliminary entry list for the 61st running of the prestigious season opener at the Daytona International Speedway road course.

Power is a longtime friend of SunEnergy1 Racing team owner and fellow Australian Kenny Habul, who also will be one of the car’s co-drivers.

“The Daytona 24 is an iconic event on the bucket list of most drivers, and I have to thank Kenny for the opportunity,” Power said in a release.

“I am looking forward to driving the heavier GT car and getting experience for, hopefully, a lot more drives like this in the future – including the Bathurst 1000 and Bathurst 12 Hours back in Australia. It is quite funny when you look back at how Kenny and I raced Formula Ford against each other all those years ago, and now we are going to be teammates.

“He chose a business route instead of chasing his racing dream and has obviously been incredibly successful. It has been great to watch him enjoy his racing later in life and actually improve as he gets older. Kenny obviously knows what it takes to be successful in business and is applying all those lessons to his racing. His win in the Bathurst 12 Hour last year is proof of that.”

Said Habul, a sports car veteran: “Will is a monster talent and genuine person, and we look forward to him being a valuable contributor to our 24-hour campaign at Daytona. He has a reputation of being fast in anything he drives and I am sure he will be up to speed in our gear in no time. Will and I have been friends since we raced Formula Ford in the late 90s, and it is quite ironic that we now have houses only a few miles apart from each other in North Carolina.

“We stood on the podium together as kids, in the 1999 Formula Ford race at the Gold Coast IndyCar event, dreaming of racing Indy cars someday, Will made that dream happen and then some. I’m so proud of him.”

Power will become the 11th IndyCar driver in the field of the 24-hour race Jan. 28-29. He will join his two Penske teammates in the race — Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin are teamed on the Tower Motorsports No. 8 Oreca in the LMP2 class.

Other IndyCar drivers in the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona: Meyer Shank Racing teammates Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud (on MSR’s No. 60 Acura ARX-06 in the premier GTP category); Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 1 Cadillac in GTP); Colton Herta (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing BMW in GTP); Devlin DeFrancesco (Rick Ware Racing’s LMP2, No. 51 Oreca); Romain Grosjean (Iron Lynx Racing’s GTD Pro, No. 63 Huracán GT3 EVO2); Kyle Kirkwood (Vasser Sullivan’s No. 12 Lexus RC F GT3 in GTD); Rinus VeeKay (TDS Racing’s No. 11 Oreca in LMP2).

Aside from a handful of starts in the Supercars Series (two in 2010 and two in 2012), Power hardly has dabbled outside of IndyCar since he began racing the series full time in 2008. The 2018 Indy 500 winner is active in go-karting (and owns a company that builds karts). Though Penske had an Acura DPi team in IMSA from 2018-20, Power, 41, didn’t get a shot at the premier category.

In addition to his second title, Power broke Mario Andretti’s IndyCar with his 68th career pole position by qualifying first in the 2022 season finale at Laguna Seca Raceway. Power has 41 wins, ranking fifth on the all-time win list for IndyCar.

IMSA is expected to unveil a finalized entry list soon with the full lineup of drivers in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, which will be broadcast across NBC, USA and Peacock.

With throaty roar, NASCAR Next Gen Camaro is taking Le Mans by storm on global stage

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

LE MANS, France — The V8 engine of the NASCAR Chevrolet Camaro has a distinct growl that cannot go unnoticed even among the most elite sports cars in the world at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

When the Hendrick Motorsports crew fired up the car inside Garage 56, NASCAR chairman Jim France broke into a huge grin and gave a thumbs up.

“The only guy who didn’t cover his ears,” laughed seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

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France has been waiting since 1962 – the year his father, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., brought him to his first 24 Hours of Le Mans – to hear the roar of a stock car at the most prestigious endurance race in the world.

A path finally opened when NASCAR developed its Next Gen car, which debuted last year. France worked out a deal to enter a car in a specialized “Innovative Car” class designed to showcase technology and development. The effort would be part of NASCAR’s 75th celebration and it comes as Le Mans marks its 100th.

Once he had the approval, France persuaded Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear – NASCAR’s winningest team, manufacturer and tire supplier – to build a car capable of running the twice-around-the-clock race.

The race doesn’t start until Saturday, but NASCAR’s arrival has already been wildly embraced and France could not be more thrilled.

“Dad’s vision, to be able to follow it, it took awhile to follow it up, and my goal was to outdo what he accomplished,” France told The Associated Press. “I just hope we don’t fall on our ass.”

The car is in a class of its own and not racing anyone else in the 62-car field. But the lineup of 2010 Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller, 2009 Formula One champion Jenson Button and Johnson has been fast enough; Rockenfeller put down a qualifying lap that was faster than every car in the GTE AM class by a full three seconds.

The Hendrick Motorsports crew won its class in the pit stop competition and finished fifth overall as the only team using a manual jack against teams exclusively using air jacks. Rick Hendrick said he could not be prouder of the showing his organization has made even before race day.

“When we said we’re gonna do it, I said, ‘Look, we can’t do this half-assed. I want to be as sharp as anybody out there,” Hendrick told AP. “I don’t want to be any less than any other team here. And just to see the reaction from the crowd, people are so excited about this car. My granddaughter has been sending me all these TikTok things that fans are making about NASCAR being at Le Mans.”

This isn’t NASCAR’s first attempt to run Le Mans. The late France Sr. brokered a deal in 1976, as America celebrated its bicentennial, to bring two cars to compete in the Grand International class and NASCAR selected the teams. Herschel McGriff and his son, Doug, drove a Wedge-powered, Olympia Beer-sponsored Dodge Charger, and Junie Donlavey piloted a Ford Torino shared by Richard Brooks and Dick Hutcherson.

Neither car came close to finishing the race. McGriff, now 95 and inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame in January, is in Le Mans as France’s guest, clad head-to-toe in the noticeable Garage 56 uniforms.

“I threw a lot of hints that I would like to come. And I’ve been treated as royalty,” McGriff said. “This is unbelievable to me. I recognize nothing but I’m anxious to see everything. I’ve been watching and seeing pictures and I can certainly see the fans love their NASCAR.”

The goal is to finish the full race Sunday and, just maybe, beat cars from other classes. Should they pull off the feat, the driver trio wants its own podium celebration.

“I think people will talk about this car for a long, long time,” said Rockenfeller, who along with sports car driver Jordan Taylor did much of the development alongside crew chief Chad Knaus and Greg Ives, a former crew chief who stepped into a projects role at Hendrick this year.

“When we started with the Cup car, we felt already there was so much potential,” Rockenfeller said. “And then we tweaked it. And we go faster, and faster, at Le Mans on the SIM. But you never know until you hit the real track, and to be actually faster than the SIM. Everybody in the paddock, all the drivers, they come up and they are, ‘Wow, this is so cool,’ and they were impressed by the pit stops. We’ve overachieved, almost, and now of course the goal is to run for 24 hours.”

The car completed a full 24-hour test at Sebring, Florida, earlier this year, Knaus said, and is capable of finishing the race. Button believes NASCAR will leave a lasting impression no matter what happens.

“If you haven’t seen this car live yet, it’s an absolute beast,” Button said. “When you see and hear it go by, it just puts a massive smile on your face.”

For Hendrick, the effort is the first in his newfound embrace of racing outside NASCAR, the stock car series founded long ago in the American South. Aside from the Le Mans project, he will own the Indy car that Kyle Larson drives for Arrow McLaren in next year’s Indianapolis 500 and it will be sponsored by his automotive company.

“If you’d have told me I’d be racing at Le Mans and Indianapolis within the same year, I’d never have believed you,” Hendrick told AP. “But we’re doing both and we’re going to do it right.”

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Fans gather around the NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that is the Garage 56 entry for the 100th 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

General Motors is celebrating the achievement with a 2024 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Garage 56 Edition and only 56 will be available to collectors later this year.

“Even though Chevrolet has been racing since its inception in 1911, we’ve never done anything quite like Garage 56,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “A NASCAR stock car running at Le Mans is something fans doubted they would see again.”

The race hasn’t even started yet, but Hendrick has enjoyed it so much that he doesn’t want the project to end.

“It’s like a shame to go through all this and do all this, and then Sunday it’s done,” Hendrick said. “It’s just really special to be here.”