TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates has confirmed its lineup for the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Four new drivers join four team holdovers as the team seeks an encore of its 2013 Rolex 24 victory.
The defending champion No. 01 Ford EcoBoost Riley will feature Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, the team’s announced full-season drivers, with NASCAR’s Jamie McMurray and Firestone Indy Lights champion Sage Karam joining for the Rolex 24.
The sister No. 02 will feature two of Ganassi’s four full season IndyCar drivers, in Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan with new NASCAR recruit Kyle Larson and Marino Franchitti completing the lineup. Dixon and Larson have tested for the team in November; Dixon is not at the Roar Before the 24 this weekend.
“I think we have two lineups that are capable of winning the race,” Ganassi said. “We have a couple of new faces in Kyle Larson, Marino Franchitti, Sage Karam. These guys are champions in their own right. As you know we made some driver changes over the winter. Some were planned, some were not planned.”
Karam, Larson, Franchitti and Kanaan are the team’s new Daytona recruits for 2014, who replace Juan Pablo Montoya, Charlie Kimball, Joey Hand and Dario Franchitti. Kimball and Ryan Briscoe, the other two IndyCar drivers, are unavailable for Daytona; Montoya has shifted from Ganassi’s NASCAR team to Roger Penske’s IndyCar team, Hand will drive for BMW Team RLL in GT Le Mans and Dario Franchitti, of course, has had to retire due to the injuries sustained in IndyCar’s second race at Houston.
For Marino Franchitti, the opportunity to drive with Ganassi was something he immediately jumped at.
“I got a taste a few years ago to run the test, but I couldn’t do the race with other commitments,” he said. “When you get the call from Chip, you’re like, ‘Where do you need me and when?’ There’s a lot of newness with Ford, but you know Chip and his whole organization are built to win these big races.”
Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Kanaan made his first sports car start for Ganassi at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last July.
“Chip gave me a little bit of a taste at Indianapolis, and I asked, ‘Are you guys gonna let me do it again?’ But he kept his promise,” Kanaan said.
Larson, who completed roughly 15 laps of testing in November, said he was surprised to have a chance to run the Rolex 24 for Ganassi this early in his career.
“We announced the (NASCAR) deal at Atlanta, being part of Chip’s team, and I thought I would eventually run this race. I didn’t think I’d have opportunity to do it this year,” he said. “As far as 3-4 am shifts, I’m usually out that late anyway, so bring it on.”
While Karam may represent a surprise to choice to some, he’s been in position for this opportunity for a couple weeks. The 18-year-old Nazareth, Pa. native will be new to sports cars, but has plied his trade through the Mazda Road to Indy over the last four years, culminating in the Indy Lights title this year. A phone call from Ganassi team officials around Christmas was the first sign he had a chance; he is also represented by GP Sports Management, the same group as Dario Franchitti.
“This is one of the most exciting things in my life so far,” he said. “You look at this driver lineup, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. I’ll be picking all their brains, learning as much as I can. It’s an honor to be a part of it and to have the faith that Chip has to put me in the car.”
Drivers for the remaining North American Endurance Cup races in the No. 02 car are yet to be determined.