A wide-open race is expected for Saturday's 47th Rolex 24 at Daytona, when Grand-Am Road Racing's top competitors join stars of NASCAR, the IndyCar Series and international sports car racing battling for top overall honors in America's premier sports car event.
Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates has a star-studded two-car roster in quest of an unprecedented fourth consecutive triumph in the event, but a long list of contenders has lined up for the opening round of the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask #16 campaign.
All of the 20 Daytona Prototypes entered are capable of challenging for top overall honours in the event, which also features 31 entries in the GT class.
Defending Daytona Prototype co-champions Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas return in the #01 TELMEX/Target Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley, with Pruett and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular and 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya seeking their third consecutive victory in the event. Dario Franchitti was also part of the 2008 winning car, but shifts to the team's #02 Target/TELMEX Lexus Riley with 2006 Rolex 24 winner Scott Dixon and Alex Lloyd. That car pairs the two most recent Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series champions - Dixon (2008) and Franchitti (2007) - with the 2007 Firestone Indy Lights champion.
However, a number of other teams will be keen to end the Ganassi run of success.
Jimmie Johnson, riding a three-year championship streak in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, joins 2007 Daytona Prototype champs Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty plus 1996 Champ Car titlist Jimmy Vasser in the #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley, which will be chasing a first win in the event, while Penske Racing celebrates the 40th anniversary of its victory in the 1969 Rolex 24, with its first full assault in the event since 1973. Two-time Rolex 24 winner Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas - Penske's regular drivers in 2009 Daytona Prototype competition - share the #16 Crown Royal Cask #16 Porsche Riley with Penske IndyCar Series driver Ryan Briscoe. Last year, Briscoe was part of a joint venture between Penske Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing which took third in the Rolex 24.
Brumos Racing, which dominated the Rolex 24 in the 1970s, has a solid two-car line-up with Darren Law, David Donohue, Terry Borcheller and 2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice in the #58 Porsche Riley, joined by five-time Rolex 24 winner Hurley Haywood, Joao Barbosa, JC France and Antonio Garcia in the team's #59 car.
Childress-Howard Motorsports makes its Rolex 24 debut with three-time winner Andy Wallace joined by NASCAR's Casey Mears, IndyCar's Danica Patrick and Rob Finlay in the #2 Pontiac Crawford.
Michael Shank Racing captured both front-row starting positions for the 2008 Rolex 24, and ended last year's campaign by winning the final two races. Pole winner Ozz Negri returns in the #60 Ford Riley, joined by Mark Patterson, Ryan Hunter-Reay and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular Colin Braun. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular AJ Allmendinger partners with John Pew, Michael Valiante and Ian James in the team's #6 entry.
SunTrust Racing, the 2005 Rolex 24 winner, rolls out a new combination with the #10 Ford-powered Dallara driven by two-time event winner Wayne Taylor, Max Angelelli, Brian Frisselle and Pedro Lamy.