The IndyCar Series will once again field a high number of drivers when the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series kicks off with the classic Rolex 24 at Daytona later this month.
As well as obvious candidates to transfer their skills to the twice-round-the-clock marathon - Ganassi's Scott Dixon and Penske's Ryan Briscoe for example - a number of others connected to the open-wheel series will be plying their trade in Florida over 22-25 January.
The past two IndyCar Series champions and the 2007 Firestone Indy Pro Series champion will co-drive one of the two Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates entries in the 47th Rolex 24 as Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti join Alex Lloyd in the #02 Target/TELMEX Daytona Prototype. All three drivers participated in testing at Daytona this past week as Franchitti aims to repeat his victory - in Ganassi's #01 car - from last season.
Chip Ganassi and co-owner Felix Sabates became the first team owners to win three consecutive Rolex 24s when the #01 machine triumphed in 2008, as Franchitti joined former IndyCar runners Juan Pablo Montoya and Scott Pruett alongside Mexico's Memo Rojas in taking victory.
Joining Dixon and Franchitti in finding berths in the Daytona Prototype class for 2009, Briscoe will form part of Penske Racing's assault on the race, the Australian joining sportscar regulars Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, while another former Ganassi man, Darren Manning, teams up with Kyle Petty, Marc Goossens and Leo Hindery Jr at Orbit Racing.
IndyCar racewinners Danica Patrick, Buddy Rice and Ryan Hunter-Reay will all also be involved, having found seats at Childress-Howard Motorsports, Brumos Racing and Michael Shank Racing respectively. Patrick, who took her maiden IRL success in Japan last season, will join Casey Mears, Andy Wallace and Rob Finlay at Childress-Howard, while Rice teams with Darren Law, David Donohue and Antonio Garcia, and Hunter-Reay lines up with Colin Braun, Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson.
Also competing in Daytona Prototypes will be KV Racing Technology co-owner Jimmy Vasser, who will co-drive the #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings entry with NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson and former Grand-Am titlewinners Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, while sometime IRL runner Tomas Enge competes with Alegra Motorsports' new DP squad and former feeder series competitor Brad Jaeger joins Doran Racing.
IndyCar participation is not limited to the quirky prototype class however, as Vision Racing co-owner Patrick Dempsey heads his own eponymous line-up in the GT class with Joe Foster, Tim Lewis Jr and Charles Espenlaub, and former competitors Max Papis and Jeff Bucknum look to take him on with Mastercar/Coast 2 Costa Racing and Stevenson Motorsports respectively.
Also competing in the GT class will be Jim Michaelian, race director of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which welcomes the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights as headline acts for the first time over the weekend of 19 April 2009.