OK, I promised a preview for the Daytona Prototype class in this weekend's 24 Hours of Daytona, and I am not about to let a promise go unfulfilled (well, other than the other six dozen times I've promised to write something here and then didn't...those do not count). It has been a crazy week at the office this week, so this will be brief, but as a result, I can promise you that I have not read any other DP preview columns this week (nor have I been keeping up with any of the usual racing blogs that I read in any given week or any of the regular videopodcasts that I watch, and apologies to anybody I might have missed there), so these thoughts are fresh.
OK, without any further ado, and because I have to get up to work in about seven hours (them French crullers and apple fritters ain't gonna bake themselves, kids), here is The Speedgeek's abbreviated preview of the 2012 Daytona 24 Hours Daytona Prototype class. Again, don't go adding these odds up and sending me irate comments. I'm not a bookie. You're getting exactly what you paid for here.
Er...No Way, Chester
#50 50+Predator/Alegra BMW-Riley - While this team may have some very capable hands at the helm for several of the 24 hours (that would be Elliott Forbes-Robinson, Jim Pace, Carlos de Quesada) there are a couple of pretty suspect drivers as well (that would be Bryon Defoor, who I've never heard of before and then AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson, who has never started such a major race in his life, to my knowledge). 40% sub-professional drivers? I don't like those odds. Odds - 100 to 1.
Jeez, Not With The Strength of this Top-10
#6 Michael Shank Racing With Curb-Agajanian Ford-Riley - There are a couple of future megastars in this car (namely, Felipe Nasr, last year's British F3 champion, who is probably bound for F1 in a couple of years after the way he dominated last year, plus Michael McDowell, who would be well served to get his arms around eventual stardom in sports cars instead of "starting-and-parking" 30 times per year in NASCAR), but the whole lineup is just too young. Young, impetuous drivers in a 24 hour race = somebody is gonna wad this car up. Odds - 75 to 1.
#76 Krohn Racing Ford-Lola - A pretty solid driver lineup, overall (Colin Braun and ex-F1 driver Ricardo Zonta, especially, though Nic Jonsson is quite good and team owner Tracy Krohn is no embarrassment), but just not a strong enough squad to beat the top few teams on sheer pace. Yeah, yeah, 24 hour, blah, blah, endurance, blah, blah. Too many tough teams up front. Odds - 50 to 1.
#2 Starworks Motorsports Ford-Riley - Three words: too many Potolicchios. Odds - 50 to 1.
It's Gonna Take Some Attrition
#77 Doran Racing Ford-Dallara - Jim Lowe, the Brothers Frisselle and (The Immortal) Paul Tracy are certainly a pretty stout lineup. I'm not sure I'm buying them winning the race in a Dallara (which has never won the 24 before)-Ford (which has historically had, um, a few reliability problems here). Odds - 40 to 1.
#60 Michael Shank Racing With Curb-Agajanian Ford-Riley - A dynamite driver lineup (IndyCar superstud Justin Wilson, new Roger Penske NASCAR and hopefully future Roger Penske IndyCar employee A.J. Allmendinger, the very quick regular duo of Ozz Negri and John Pew), potentially hamstrung by a hand grenade Ford engine. And, yes, I know full well that a Ford engine finished in the top-5 and on the lead lap last year, but the competition seems to have made a performance leap that may be a bridge too far for the Fords to keep the smoke inside the engine compartment. Besides, I have to start paring down teams sometime, right? Odds - 20 to 1.
#90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP - Yet another top-line driver lineup (filled with GM factory drivers, Jan Magnussen, Richard Westbrook, Antonio Garcia and Oliver Gavin), but the team itself had...well, they had some problems finishing races last year. They could make a breakthrough at Daytona, but it would take some help from the competition. Odds - 20 to 1.
#8 Starworks Motorsports Ford-Riley - A Great (with a capital "G") driver lineup (sportscar mega-megastar Allan McNish, one of the brightest upcoming sports car drivers in the world, Ryan Dalziel, winner of about 3,400 sports car races in Audi LMPs, Lucas Luhr, the two Venezuelan fellas that appeared out of nowhere to turn pretty respectable by the end of 2011), but I don't totally trust 40% of the drivers. And the teams ahead of them are just a little too good, even for the likes of McNish, Dalziel and Luhr. Yes, even though Dalziel put this car on the pole. I stand by it. Odds - 10 to 1.
#9 Action Express Racing Corvette DP - It's hard to argue with the driver talent (the three regular drivers, Joao Barbosa, Terry Borcheller and JC France did win a race last year, and for the sake of this race they've added Mad Max Papis, who was born at this track 15 years ago) and the team itself did win the 24 just two years ago, but the top few teams are just too stacked. Also, you have to wonder (OK, I have to wonder) if the Corvette DP is going to last the entire distance in its first race. Odds - 10 to 1.
#5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP - David Donohue, Darren Law and Christian Fittipaldi are a great lineup. The Corvette appears to be very fast (although the #5 car did not set a qualifying time, and so will be starting from the tail of the field). So, what's wrong? This team isn't one of the Ganassi, Gainsco or SunTrust cars, that's what. Odds - 8 to 1.
#10 SunTrust Racing Corvette DP - You can not front on the speed of the car (on the front row, by a scant 0.121 seconds behind Dalziel in the Starworks Riley), nor can you front on the speed of the drivers (IndyCar star Ryan Briscoe, a guy who just goes by the name "The Axe", and Ricky Taylor, won something like 26 consecutive pole positions in GrandAm last year). But I just think the other teams are a tick better. Odds - 6 to 1.
#99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP - Yet another standout (to put it lightly) driver lineup (Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, who have won two of the last five Rolex Series championships, plus all-around fast guy in everything he touches, Memo Gidley), in yet another rocketship Corvette. They would be the prohibitive favorites (though I have to put them at Odds - 5 to 1), if it were not for...
The Prohibitive Favorites
#01 and #02 Chip Ganassi Racing With Felix Sabates BMW-Riley - The team that has won four of the last six 24 Hours of Daytona crowns, three of the last four Rolex Series championships, and something approaching 93% of the last five seasons' worth of races (all stats approximate), you'd be an idiot to put a whole lot of money on some other team without at least hedging a bit with a similar wager on one (or both) of the Ganassi cars. It's basically a pick-'em between the two. The #01 has the regular Ganassi GrandAm drivers of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas plus IndyCar star Graham Rahal and last year's breakout sports car megastar Joey Hand. The #02 car has IndyCar superduperstars Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon and Ganassi's regular NASCAR drivers, Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray. Those are two pretty unbeatable lineups. Incredibly, one of them won't win this race. Which one will come up short? Your guess is as good as mine. Odds - #01: 3 to 1; #02: 3 to 1.
So, there are your fields. And here are your qualifying results. What will happen? Well, one thing I can tell you is that there will be last minute predictions tomorrow. And we'll all have an unbelievably fantastic time watching the proceedings, of both the 24 Hours and of Blogathon. Tune back in on Saturday for all the shenanigans you can handle.