IndyCar Series drivers featuring in Rolex 24 Hours

Sage Karam will be co-driving the No. 01 Prototype car during the 2015 Rolex 24 Hours.

©2015, Richard Dole/LAT Photo USA

This weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona is a chance for race drivers from around the world to showcase their talent in North America’s longest endurance sports car race. In some ways, it has become the kickoff race for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Fourteen of the 33 starters in last year’s Indianapolis 500 will compete in the race including many of the top drivers in the race. An IndyCar driver has co-driven the winning overall entry in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past four years including Sebastien Bourdais in last year’s 24-hour contest.

The full talent of the Verizon IndyCar Series is on display in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“When you look at the names we have had a lot of very talented drivers participate in that race,” said Bourdais, who is back with Action Express Racing in a Corvette. “We have had some very talented drivers come from GP2 and even Formula One and they haven’t been able to run away in the series. It is quite the opposite. It is hard to run at the front in IndyCar and hard to win races.

“When you can drive up front in other series it gives you a chance to shine. A good driver is a good driver.”

Bourdais is from Le Mans, France – site of the world’s most famous 24-hour race so there was always quite a lure for him to compete in both Le Mans and Daytona.

A chance to prove his versatility is something that attracted Graham Rahal to compete in the Rolex 24 and he is back for another attempt in a BMW for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Qualifying results from the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona

“A good driver can drive an IndyCar; a great driver can drive it all,” Rahal said. “That’s the difference. I’ve seen a lot of guys that can be quick in IndyCar and then they jump in a V8 SuperCar and they are terrible. When I was a kid that was one of the things my dad stressed upon me was I need to drive everything. I need to be in a GT car, an IndyCar a Sports Car, a DP car, a prototype. Anything you can think of I should be driving. That’s what my dad told me.

“I look at the greats of our sport – A.J. Foyt being the greatest – Mario and my Dad are certainly right in there. They are guys that have won Sebring, won Daytona, won the Indy 500. That is a pretty spectacular resume.

“I have a Daytona 24 hour win under my belt but I need an Indy 500 and a 12 Hours of Sebring to cap it off. That has always been the goal – try to drive it all and be the best that you can in anything.”

He also likes to carry the IndyCar banner into this contest against drivers from other racing series.

“It is a big deal for us and there is a lot of pride in winning that event,” Rahal said. “You know the awareness that it does bring for your sport in IndyCar. There are a lot of great drivers who would like to have a chance to win here. I think the IndyCar guys are going to be the stars of the event and they can prove it this year.

“I think it is a cool thing for IndyCar. The NASCAR guys have come, they tried it and frankly not with a lot of success. It’s kind of cool the attention has been put on the IndyCar boys as of late but this is what we do all the time – road racing. It’s a cool thing. The attention is well-deserved and on the guys running up front.”

These two drivers represent an outstanding collection of talent competing this weekend from the IndyCar Series.

Rolex 24 at Daytona: The five greatest races

Sage Karam and Charlie Kimball are two of the four drivers in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates entry. The No. 02 Ganassi/Sabates ride includes three-time IndyCar Series champion and 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner along with 2004 IndyCar champion and 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan.

Reigning Indianapolis 500 winner and 2012 IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay is one of the drivers in the No. 7 Starworks Motorsports entry to round out the IndyCar entries in Prototype.

"The 24 kind of kicks off the year and has become part of my calendar," Hunter-Reay said. "I always look forward to it before the start of the (Verizon IndyCar Series) season. It definitely helps you get in race shape after a long layoff."

Other IndyCar drivers include Jack Hawksworth, No. 11 RSR Racing (Prototype Challenge), Martin Plowman, No. 61 BAR1 Motorsports (Prototype Challenge), Ryan Briscoe, No. 3 Corvette Racing (GT Le Mans), Simon Pagenaud, No. 4 Corvette Racing (GT Le Mans), Townsend Bell, No. 63 Scuderia Corsa (GT Daytona), James Hinchcliffe, No. 70 SpeedSource (Prototype) and James Davison, No. 007 TRG-AMR (GT Daytona).

Gabby Chaves, the 2014 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion returns to co-drive the No. 0 DeltaWing with former Verizon IndyCar Series driver Katherine Legge, Memo Rojas and Andy Meyrick. Shelby Blackstock, who moves from Pro Mazda to Indy Lights with Andretti Autosport this season, will share seat time with Plowman.

These drivers will give full commitment to their respective teams this weekend and many of them don’t expect much sleep.

 “When I’m in the race I really haven’t slept very much,” Bourdais said. “I like to stay in the groove. I might sleep an hour or two but that’s about it. Night is long at Daytona because it comes pretty early and the sun doesn’t come up very early so it’s different than summer in Le Mans. For a few years, every time I went to sleep I would wake up and nobody would wake me up because the car had retired so I just stopped sleeping. It’s a bad wakeup call when you realize you are out of the race.

Watch LIVE onboard streaming during the Rolex 24 HERE

“I would rather be there to stop the bad luck so I just stay there.”

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Be sure to catch Bruce Martin’s Honda IndyCar Report on RACEDAY on FOX Sports Radio every Sunday from 6-8 a.m. ET.