Lack of experience, not age, kept Dalton Sargeant out of Rolex 24

Despite finishing second in the Snowball Derby, IMSA race officials determined 16-year-old Dalton Sargeant lacked the experience required to compete in the 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona. 

Chris Trotman

After finishing second in the Snowball Derby to John Hunter Nemechek, Dalton Sargeant was looking forward to racing in another one of the most prestigious races in America come January.

The 16-year-old late model racer was poised to make his first start in the Rolex 24 at Daytona with Performance Tech. However, IMSA stepped in and denied Sargeant a license to compete, ending his hopes at racing in the world-renowned endurance race.

The decision caused a bit of controversy in the sports car world and on social media, but according to IMSA race director Beaux Barfield it was simply a matter of inexperience and age.

"The minimum age requirement for a driver to be licensed in the TUDOR United SportsCar Series is 17," Barfield told "Any dispensation to allow a 16-year-old would include significant racing experience, which we haven’t seen with any 16-year-old that we have approved in recent years. Once they did decide to go down the road and look for special permission, it was denied and there have been about three such instances in recent times."

Although timeliness played a bit of a role in the decision, Barfield said the timing of request was not a determining factor in IMSA’s final ruling on the matter to denial.

Barfield also indicated the sanctioning body also has the right to deny any driver, regardless of age, a license due to their lack of sports car experience.

While Sargeant has proven his ability in late models, his inexperience with sports cars was too much for IMSA to overlook, especially when it comes to answering for any potential issues he may face on the track.

"At his age, I had absolute faith that he’s a talented future star, but for me to be able to answer to any potential incidents — as I sometimes have to do — that he may be involved in on track, at his age, at his lesser experience level, I’m absolutely uncomfortable with," Barfield said.

"The reality is, he gets to that threshold that accounts for his experience level in about two-and-a-half months. At that point, I’m more than happy to grant him a license and he’s off and running."

Despite the controversy surrounding Sargeant’s denied license, Barfield said IMSA encourages young drivers that have a proven track record of sports car experience to apply to compete in the series.

Barfield pointed to the example of Colin Braun, who was granted a license to compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona at the age of 16 in 2005 and competed in a total of five events that year.

For Sargeant, the denial was disappointing, but also served as a motivational push for the upcoming NASCAR K&N East season.