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Round-up: Newgarden, Rasmussen headline IndyCar involvement in Rolex 24 at Daytona

Written by Archie O’Reilly, Featuring Dan Jones

The Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona falling prior to the NTT IndyCar Series season always makes it a haven for IndyCar driver appearances as extra, endurance drivers. And of the 25 drivers confirmed for the 2024 IndyCar season so far, 15 competed in this year’s Rolex 24 across the various classes…

1. Josef Newgarden - No.7, Porsche Penske Motorsport, GTP

Finishing position: 1st (1st in class)

Josef Newgarden was granted a second outing in the Porsche 963 for Daytona having debuted in the car for Penske at Petit Le Mans at the end of the 2023 IMSA season. And this time, he won the big prize and played a part in achieving Roger Penske’s first Daytona 24 Hours victory since 1969.

The No.7 car looked strong from the outset and was leading when Newgarden got his first shot at the wheel, just short of the seven-hour mark. He led the field to green from a caution period and held his own against established drivers such as Pipo Derani in the No.31 Whelen Cadillac. 

Newgarden did eventually find himself fall back slightly when battling drivers with much more experience in the discipline. But he did exactly what the team wanted of him, keeping things clean overnight and keeping them right in the fight.

Once daylight broke and the latter stages were reached, Matt Campbell and Felipe Nasr ran exceptionally at the front of the field. The latter weathered the persistent storm of Tom Blomqvist in the No.31 car in the closing stages to earn all four drivers - Dane Cameron completing the lineup - their first overall win at Daytona. 

2. Tom Blomqvist - No.31, Whelen Cadillac Racing, GTP

Finishing position: 2nd (2nd in class)

Tom Blomqvist came up just short of winning back-to-back-to-back Rolex 24s, but that by no means detracts from what was yet another performance that outlines his prodigious ability in sportscar racing. The 2022 IMSA champion is widely regarded as one of the world’s best sportscar drivers, no matter the class. And rightly so.

Blomqvist’s decision to venture into IndyCar for 2024, plus Meyer Shank Racing’s departure from IMSA, left him free to be picked up for the season’s endurance rounds, which do not clash with IndyCar events. He was bound to be hot property, hence being acquired by the reigning IMSA champions, the No.31 Whelen Cadillac Racing team.

It showed the Briton’s standing that he was trusted to finish the race despite being new to the team and not being a full-time feature across the season. And he could not have done much more in a bid to win the race, catching the high-flying No.7 Porsche Penske across some long late stints before delivering an outstanding move around the outside, evading traffic coming off the speedway.

Unfortunately for Blomqvist, who had extended his lead to around three seconds, an untimely late caution saw him jumped by Felipe Nasr’s Porsche 963 in a pit stop cycle. He put pressure on Nasr all the way until a possibly premature chequered flag - something nobody else really managed late on - but was scuppered by traffic.

It was still a remarkable last stint worthy of winning the race.

 3. Colton Herta - No.40, Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti, GTP

Finishing position: 3rd (3rd in class)

While not a full-time feature for the team, Colton Herta completed the second-most laps of a very strong four-driver No.40 lineup - less than Louis Deletraz but more than Jordan Taylor and Jenson Button combined. And the No.40 Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) with Andretti lineup certainly maximised what they had at their disposal. 

It was evident that the No.40 WTR Acura did not have the pace to contend for the win, yet during his stints, Herta still consistently ran either up towards or within the podium places. To finish third-place as a team was a creditable achievement.

There is lots to factor in when it comes to how this result was achieved. There were doses of adversity, including an issue sending the car to the back of the GTP field around the five-hour mark, then a more serious-looking issue being overcome later on, with Deletraz getting the car restarted only a single lap down.

By the time daylight came around, there were scarcely times that the No.40 entry was not running inside the top four. And Herta’s sizable involvement means IndyCar had representatives on every step of the overall podium.

4. Christian Rasmussen - No.18, Era Motorsport, LMP2

Finishing position: 9th (1st in class)

Arguably the most impressive IndyCar driver performance across the 24 hours was that of 2024 Ed Carpenter Racing rookie Christian Rasmussen. He spearheaded the No.18 Era Motorsport LMP2 entry to a victory in class, running the majority of laps for his team and often finding himself the fastest LMP2 driver on track.

By the second half of the race, when the main business of the race is regarded to really start, Rasmussen continually found himself fighting at the front. And when he took the point, he was able to take off and maintain some really healthy buffers to the rest of the LMP2 field. 

When it came down to the final stint, it was the 23-year-old Dane trusted to close the race in the No.18. Despite the pressure being on more than at any point, he still kept his rhythm and maintained the lead.

A late caution period saw a lead of over 10 seconds wiped, yet Rasmussen showed maturity to weather the restart and simply build the gap back up inside the closing laps. By the time the chequered flag fell, the reigning Indy NXT champion secured his maiden IMSA class victory by almost seven seconds. 

It was a dominant, statement display.

5. Pietro Fittipaldi - No.52 Inter Europol, LMP2

Finishing position: 12th (4th in class)

Pietro Fittipaldi was not in line to race. In fact, he was in Indianapolis, where he had returned to after testing at Homestead days prior, when he got the call seeing if he could replace Clement Novalak, who had sustained a minor injury in pit stop practice.

It was placing a lot of faith in Fittipaldi to step into the No.52 Inter Europol car without having any practice time. He told IMSA TV that he had arrived in Daytona early on Saturday morning, after which he got a quick seat fit and went straight into the race. It was a baptism of fire. But Fittipaldi is a trusted pair of hands in sportscar racing.

He would go on to complete the second-most laps of the four drivers of the No.52 car, running as high as the podium positions from the very early stages of the 24 hours. The car stayed very much in contention throughout, with Fittipaldi even running second inside the closing three hours.

The team narrowly missed out on a podium finish in the end, but Fittipaldi did a remarkable job having been called up to race at such a late stage.

6. Scott McLaughlin - No.8, Tower Motorsports, LMP2

Finishing position: 13th (5th in class)

Sebring 12 Hours LMP2 victor from 2023, Scott McLaughlin, was once again a driving force for Tower Motorsports, narrowly missing out on a podium having worked himself to inside the top three after the late caution restart. 

The fact that McLaughlin had the No.8 car in a position to contend for a podium was remarkable in itself. At one point, before McLaughlin took the wheel, the car was two laps down. But, once he stepped in after about five hours, not only did the car recover to the lead lap, but McLaughlin ended his opening stint fourth-place in class.

During his second stint, the recovery was furthered to the podium positions, where he seemed to find himself every time he took the helm beyond this. It was yet more evidence of McLaughlin’s aptitude when it comes to stepping into any different type of car. 

Even if he fell just short of a podium by the chequered flag, McLaughlin showed the racecraft to climb from outside the top three to once again be in contention after the late yellow period. He continues to impress in the sportscar field and lead his team forward in every outing. 

Is it now about time he gets a shot in the top class?

7. Pato O’Ward - No.2, United Autosports, LMP2

Finishing position: 14th (6th in class)

An international fan favourite, Pato O’Ward’s return to the Rolex 24 in the LMP2 class captured the interests of many, as he aimed to repeat his 2022 class win, when he lined up alongside the likes of Colton Herta and Devlin DeFrancesco.

However, it would not turn out as successful in 2024. Teamed up with ex-IndyCar driver, Ben Hanley, Ben Keating and Nico Pino, O’Ward and the No.2 car were the dominant force in class in the early proceedings of the event, O’Ward twice pulling out a comfortable lead in the early phases of the race, leading up to the 11 hour mark.

However, as sunrise blossomed over the Daytona International Speedway, the United Autosports entry suffered brake issues, hampering their progress. A combination of this and unfortunately-timed cautions saw the team fall back multiple laps which made a very difficult task on Sunday morning.

O’Ward and Hanley drove for the majority of the Sunday attempting to claw back the laps lost, but wouldn’t have the time to do it, finishing 6th in class, one lap down from the class-winning No.18 Era Motorsport entry. (Dan)

8. Kyffin Simpson - No.81, DragonSpeed, LMP2

Finishing position: 15th (7th in class)

Kyffin Simpson won the European Le Mans Series in an LMP2 car with Algarve Pro Racing in 2023. And despite only being 19 years old, the 2024 Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar rookie was the lead driver in his first appearance with DragonSpeed for the Rolex 24.

Unfortunately for Simpson, the team found themselves off the lead lap for the majority of the 24 hours, leading to quite a nondescript event for the youngster. Still, they finished seventh in class while a host of the LMP2 field fell by the wayside.

The race will have offered more valuable experience for Simpson ahead of his IndyCar debut.

9. Marcus Ericsson - No.10, Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti, GTP

Finishing position: 43rd (9th in class)

Marcus Ericsson, competing with Andretti for the first time, was one of the less fortunate drivers. The No.10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura suffered a systems failure with Filipe Albuquerque at the wheel, shortly before Ericsson was set for his first stint in the car around the eight-hour mark.

The GTP field had started the race very reliably, with the No.10 becoming the first car to suffer any more significant problem. They were left behind the wall for much longer than they would have seen as ideal, putting them out of contention in terms of any headline result.

Ericsson did still tweet about how fun it was out on track, despite being 98 laps down when he got out in the car. 

10. Alexander Rossi - No.9, Pfaff Motorsports McLaren, GTD Pro

Finishing position: 44th (10th in class)

From an IndyCar standpoint, one of the most gut-wrenching moments was seeing the No.9 Pfaff Motorsports McLaren going behind the wall before even four hours had been run.

Pfaff made the switch from Porsche to McLaren this off-season, with Arrow McLaren IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi recruited to run in Daytona. He joined his good friend, podcast co-host and IndyCar cult hero, James Hinchcliffe, who is the additional endurance driver for Pfaff this season. 

Pfaff entered the race less prepared than some, having missed some testing ahead of the year given the car was still being prepared, which could have played into a string of issues that ultimately plagued the team. This prevented any competitive running for either Rossi or Hinchliffe given the car fell out of contention before either ended up running.

The pair did both get out on track, but the car appeared to incur at least two further issues and ended up retiring due to a terminal issue inside the closing five hours. After a strong qualifying and early promise, it was a tumultuous time for Pfaff in Florida.

11. Alex Palou, Scott Dixon - No.01, Cadillac Racing, GTP

Finishing position: 47th (10th in class)

Along with the Pfaff team, the No.01 Cadillac Racing GTP outfit was probably the most IndyCar-dominant team. There were 12 championships between active drivers, Scott Dixon and Alex Palou, and Champ Car legend Sebastien Bourdais. And there were times that this prestigious lineup, in terms of IndyCar success, looked a good bet to contend for the win.

No matter who was at the wheel - including Dixon, who is very accomplished in the sportscar scene, and Palou - they were running comfortably near the front of the field. There were times where the fetching yellow Cadillac looked in a commanding position.

But things started to unravel overnight, with Bourdais initially suffering a puncture due to debris, albeit keeping the car out of the wall. The Frenchman would end up a lap down, gaining that back but then seeing the car suffer a terminal failure with Renger van der Zande behind the wheel.

This led to the retirement of the No.01 car after 13 hours, preventing a possible double current IndyCar victory in the premier class.

12. Kyle Kirkwood - No.14, Vasser Sullivan Lexas, GTD Pro

Finishing position: 48th (11th in class)

Kyle Kirkwood headed into the race with high hopes as he continued with the reigning GTD Pro champions, Vasser Sullivan, in the No.14 Lexus. The American was the endurance driver for the team alongside the British duo of Ben Barnicoat and Jack Hawksworth for an imperious 2023 season.

But 2024 has not started off on a high note.

World Endurance Championship hypercar supremo Mike Conway was a fourth driver for the team for the Rolex, but with the veteran at the wheel, the No.14 suffered a highly unfortunate early crash. An LMP2 car lost traction in front of the Lexus on a caution restart, leaving Conway with nowhere to go.

They had been leading in the early stages, but with the front end largely missing, they had to go behind the wall for significant repairs. They returned to the track after shortly over an hour, but they became one of a selection of retirements during nightfall, while Kirkwood was at the wheel, due to overheating issues as a result of the early incident.

13. Romain Grosjean - No.60, Iron Lynx Lamborghini, GTD Pro

Finishing position: 54th (12th in class)

Romain Grosjean had a quiet and ultimately disappointing outing in his No.60 Lamborghini for the Iron Lynx team in the GTD Pro class. He ran a long evening stint but the team never became a factor near the front of the field GTD Pro field. They ended up retiring from the race with a gearbox issue around the halfway mark of the 24 hours.

14. Felix Rosenqvist - No.22, United Autosports, LMP2

Finishing position: 57th (11th in class)

Of all of the confirmed IndyCar representatives, Felix Rosenqvist probably had the worst of days - if you can say he really even had a day at all. With the Meyer Shank Racing-bound Swede not yet having driven, the No.22 United Autosports LMP2 car was sent behind the wall after hitting the wall early on, leaving it crabbing severely.

It is the worst possible scenario to have such an early incident, throwing a possibility of a win out of the window before the 24 hours has even started. The car did reemerge sporting changed colours after repairs, but the day was over after six hours, when the decision was taken to retire the car.

Other IndyCar-related notes

There were a number of former IndyCar drivers in the field, including a selection that could yet return to the series in some form in the future. 

Katherine Legge, who ran the Indianapolis 500 for Rahal Letterman Lanigan in 2023, lined up alongside seven-time IndyCar starter Tatiana Calderon in the No.66 Gradient Racing Acura in the GTD class. Legge started the race and ran towards the front, but issues riddled the team throughout and, after one temporary fix, they ended up retiring overnight.

Devlin DeFrancesco, who could yet return to IndyCar in a vacant Dale Coyne Racing seat in 2024, had any meaningful running seized before he was even in the car. His No.78 Forte Racing Lamborghini, also in the GTD class, suffered a heavy crash inside the opening half-hour. They would end up missing two hours of action.

Nolan Siegel was another running of interest to IndyCar fans, fresh from an impressive test day with Coyne at Homestead last week. Unfortunately for Siegel - and through no fault of his own - the No.33 Sean Creech Motorsport car, which is the only LMP2 entry to run a Ligier chassis, had a day to forget.

The incidents began before Siegel even got in the car, with teammate Lance Willsey at the wheel. Once Siegel got behind the wheel, they were plagued by a lingering, tough-to-solve alternator issue. They kept bouncing back, but after a rear deck lid failure inside the final five hours saw their car alone cause a fourth caution, they took the decision to retire.


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