It's almost time to get cars back on the track and wave the green flag for a new season of auto racing. Are you as excited as me?
The newly re-branded IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship gets underway Saturday with the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona. The race, held on a 3.56-mile track within Daytona International Speedway, utilizes sections of the road course and portions of the track's oval.
The round-the-clock race, which is the first event of a 12-race schedule for the series, will include 54 cars between four class types: Prototype, Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona.
This year's field includes four-time and defending IndyCar champion and 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner Scott Dixon, former IndyCar champions and Indy 500 winners Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan and NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers Jamie McMurray and AJ Allmendinger. Dixon, Kanaan and McMurray were on the race-winning Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team last season while Dixon also visited victory lane in 2006.
Wayne Taylor Racing is going to be looking for redemption following last year's disqualification. The team had a third-place finish taken away after it was deemed that Jordan Taylor had exceeded his allowed time in the car. The same trio of Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli will return with former Formula One ace Rubens Barrichello to try and improve on that finish.
Action Express Racing, who won in 2010, brings three former winners, including five-time winner Scott Pruett, to compete in this year's race. Michael Shank Racing will try to duplicate its 2012 race-winning effort, alas without Justin Wilson. Former GP2 driver Olivier Pla will race in place of the late IndyCar driver.
The Action Express and Shank teams are the only Prototype teams to visit victory lane besides Ganassi's team in the last six seasons.
Also competing are four-time CART champion and current IndyCar driver (and 2014 race winner) Sebastien Bourdais, IndyCar drivers Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud and Ryan Briscoe and former race winners Memo Rojas and Ryan Dalziel.
Coverage will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday on Fox Sports 1; continue on Fox Sports 2 from 3-9 p.m.; be available at IMSA.com from 9 p.m.-6 a.m. Sunday; return to Fox Sports 1 from 6-9:30 a.m.; move to Fox Sports 2 at 9:30 a.m. before concluding on Fox Sports 1 beginning at noon.
While the heavy favorite is obviously the Ganassi team, they know better than anybody that anything can happen in a 24-hour endurance race. That said, they'll be prepared for myriad issues that will no doubt arise and will settle for nothing less than taking the prestigious race win for the seventh time.
As this is the first major auto race of the year in North America, it is a chance for us race fans to get that blood flowing again and get back in the groove for another season of racing. I recommend checking it out!
Indianapolis 500 gets presenting sponsor
For the first time in the history of the race, the Indianapolis 500 will have a presenting sponsor. The Verizon IndyCar Series announced last week that PennGrade Motor Oil has signed a three-year, $5 million deal to present the race, beginning with May's 100th running.
The company, based in Indiana, sponsored cars in the Indy 500 in the 1950s and was an associate sponsor on driver Graham Rahal's car last season.
With any luck, this will mean larger prize purses for qualifying and the race, which could be a start in attracting drivers not competing full-time in IndyCar.
Busch interested in Indy 500 ride
Speaking of drivers not competing full-time in IndyCar, could there be a NASCAR Sprint Cup star in this year's race? According to Autoweek, Kurt Busch has an interest in competing in this year's 100th running of the Indy 500.
The 2004 Sprint Cup champion, who finished sixth in the 2014 Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport, says the biggest obstacle in his way is the shortage of competitive seats available for this year's race.
Busch thinks there's still time for a deal to come together, noting that his deal for the 2014 race wasn't finalized until the end of March. Andretti Autosport's Michael Andretti has expressed interest in running Busch again the future.
Having Busch back in the race this year would be huge for IndyCar. He proved in 2014 that he could run competitively with limited track time and would pull in viewers who wouldn't generally watch the race. Let's hope something comes together for him in time.
Kvapil back in Truck Series for 2016
Janesville native and 2003 Camping World Truck Series champion Travis Kvapil will return to MAKE Motorsports for the 2016 season. Kvapil drove for the team last season and twice scored the team's best finishing position of 14th.
Kvapil, who finished the 2015 season 15th in driver points, will drive the team's primary Chevrolet Silverado.
Since his 2001 debut in the Truck Series, Kvapil has recorded nine wins and 85 top-ten finishes. His championship-winning season of 2003 included one win and 22 top-ten finishes in 25 races.