A quartet of young NASCAR guns will leave their stock cars at home to compete in next week’s IMSA sports car events at Daytona International Speedway to open the 2022 season.
Austin Cindric, Harrison Burton, Chase Briscoe and Hailie Deegan – all part of the Ford Performance program in NASCAR – will team up in two Ford Mustang GT4s for the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, the BMW M Endurance Challenge, on Friday January 28. A day later, Cindric will ride in the #15 Proton USA Mercedes-AMG GT3 and race in the new GTD PRO class for the 60th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA, the most prestigious sports car race in the world. North America, which announces the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Schedule, January 29-30.
Cindric and Burton will share the #41 PF Racing Mustang for the Michelin Pilot Challenge race, with Briscoe and Deegan in the #42 Mustang from the same team. The goal for all four drivers is to gain valuable road course experience before embarking on their NASCAR seasons – the Camping World Truck Series for Deegan and the Cup Series for the other three.
Tickets are available for next weekend’s activities and include the items below. For all ticketing information for the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA weekend, log on to www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or call 1-800-PITSHOP.
4-day adult tickets: $125 (court/front/garage access); FREE for children 12 and under
Adult tickets Saturday-Sunday: $75 (infield/frontline/garage access); FREE for children 12 and under
Adult tickets Saturday-Sunday: $50 (court access, front): children 12 and under FREE
Adult tickets Sat-Sun: $50 (Frontstrech seats not reserved): children 12 and under FREE
Adult Friday tickets: $30 (Frontstrech seats not reserved): children 12 and under FREE
Sunday adult tickets: $35 (Frontstrech seats not reserved): children 12 and under FREE
Cindric, the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion who will be a Cup Series rookie this year with Team Penske, is no stranger to IMSA racing. The 22-year-old has competed in 16 Michelin Pilot Challenge races with two wins and has six WeatherTech Championship races under his belt.
For Burton, a 21-year-old Wood Brothers Racing Ford NASCAR driver and son of former NASCAR driver and current NBC Sports racing analyst Jeff Burton, it will be a new experience on Daytona’s 3.56-mile course.
“I had these conversations with my friends at Ford and at the Wood Brothers and at Penske. The only thing I wanted to work on to be better was (to) be a better road runner,” Harrison Burton said. “Having the opportunity to do that from the start is great and I owe them credit for being committed to helping me improve. That’s really all a driver can ask for.
- To download the new Rolex 24 At DAYTONA logo, click on here. Click on List of entries for Rolex 24 At DAYTONA as well as the weekend program. For photos of the four pilots, click here.
Drivers have the blessing of their teams to venture out of their usual workspace to compete at Daytona.
“We want to be flexible,” said Walter Czarnecki, vice president of Team Penske. “We want to give them the opportunity to broaden their skills.”
The quartet will have plenty of seat time at Daytona to do so. It started on Friday with three days of testing for both IMSA series at the Roar Before the Rolex 24. In Friday’s second session, Cindric was seventh fastest among the 30 cars in the Grand Sport (GS) class with a lap of 1 minute, 54.027 seconds. (112.394 mph), while Briscoe was 12th at 1:54.367 (112.060 mph).
“That’s one thing that I’ve really wrapped up and said for this year 2022, that I just need to get as much seat time as possible, whether it’s in the dirt, the circle track stuff, everything what I can drive,” said Deegan, 20, who is returning to David Gilliland Racing for a second truck season in 22. “I just want to come in and get more experience and I feel like he there’s one thing I could improve on – I can improve on a lot of things – but I feel like one thing that really happens more in the NASCAR world is the road course the races. I feel like I can racing any type of road course will, I think, improve me as a driver.
It will be a reunion for Deegan and Briscoe, who shared a Mustang for the 2020 Daytona race. Briscoe, who is racing for Stewart-Haas Racing in the Cup Series this season, is looking forward to seat time and seeing how Deegan has improved in the two years since they drove together.
“The last time we were there was the first time she raced anything on a road course,” said Briscoe, 27. “Now to get back with her, she’s probably raced three or four truck races now (on road courses) and raced some other IMSA stuff, so it’ll be fun to see her improve as a race car driver .
“She’s doing a really good job in a lot of different disciplines, and it’s going to be fun to go out there and do a totally new discipline for both of us and go out there and have a great time.”
When the Michelin Pilot Challenge race is over, the race will end for three of the drivers. Not so for Cindric, who will be making his fourth start in the Rolex 24, this time co-driving the No.15 Mercedes with Dirk Mueller and Patrick Assenheimer. Cindric has a clear goal in mind.
“I have a very strong desire to win the Rolex 24 and that’s my motivation to do this race,” said Cindric, who won Beef last February. That’s what’s for dinner. 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series races. “I’ve worked very hard every off-season to try to shake things up, not to get into a five-rider team just to go race and experience it. I kind of did all of that.
“I would say the Rolex is probably the most realistic race I can look at and say I would love to win this race. I think it’s a great opportunity for me to do it or at least establish my abilities to do it and, like I said, against an incredibly talented, incredibly experienced group of drivers, all in their cars.
GTD PRO is just that – a class based on professional drivers. Most cars have factory support. In a way, says Cindric, this Rolex 24 will reflect what he will face as a rookie in the NASCAR Cup Series – racing against top pro drivers.
“Being in GTD PRO, you look at the registrant list and my jaw dropped,” Cindric said, “so I’m excited for this challenge.”
Once the checkered flag has fallen on the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA, the World Center of Racing will begin to focus on the DAYTONA Speedweeks Presented by AdventHealth (February 15-20) and the 64and DAYTONA 500 annual. The week will feature six days of incredible track action with practice, qualifying and a total of six races across four different series. This will provide fans with multiple opportunities to see the NASCAR Cup Series Next Gen car, as well as some of the world’s greatest drivers in the NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series, as well as the ARCA Menards Series.
For ticket information for Speedweeks Presented By AdventHealth events, log on to www.DAYTONA500.com or call 1-800-PITSHOP. If fans are looking to buy or sell DAYTONA 500 reserved seats, please visit SeatGeek, the preferred DAYTONA 500 ticket exchange and Speedweeks presented by AdventHealth.
Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway at Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, plus the all-new NASCAR Tracks app, for the latest speedway news.