A quartet of young NASCAR guns will be leaving their stock cars at home to compete in the IMSA sports car events at Daytona International Speedway next week to kick off 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 opener of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, the BMW M Endurance Challenge on Friday, January 28. A day later, Cindric gets into the No. 15 Proton USA Mercedes-AMG GT3 and races in the new GTD PRO class on the 60th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA, North America’s most prestigious sports car race, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship calendar, January 29-30.
Cindric and Burton will be the No. 41 PF Racing Mustang parts for the Michelin Pilot Challenge race, with Briscoe and Deegan in the No. 42 Mustang from the same stable. The goal for all four drivers is to gain valuable driving experience before starting 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 following. For all ticket information for the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA weekend, log in to www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or call 1-800-PITSHOP.
4-day adult tickets: $125 (field/frontstretch/garage entry); Children up to 12 years FREE
Tickets for Sat-Sun adults: $75 (field/frontstretch/garage entry); Children up to 12 years FREE
Sat-Sun adult tickets: $50 (Infield, Frontstretch Access): Children up to 12 years FREE
Tickets for Sat-Sun adults: $50 (non-reserved Frontstrech seats): children 12 and under FREE
Friday adult tickets: $30 (non-reserved Frontstrech seats): children 12 and under FREE
Sunday Adult Tickets: $35 (Non-reserved Frontstrech Seating): Children 12 and under FREE
Cindric, the NASCAR Xfinity Series champion in 2020 and a rookie in the Cup Series with Team Penske this year, 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 to his credit.
For Burton, the 21-year-old driver of the Wood Brothers Racing Ford in NASCAR and the son of former NASCAR driver and current NBC Sports race analyst Jeff Burton, it will be a new experience on Daytona’s 3.56 mile course.
“I’ve had these conversations with my friends at Ford and the Wood Brothers and Penske. The only thing I wanted to work on to get better was (to) be a better road racer,” said Harrison Burton. “It’s great to have the opportunity to do that right away and it’s an honor for them that they committed to helping me get better, that’s really all a driver can ask for.”
- To download the new Rolex 24 At DAYTONA logo, click here. Click Input list for Rolex 24 Both on DAYTONA and on weekends scheme. For photos of all four drivers, click on here.
The drivers have the blessings of their teams to leave their normal workspaces to participate in Daytona.
“We want to be flexible,” said Walter Czarnecki, Team Penske vice president. “We want to give them opportunities to expand their skills.”
The foursome will have plenty of time for this at Daytona. 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 out of 30 cars in the Grand Sport (GS) class with a lap of 1 minute and 54.027 seconds (112.394 mph), while Briscoe was 12th at 1:54.367 (112.060 mph).
“That’s one thing I’ve really pinned down and said for this year 2022, that I just need to get as much seat time as I can, whether it’s in dirt, circle track stuff, whatever I can ride,” said Deegan, 20, returning to David Gilliland Racing in ’22 for a second truck season. “I just want to join in and get more experience and I feel like there’s one thing I can improve on – I can improve a lot of things – but I feel like one thing that’s really coming out more in the NASCAR world, the road course is. races. I feel that being able to race on any kind of road course, I think, will only make me better as a driver.”
It will be a reunion for Deegan and Briscoe, who shared a Mustang for the 2020 Daytona race. Briscoe, who is driving for Stewart-Haas Racing in the Cup Series this season, is looking forward to sitting down and seeing how Deegan has improved in the two years since they rode together.
“The last time we were there was the first time she’d ever run anything on a road course,” said Briscoe, 27. “Going back with her, she’s probably done three or four truck races now (on road courses) and has driven some other IMSA stuff so it will be nice to see her improvement 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 there and do a completely new discipline for both of us and go there and just have a good time.”
When the Michelin Pilot Challenge race is over, the race stops for three of the drivers. Not so for Cindric, who will make his fourth start in the Rolex 24, this time alongside Dirk Mueller and Patrick Assenheimer in the No. 15 Mercedes. Cindric has a clear goal in mind.
“I have a very strong desire to win the Rolex 24 and that is my motivating factor to drive this race,” said Cindric, who won the Beef last February. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race. “I’ve worked really hard every season to try to make something happen, not to get into a lineup of five drivers, just to go and do the race and experience it. I’ve pretty much done all that.
“I would say the Rolex is probably the most realistic race I can see and I would love to win that race. I think this is a great opportunity for me to do that or at least my abilities to do that, and, as I said, against a group of drivers who are incredibly talented, incredibly experienced in their cars. ”
GTD PRO is just that: a class based on professional drivers. Most cars have factory support. In a way, Cindric says, this Rolex 24 will reflect what he’ll encounter as a NASCAR Cup Series rookie — competing against the best professional drivers.
“When you’re in GTD PRO you look at the entry list and my jaw dropped a little bit,” said Cindric, “so I’m excited for that challenge.”
Once the checkered flag falls on the Rolex 24. At DAYTONA, the World Center of Racing will focus on DAYTONA Speedweeks presented by AdventHealth (February 15-20) and the 64e Annual DAYTONA 500. The week will feature six days of incredible on-track action with practice, qualifying and a total of six races in four different series. It offers fans several opportunities to see the Next Gen car of the NASCAR Cup Series, plus some of the best drivers in the world in the NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series, as well as the ARCA Menards Series.
For ticket information on Speedweeks Presented By AdventHealth events, log on to www.DAYTONA500.com or call 1-800-PITSHOP. To buy or sell reserved seats for the DAYTONA 500, fans should visit SeatGeek, the DAYTONA 500 Preferred Ticket Exchange, and Speedweeks Presented By AdventHealth.
Fans can stay connected to Daytona International Speedway at Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, as well as the all-new NASCAR Tracks app, for the latest speedway news.