Today’s question: There is a big INDYCAR contingent competing in the Rolex 24 At Daytona this weekend at Daytona International Speedway. Which INDYCAR SERIES driver, past or present, would you choose to round out your Rolex 24 At Daytona lineup?
Curt Cavin: There are a dozen or so drivers from the INDYCAR world who have won multiple overall titles in Daytona’s 24-hour event, and any consideration for the best of the bunch must include A.J. Foyt, Scott Pruett, Al Unser Jr., Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais. Mark Donohue and Bobby Rahal are among the elite single-time winners, but let me offer another one-time winner who might not come to mind with those relatively new to the sport: John Paul Jr. He was an incredible sports car driver and carried his family team to victory in 1982 in a Porsche 935. He also won a pair of 12 Hours of Sebring events and INDYCAR races 15 years apart (at Michigan International Speedway in 1983 and Texas Motor Speedway in 1998). A terrific teammate oozing with talent, the man who died in 2020 after a heroic battle with Huntington’s Disease would have been one of my first calls in building a roster for an endurance event.
Eric Smith: I had a couple of under-the-radar drivers that I was eyeing. It came down to deciding between Christian Fittipaldi and Scott Pruett. Fittipaldi won the Rolex 24 At Daytona three different times for three different teams. Four of his final six starts in the twice-around-the-clock endurance race, he had a top-two result. However, I’ll grab Pruett, the 1995 Michigan 500 winner, as my driver instead. Not only is he tied with Hurley Haywood for most wins (five) in Rolex 24 At Daytona history, but he’s an accomplished road racer. Pruett won 10 karting championships as a kid and is a two-time IMSA GTO (1986, 1988) champion and two-time SCCA Trans-Am Series (1987, 2003) champion. To go along with that, he is a five-time champion in IMSA’s top class to go along with a 12 Hours of Sebring victory in 2014. When going for a new piece of jewelry, I give the final key to the car to Pruett.
Paul Kelly: Curt and Eric made strong cases for John Paul Jr. and Scott Pruett, but I’ll be a master of the obvious and pick Hurley Haywood. He only made five INDYCAR SERIES starts between 1980-82, including the 1980 Indianapolis 500, but he is one of the greatest sports car drivers of all time. The list of accomplishments is staggering: Five Rolex 24 At Daytona wins, tied for the most all time with Pruett; wins in three different decades (1977, 1983, 1994) in the 24 Hours of Le Mans; and a two-time winner of the 12 Hours of Sebring. He became the third driver to win the Triple Crown of sports car racing (Le Mans, Daytona, Sebring), preceded by only Hans Hermann (there’s a trivia question answer for you!) and Jackie Oliver. Haywood, one of the nicest guys you can meet in racing, was an icy killer in a sports car, synonymous with Porsche. Yeah, I want that guy in my car.