• Eric Smith

Busch Closes IMSA Testing In Daytona, “The last couple days have been pretty remarkable, it’s

Updated: Jan 7

The champ is here, as in reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, who wrapped up three days of testing Sunday at “The Roar Before the Rolex 24” in preparation for the 58th running of the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA on Jan. 25-26.

Busch, who will make his first appearance in the Rolex 24, is co-driving the No. 14 Lexus RC-F GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s production-based GT Daytona (GTD) class, for AIM VASSER SULLIVAN Racing. His co-drivers: Jack Hawksworth, Parker Chase and Michael De Quesada.

Results have been mixed this weekend for Busch’s team. During the first practice session of The Roar on Friday with Hawksworth driving, the No. 14 was fastest in GTD with a time of 1 minute, 47.031 seconds (119.735 mph) on Daytona International Speedway’s 3.56-mile road course. In Saturday’s special qualifying to determine pit road and garage stall selection for the Rolex 24, Chase placed the Lexus 12th in GTD.

“It’s been good [overall],” Busch said. “I’m certainly learning a bunch, getting a good feel for the track and traffic and things like that. I feel pretty confident with everything we have going on. So far so good. There are some little things to change but sometimes those little things can mean a big deal, so we’ll keep doing it.

“I think the biggest eye-opener [this weekend] is the amount of people here for the test. The last couple days have been pretty remarkable. It’s been fun.”

The three-day Roar has enabled teams in the four WeatherTech Championship classes – Daytona Prototype international (DPi), Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2), GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) – to prepare for the Rolex 24, which opens the WeatherTech Championship season.

Teams in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge production-based series also have been prepping for the season opening BMW Endurance Challenge on Jan. 24 at DIS. Busch has some NASCAR cohorts in that event – up-and-coming Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric and Hailie Deegan, all driving Fort Mustangs for Multimatic Motorsports.

On Saturday, the GTD and LMP2 classes qualified for pit/garage selections; Sunday, the headlining DPi and GTLM classes qualified. Olivier Pla topped DPi in the No. 77 Mazda Team Joest DPi, with a best lap of 1:33.324/137.321 mph, culminating an impressive weekend for Mazda prototypes. In GTLM, James Calado led the chart in the No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE fielded by famed organization Risi Competizione, at 1:42.685/124.803.

Busch’s entry in North America’s premier sports car race reflects a longstanding tradition of drivers from other forms of racing joining the Rolex 24 fray. There are also six former Indianapolis 500 champions entered, including reigning champion Simon Pagenaud.

Another former IndyCar driver, the immensely popular Brazilian Christian Fittipaldi – a three-time Rolex 24 champion – is supplying star power from a different angle this year as the race’s Grand Marshal, giving the command for  drivers to start their engines. Fittipaldi retired last year after the 2019 Rolex 24 and considers his Rolex 24 efforts some of his most special accomplishments.

“I’m very happy, very honored,” Fittipaldi said. “Daytona has been a very big part of my racing career, so I couldn’t be more excited to come back exactly one year after my last race here. It’s nice. Yes, Daytona has brought me a lot of happiness. I will cherish Daytona for the rest of my life.”

#IMSAWeatherTechSportsCarChampionship #DaytonaInternationalSpeedway #RoarBeforeThe24 #KyleBusch #Rolex24HoursofDaytona

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