The casual racing fan's guide to the 2021 Rolex 24

Nick Bromberg
·3-min read

Rolex 24

3:40 p.m. ET Saturday, Jan. 30

How to watch

NBC: 3:30-4:30 p.m., 2-4 p.m. Sunday; NBCSN: 4:30-8 p.m., 11 p.m.-3 a.m. Sunday, 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday. (Available on TrackPass via the NBC Sports App when not on NBC or NBCSN)

Welcome to the 2021 North American motorsports season.

The 59th Rolex 24 sports car race kicks off the season on Saturday and, as usual, it’s filled with a diverse and recognizable field of drivers. Here’s everything you need to know before the race begins.

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JANUARY 23: The #49 Ally Cadillac Racing Cadillac DPi of Jimmie Johnson, Kamui Kobayashi, Simon Pagenaud, and Mike Rockenfeller and the #4 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R of Nick Tandy, Tommy Milner and Alexander Sims during a practice session during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 on January 23, 2021 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson is one of the drivers in the No. 48 Cadillac (L). (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott lead NASCAR contingent

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and defending Cup Series champion Chase Elliott are both racing this weekend. Johnson is one of four drivers sharing the No. 48 Action Express Cadillac DPi while Elliott is in Action Express’ No. 31 Cadillac.

The No. 48 is also being driven by Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud along with former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Rockenfeller. Former F1 driver Felipe Nasr is with Elliott along with former IndyCar driver Mike Conway and Pipo Derani. The No. 31 car is one of the favorites in the DPi category.

Kevin Magnussen joins IMSA

Former Haas Formula 1 driver Kevin Magnussen is racing full-time in IMSA this season. Magnussen is teaming with Renger van Der Zande in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 01 DPi. CGR is returning to the prototype division after it left to run in the GTLM division with Ford.

IndyCar champion Scott Dixon joins the duo for the Rolex 24. A win for the No. 01 car would be Dixon and van der Zande’s second-straight Rolex 24 victory and the first overall win for CGR since 2015. Kobayashi, meanwhile, is going for his third consecutive Rolex win.

Castroneves and Montoya stick with Acura

Team Penske shuttered its DPi team at the end of the 2020 season. But Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya are still driving Acuras. Castroneves is one of the four drivers on Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 car. The No. 10 is the defending champion of the event and has IndyCar’s Alexander Rossi and Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque on its driver roster.

Montoya is driving the No. 60 for Meyer Shank Racing. He’s splitting time with Dane Cameron, Olivier Pga and AJ Allmendinger. While there are just seven teams in the top-level DPi category, all seven of the teams look capable of winning.

Austin Dillon is driving for Rick Ware Racing

Austin Dillon is in the No. 51 car in the LMP2 division. Rick Ware Racing — the backmarker NASCAR and IndyCar team — is fielding a car in the Rolex 24 this season after withdrawing ahead of last year’s race.

Dillon will share the car with Cody Ware, Mathieu Jaminet and Salih Yoluc.

GTD is the biggest and most fun category

There are 49 teams entered across the Rolex 24’s five classes. Nineteen of those cars are in GTD. While the GTD class doesn’t generate the attention that the DPi or GTLM classes do, there are six more cars in the GTD class than there are in those two classes combined. Couple that with a diverse set of manufacturers featuring Lamborghini, Porsche, Lexus, Ferrari, Audi, Mercedes, Aston Martin, BMW, and Acura and GTD is poised to be the most fun class of the weekend.

The GTD class features former DPi drivers Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook and current and former IndyCar drivers like Ed Jones, JR Hildebrand and Zach Veach along with former Cup Series rookie of the year and IMSA stalwart Andy Lally.

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