Indianapolis 500 top five dominated by Rolex 24 winners

Experience in sports cars could have led to success in IndyCar’s longest race.

Indianapolis 500 top five dominated by Rolex 24 winners
Race winner Juan Pablo Montoya, Team Penske Chevrolet celebrates
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Townsend Bell, Dreyer and Reinbold Racing Chevrolet
Townsend Bell, Dreyer and Reinbold Racing Chevrolet and Derek Daly
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Honda
Charlie Kimball, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Ryan Briscoe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
Charlie Kimball, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
James Davison, Dale Coyne Racing Honda
Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet
Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet

Driver Townsend Bell, co-driver of the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship who currently is second in the GT Daytona points, said last week that his experience in the IMSA endurance races serves him well in his annual drive in the Indianapolis 500.

“The Indy 500 is the longest IndyCar race of the season, and like the Rolex 24 and Sebring, it requires a very measured, disciplined approach. You have to keep the big picture in mind, and I find that works well in sports car racing, too. It’s great preparation for Indy every year.”

Obviously...

Bell started 23rd in his Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing Chevrolet-Dallara, and finished a solid 14th, after running in the top 10.

But it was even closer to the front of the Indianapolis 500 that, arguably, experience in sports cars could have led to success in IndyCar’s longest race.

Juan Pablo Montoya, winner of the 99th running of the race, ran the Rolex 24 (Hours) At Daytona with Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates seven times, from 2007 to 2013. And out of those seven races, he has three overall wins – including his last Rolex 24 – two seconds and a fourth.

Charlie Kimball, who started 14th and finished third for Chip Ganassi Racing on Sunday, has run the Rolex 24 twice, in 2013 and 2015, and won in his first outing.

Fourth-place Indy 500 finisher Scott Dixon, who started on the pole, has competed in 18 sports car races for the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and American Le Mans Series, plus five more since the two series combined in 2014 as the TUDOR Championship. This year, he shared the 2015 Rolex 24 victory with teammate Charlie Kimball and Tony Kanaan, former Indy 500 winner who led this year’s race before an accident ended his day.

Fifth-place Indy 500 finisher Graham Rahal, driving the highest-place Honda-powered entry, often drives when his schedule permits with BMW Team RLL, the GT Le Mans BMW sports car team co-owned by his father, former Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal. He ran eight races in the Grand-Am and ALMS, and two more in the TUDOR Championship, with an overall win in the 2011 Rolex 24 at Daytona, on a Ganassi team with Scott Pruett.

Bottom line:

Four of the top five finishers in the 2015 Indianapolis 500 have at least one win in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Other Indianapolis 500 competitors on Sunday who have also spent time in the TUDOR Championship include Ryan Briscoe, who won his class this year at the Rolex 24 and at the 12 Hours of Sebring in GT Le Mans, in the Chevrolet Corvette Racing C7.R. He replaced the injured James Hinchcliffe at Indy -- Hinchcliffe was in the 2015 Rolex 24 with Mazda’s Prototype team.

Simon Pagenaud, who started on the front row of the Indy 500 with Dixon raced in the Rolex 24 this year. Justin Wilson started the Indy 500 from the second row, but in March he was racing a Honda-powered Ligier Prototype for Michael Shank Racing at the 12 Hours of Sebring. Ryan Hunter-Reay, 2014 winner of the Indy 500, was part of the Starworks BMW-Riley Daytona Prototype team in the Rolex 24.

Indy 500 competitors Tristian Vautier, Sage Karam, Jack Hawksworth and Gabby Chaves all raced with the TUDOR Championship earlier this year.

And as for the two TUDOR Championship regulars who raced in this year’s Indy 500, and will also be racing the rest of the season in sports cars, including this weekend at Detroit: Townsend Bell completed his ninth Indy 500, and fellow GT Daytona competitor James Davison, who finished 27th in his second Indy 500 after dropping out following an incident on pit road, will be back this weekend in his regular ride in the No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin. 

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