The Rolex 24 at Daytona — the opening race of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship — is this weekend. Every driver has a story to tell, and a story he or she wants to be able to tell following the checkered flag on Sunday. Here are 12 drivers to keep an eye on during the 2017 edition of this endurance classic:
Jeff Gordon, fresh off his storied NASCAR career, is relaxed, motivated, and easily the most visible driver during this year’s race. Will an inspired drive and a win mean he is one step closer to racing at the Le Mans 24 Hours? He’ll be in Wayne Taylor Racing’s Cadillac DP-i prototype.
Speaking of which, brothers Jordan Taylor & Ricky Taylor will handle the brunt of the duty for the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi. Gordon will get the headlines, but the Taylor boys will be the real story if this car finds its way to Victory Lane on Sunday.
Joao Barbosa will share driving duties with Christian Fittipaldi and Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi. He is quiet, reserved, experienced, and rarely makes mistakes. This car will be in the fight with an hour to go.
Dane Cameron will lead the Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi contingent. His leadership, especially when guiding young co-driver Seb Morris, is needed for the drivers of the No. 31 to find a spot on the podium.
Dirk Mueller dreams of duplicating his 24 Hours of Le Mans win with co-drivers Joey Hand and IndyCar stalwart Sebastien Bourdais, gunning for a GTLM class win at Daytona in a Ford GT.
Ryan Briscoe understands there is strength in numbers, as he will co-drive one of the four Ford GT entries with Richard Westbrook and multi-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon. This car and these drivers are due for a big win.
Will Corvette Racing driver Tommy Milner need a final stint like the one he had at Road America last summer to stand on the top step with Oliver Gavin and Marcel Fassler? And is there any concern regarding the fire to the No. 4 Corvette during the Roar Before the 24 test three weeks ago?
Can Patrick Pilet or Kevin Estre fill the considerable shoes of Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber with the Porsche North America program, now that the 2015 Le Mans champions are promoted to the LMP1 ranks? Which of these drivers will take over the leadership of this program and push forward the development of the new 911 RSR?
Katherine Legge is also ready for a big year. She is the most visible of the full-time drivers who will pedal the new Acura NSX GT3, and the better this team and car perform, the more attention Legge will receive — and that attention is long overdue. But the first task is to get these new cars to the end of the race on Sunday.
Patrick Long wants a new Rolex. The Porsche factory driver is on loan to the CORE Autosport team, and the Rock Hill, South Carolina-based team has its new Porsche GTD car sorted and ready to race. This class will be ultracompetitive and Long is CORE’s “unfair advantage.”