Thursday, January 24, 2013

2013 Daytona 24 Hours - Daytona Prototype Class Preview

So, it's come to this. After two (not so) epic posts previewing the GX and GT classes in this year's Daytona 24 Hours, we've worked our way to the premier class, Daytona Prototype. This year's DP entry list is a good sight healthier than the 12 cars that we had last year, but 17 is not so many that I can't touch on all of them. As is my custom, I'm putting semi-nonsensical odds on all the teams. They won't add up. I'm way too lazy for that. Here goes.

Two Words: No. Way.

#27 BTE Sport Ford/Riley - I've never heard of this team before (they don't even have an entry on GrandAm's website), and I've never heard of two of the drivers (a pretty mean feat, since for my All Racing Fantasy League, I've scored every single driver who has even been entered for a single GrandAm/ALMS/WEC race in the last five years). That adds up to an absolute running ceiling of about a 10th place, in this company. Odds - 200 to 1.

#50 Highway to Help BMW/Riley - This team was notable last year for including Bryan Johnson, lead singer of AC/DC. This year, Bryan's not on the entry list, and has been replaced by Frank Beck (a push? I don't know, I've never heard of Frank Beck before), and Elliott-Forbes Robinson has been replaced by Ian James (possibly a push, though EFR's had much more success in his decades-long career). Beating the other 16 cars in class? Nope. A top-10 after 24 hours would be a victory. Odds - 200 to 1.

Planets and Universes Would Have to Align

#8 Starworks Ford/Riley - While Starworks is certainly a more than capable team, at press time, the only two nominated drivers for the #8 car were Ivan Bellarosa and Scott Mayer. For further thoughts, please refer to the Blogathon preview podcast. Maybe this changes if the team nominates Tom Kristensen and Alexander Wurz for the other two seats, this number changes, but until then... Odds - 100 to 1.

#43 Team Sahlen BMW/Riley - The Nonnamakers are long time stalwarts in the GT class, running a fleet of Mazda RX-8s. This year, they've stepped up to DP with a two-car effort. This car has the older fellas in it (average age 54 years and 8 months). This car won't climb the podium. Odds - 75 to 1.

This Field Is Too Good

#6 Michael Shank Racing Ford/Riley - Yes, these guys nearly made me look like a dope last year, after I gave them 75 to 1 odds, only for them to finish 3rd overall and on the lead lap. Yes, all of the young guys kept out of trouble and wound up on the podium. But, yes, the rest of the field is just as strong, if not stronger than it was last year. Can Chris Cumming, Jorge Goncalvez, Michael Valiente and Gustavo Yacaman run the table again for 24 trouble-free hours? I say no. Odds - 40 to 1.

#77 Doran Racing Ford/Dallara - Colin Braun, Paul Tracy, Dr. Jim Lowe and Jon Bennett are a fine driver lineup. Finer than those below? Afraid not. Odds - 40 to 1.

Not Entirely Out of the Realm of Possibility

#42 Team Sahlen BMW/Riley - The faster of the two Sahlen cars, due to the presence of the younger (and faster) Wayne Nonnamaker and Mazda Road to Indy refugee Dane Cameron (making up the Dane and Wayne Show, who we will hear more from before the end of the year). Add in budding IndyCar superstar Simon Pagenaud, and you've got the recipe for a car that runs 7th to 8th for the early running, then chips their way up to the top-5 by midnight. Can they stay there until the end? That's the $64,000 question. Odds - 30 to 1.

#3 8 Star Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette DP - My first truly controversial pick. How can I put nine teams above one with a driver lineup that includes the lightning fast quartet of Anthony Davidson, Pedro Lamy, Nicolas Minassian and Stephane Sarrazin? Easy. Because Enzo Potolicchio's guys are no longer associated with the incredibly capable Starworks Motorsports. Yeah, I know new teams have won this thing before, and I know the 'Vette is fast, but I just have a hard time seeing it. Especially when we haven't talked about those top-9 yet... Odds - 25 to 1.

Now, We're Getting Somewhere

#90 Spirit of Daytona Chevrolet Corvette DP - This team had a coming out of sorts last year, with race wins (their first in GrandAm) and Richard Westbrook running in the top-5 of the DP championship for a while, so I have upgraded their odds from last year (when I had them going off at 20 to 1). Even so, they had enough problems over the course of last season that I still can't see them as a true favorite yet. Odds - 20 to 1.

The Contenders

#5 Action Express Racing Chevrolet Corvette DP - No weaknesses in the cockpit (Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, Brian Frisselle, Felipe Nasr and Nelson Piquet Jr.) and it's a 'Vette. Yet you just can't put them quite in the equation with some of the teams below. No matter, they'll be there well into the morning hours, it's just a matter of if they've hit any trouble overnight (this is about to get very repetitive...). Odds - 15 to 1.

#9 Action Express Racing Chevrolet Corvette DP - See above, just substitute in Burt Frisselle and Mike Rockenfeller for Brian, Nasr and Nelsinho. Copy. Paste. And no, that's not a typo. Odds - 15 to 1.

#10 VelocityWW Chevrolet Corvette DP - The former Suntrust Racing team, led by Wayne Taylor, this team always seems to hit trouble at Daytona. Max Angelli returns, Ricky Taylor has been swapped out for brother Jordan Taylor, and 2012 IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay has been added. Speed will not be the problem, seeing the checkers will be. Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes...well, the bar...he eats you. Odds - 15 to 1.

#99 Gainsco /Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Corvette DP - Another snakebitten team that does not lack for speed. Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney are the (very fast) furniture at this team, and Memo Gidley and Darren Law are along for the (very fast) ride. Again, do they manage to avoid disasters, even the ones not of their own making that seem to snatch them up every year? Odds - 15 to 1.

#60 Michael Shank Racing Ford/Riley - Yes, yes, I know they're the defending race winners, and I know that all they've done with the driver lineup was add NASCAR and Australian V8 Supercar star Marcos Ambrose (originally a contingency plan for Oswaldo Negri's bike accident injury, now just another crazy fast driver in a team full of them), so putting them down a notch from the top couple of teams seems silly...but hang with me. We haven't talked about those top-3 yet. Odds - 12 to 1.

Holy Smokes, Did You See That Driver Lineup?

#2 Starworks with Alex Popow Ford/Riley - I mean, seriously. Sebastian Bourdais, Ryan Dalziel and Allan McNish. Even rich guy Alex Popow is no slouch. And Starworks can win, as they proved to us in three different series last year (GrandAm, ALMS and the World Endurance Championship). If anybody is going to  challenge those guys that seem to always win this thing, it's this team. Go look at that driver lineup again. Good golly. Odds - 10 to 1.

Breaking News: Sun Rises In East

#01 and #02 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW/Rileys - I mean, this is broken record territory, right? And, yes, they didn't win last year, but until somebody can consistently dethrone Ganassi's guys, the #01 and #02 cars have to be the prohibitive favorites. And as if that wasn't enough, they went and swept the front row in today's qualifying session, with almost 0.6 seconds in hand over 3rd. Jeez. Mind you, I've put their odds lower than in past years, as a tip of the hat to the strength of the rest of the field, but any team who wants to win this thing has to go through Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Charlie Kimball, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jamie McMurray and Joey Hand. That's just how it's got to be. Odds  - 4 to 1 (both).

There you have it. No, I won't take your bets. But, yes, I'll be watching along with you and soaking up the action from (hopefully) sunny Daytona. See you on Saturday afternoon.

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