8th Place - #85 JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPiNothing against the "Little Team That Could", but they effectively now find themselves the team with the least amount of prior success on the grid (basically by default, since the other two Cadillac teams have won championships, the Mazdas were the class of the field at several races last year and the Acuras are, well...Penskes). The #85 winds up caboose on the field, essentially because it's the only car on the grid with any drivers rated lower than Gold.
7th Place - #55 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPiThe Mazdas turned a corner in the middle of 2019, finally winning their first race in DPi at the 6 Hours of The Glen, but then following that up by winning the next two races on the trot. But, as always, the final question mark surrounding the Mazdas is "can they make it work for 24 full hours?" Past experience would say "no", but races are not run on past experience. This said, the top handful of cars are all well proven for 24 hours, so the Mazdas would have to run hard and flawlessly for the entire distance to win. I don't see it.
6th Place - #77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPiSee above. (Note: this was written before the #77 had won the pole on Thursday afternoon, but that fact doesn't really change my opinion.
5th Place - #5 Mustang Sampling Racing/JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPiThe Mustang Sampling sponsorship and full time drivers Joao Barbosa and Sebastien Bourdais (along with endurance ringer Loic Duval) move from the Action Express Racing stable to the JDC-Miller garage. This team and the car are capable of winning, all the way around, but with only one prior win to their name in the top IMSA class, again, it's hard for me to see JDC-Miller toppling the top three teams.
4th Place -#10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R.After a charmed run to win overall last year, where most of the last seven hours of the race took place under yellow or red flag conditions, thereby preventing several faster cars from possibly taking a run at them, it's hard for me to imagine the necessary cascade of factors all falling in their favor again. BUT, the presence of Scott Dixon in the driver lineup made me think twice about this pick. Still, the Taylor Racing guys tend to be a little "feast or famine" at Daytona, and this feels like a "famine-y" year.
3rd Place - #6 Acura Team Penske Acura DPiFor what might be the fastest overall driver lineup entered (defending IMSA Weathertech series champs Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya, plus defending Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud), my total guess here is that the is on the lead lap and even leads a bunch of the race up to about Hour 18, then drops 2-3 laps for something relatively innocuous, and never manages to get all of their laps back, winding up a dejected podium finisher. A "close but no cigar" effort.
2nd Place - #31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPiThe team that's a single Mike Conway shy of an all-Portuguese speaking lineup, driving for the 15 time series champ Action Express Racing (or, at least it feels like they've won that many championships), they'll be hard to beat. BUT, one team will beat them...
#1st Place - #7 Acura Team Penske Acura DPiYeah, I know they crashed their car in qualifying today, but something tells me that we're looking at a "come from behind" sort of race, where the #7 starts at the back of the pack (which, mind you, is only eight cars, so it's not that far "behind"), works their way up into the top-3 or 4 by the 4 Hour mark, and then executes with no issues at all for the remainder of the race, being one of only two teams to make it to the end on the lead lap...and then too quick for the other car to catch them. Fascinating subplot: who drives the car for that final sprint to the finish? Ricky Taylor (solid and quick, his crash today notwithstanding)? Helio Castroneves (maybe a tick quicker on ultimate pace)? Or endurance ringer Alexander Rossi (possibly one of the fastest 4-5 racing drivers in America today)? In any case, I think the Penske guys take it this year.
And now, one class to go! Come on back tomorrow (or Saturday morning, because I can't promise I'll get it done tomorrow evening) for the final class preview: GTD!