With the Rolex 24 At Daytona in the history books, conversations have returned to the big date conflict coming up for the second round of IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Sebring International Raceway in Florida and the second NTT IndyCar Series event of the season at Texas Motor Speedway near Dallas Fort-Worth.
For the first time in memory, Sebring’s traditional mid-March date for the 12 Hour endurance classic has an IndyCar event dropped on the same weekend, creating a conflict for the several IndyCar drivers who are accustomed to competing at Sebring. In order to participate in both races, some IndyCar drivers would need to trek back and forth between TMS and Sebring as practice sessions take place ahead of their respective races, and there are fears the rigors of travel and endurance racing would leave those IndyCar drivers in an exhausted state prior to going green at TMS.
The March 16-19 IMSA round, with the 12-hour race expected to conclude around 10:40 p.m. ET on Saturday night, is followed by the TMS oval race with a start time of 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday March 20. Qualifying for the TMS race is thought to be on the calendar for Sunday morning, which would leave very little time for the arriving IndyCar drivers to sleep and recharge after flying in from Sebring.
RACER understands those concerns have led the Chip Ganassi Racing team to cancel its plans for its IndyCar drivers to compete at both events. At the Rolex 24, Dixon and Palou were part of the No. 01 Cadillac Racing DPi-V.R team (main image), Ericsson slotted into the No. 02 Cadillac, and Johnson raced with the rival Action Express Racing/Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Cadillac effort.
In light of its move to keep its IndyCar foursome focused on TMS, Ganassi is expected to sign new endurance drivers just for Sebring to pair with Cadillac Racing’s full-timer drivers in the Nos. 01 and 02. Four drivers are routinely used for the Rolex 24, and at the rest of IMSA’s long races, it’s two full-time pilots and one extra driver is brought in to share the cockpit duties.
Meyer Shank Racing, new winners of the Rolex 24 for Acura, made use of Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud in the No. 60 ARX-05, and unlike CGR, the team is pressing forward with plans for its four-time Indy 500 winner to do the double while Pagenaud remains in Texas.
“We are 100-percent in with doing Helio at both races,” Shank told RACER. “That’s all depending on what IndyCar tells me, which I’m supposed to know soon.”
To accommodate its drivers who are meant to race at Sebring, IndyCar crafted a schedule that would allow teams to practice at TMS a day or two before the 12-hour contest and then return Sunday morning to qualify and race.
Those scheduling efforts were done with the assumption that a meaningful number of IndyCar drivers would be contractually obligated to race at Sebring, but with CGR keeping its drivers at TMS and few, if any others beyond MSR and Castroneves currently planning to do both races, IndyCar might only have one driver to factor into its conflict plans.
With one rather than many drivers to assuage, it’s believed IndyCar could change the TMS schedule to run as a normal event without making concessions for Sebring.
“MSR has got one driver going back and forth if it happens as it was planned, and doesn’t if it changes,” Shank added. “Either way, we’ll be ready to do whatever’s necessary, and I truly hope this is a one-time thing with Sebring and IndyCar being on the same weekend.”