Seven time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson has retired from racing in NASCAR, but he is ready to begin the new year racing; but before he gets behind the wheel of an IndyCar, Johnson will take to the road course in Daytona one more time.
Former Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr have previously been participants in the Rolex 24; Gordon has a Rolex on his arm to prove it.
Action Express Racing and Hendrick Motorsports have joined forces to field the number 48 Ally Cadillac Dpi-V.R in the 2021 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona on January 30.
Johnson is joining an impressive list of fellow drivers to pilot the car with Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud, and Rolex 24 winners Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Rockenfeller. Rockenfeller is also a Le Mans winner.
This will be Johnson’s eighth Rolex 24 race, but the first in 10 years.
Action Express Racing team manager Gary Nelson spoke on the all star lineup saying, “Jimmie has a lot of experience at Daytona, not only on the oval, but turning into the infield as well. Simon brings a lot of endurance experience and Kamui adds a wealth of car setup knowledge and speed to the car. We won the Rolex 24 with Mike in 2010, so he is familiar with how we operate. I would like to thank fellow IMSA competitor Paul Miller for sharing the 48 number. We’re looking at having a great 10 days in Daytona starting with the Roar Before the 24.”
Johnson spoke on his upcoming Daytona run saying, “the Rolex 24 At Daytona is one of the marquee races in the world. It’s such a challenging event for both team and driver and requires such a high level of concentration throughout. It’s just such a fun and unique race to compete in. This will be the first time I’ve raced with Action Express and have been very impressed with the team and its preparation.”
Johnson added, “I’m also excited to have Ally on board and to be co-driving with Simon, Kamui and Mike, who are three world-class drivers with experience in this race and the DPi class. I’ve finished second in this event, so I’m looking forward to trying to get on the top step in 2021.”
Making his seventh Rolex 24 start for Pagenaud said, “I love taking part in this race! It’s exciting to get to start the year in Daytona, as it gets me ready for the season. Teaming up with Jimmie is an honor. He is a NASCAR legend; I’ve always looked up to him.”
Pagenaud added, “I look forward to stepping in the Ally Cadillac DPi-V.R. It’s a proven winning machine. I am ready to discover the strength of this race car with Action Express. They are a tremendous race team and I look forward to bringing my ‘A’ game to the Daytona 24 Hour and contend for the win!”
A member of the winning team with Wayne Taylor Racing, Kobayashi said, “I think we have a big chance to win. You have to stay on the lead lap and then the last couple of hours be ready to fight for the victory. I am confident with the Cadillac DPi-V.R. It is with a different team this year for me, but the same great car.”
Rolex 24 and Le Mans winner Rockenfeller said, “super excited to be back racing in Daytona in the top category and in the AXR Cadillac DPi-V.R. It is the most successful car in IMSA and at Daytona. It is where I wanted to be again after racing in the GT category for a few years. I am looking forward to my first laps in the Cadillac. I don’t think it is that far from the LMP1 and the DTM cars I am used to driving. To be with Jimmie, Simon and Kamui is awesome. If you look at all of the titles and championships they have won, it is very cool. It is great to be a part of such a strong team of drivers.”
Action Express Racing will also field the number 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac for the race. The number 31 car will be competing full time in 2021 for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Before NASCAR begins the 2021 season with Speedweeks; IMSA gets the racing season started on January 22 with The Roar and continues with the Motul Pole Award qualifying race and culminates with the annul 24 Hour Endurance race on January 30.
feature photo credit: By Level 5 Motorsports – https://www.flickr.com/photos/46923961@N02/5400881761/#/photos/46923961@N02/5400881761/lightbox/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13260817