2009 24 Hours of Daytona

Sanjay KumarCorrespondent IJanuary 18, 2009

The 2009 24 Hours of Daytona will no doubt be an exciting one, but the biggest question is: Can Chip Ganassi's team four-peat?

The race, which begins on Saturday, will be one of the most competitive in recent history, with new teams and many driver changes.

Chip Ganassi's No. 1 Telmex Lexus Riley Daytona Prototype (DP) will once again be spearheaded by three-time 24 Hour champ Scott Pruett, paired with season partner Memo Rojas, and Juan Pablo Montoya.

The three won an exciting race last year and hope to repeat. For Chip Ganassi, if they won, it would be four consecutive wins for the No. 1 car.

There are plenty of teams that are hungry to fight them till the very end, including the No. 2 Telmex Lexus Riley DP, which features defending Indy Racing League (IRL) champ Scott Dixon, former Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti, and IRL driver Alex Lloyd.

NASCAR team owner Richard Childress will be fielding a DP car featuring racing legend Andy Wallace, NASCAR driver Casey Mears, and IRL spectacle Danica Patrick.

NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger joins Michael Shank Racing to pilot a Ford Riley DP car. Shank's second car, with Colin Braun and Oswaldo Negri, can surely finish in the top 10 if they don't have mechanical problems.

Pedro Lamy and Max Angelelli return to Suntrust Racing to help Wayne Taylor try to win a second 24 Hours of Daytona. Angelelli, an accomplished driver, has plenty of talent, and with the proper machinery, can challenge Ganassi's squad to the very end.

The Brumos Porsche squad has former Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice and racing legend Hurley Haywood, as well as Joao Barbosa and Darren Law. They have suffered problems in years past, but are hungry for a win, now armed with a competitive car.

The GAINSCO No. 99 car is a perennial contender, with Alex Gurney heading the team. They have been a constant menace to the No. 1 Ganassi car and will prove a worthy adversary throughout the race.

The newest and most threatening entry is that of the Penske Porsche team. Leaving the American Le Mans Series temporarily, former ALMS drivers Timo Bernard, Ryan Briscoe, and Romain Dumas will bring a quality drive at a lightning pace.

They are the team to look out for. Not only are they new, but knowing the tradition of Roger Penske, they also already have a top-notch vehicle and well-oiled team.

The Grand Touring (GT) class will be just as much, if not more exciting, than the DP class. Farnbacher Loles Racing will be field five Porsche 997 GT3s with Dominik Farnbacher spearheading the No. 86 GT3.

TRG will also field five Porsche GT3s with Jorg Bergmeister, Andy Lally, and Patrick Long competing in the same vehicle for the class victory. The three drivers are extremely talented and have a great deal of experience amongst them to pull off a class victory.

Koni Challenge competitor and Ford factory-backed outfit Blackforest Motorsports will field a Ford Mustang with NASCAR and Trans-Am driver Boris Said adding valuable experience and brilliant driving.

There is no doubt that this endurance race is always one of the most entertaining to watch, but this year sets out to be one of the most exciting as well.

For US residents, the 24 Hours of Daytona can be viewed on SPEEDTV beginning Saturday, Jan. 24. Check your cable listings for times.