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Eight NASCAR drivers give sports cars a try

Rolex 24 at Daytona
Rolex 24 at DaytonaDaytona International Speedway

Speedweeks schedules start earlier for a handful of NASCAR drivers who plan to start their 2010 racing season with the Rolex 24. Eight drivers plan to test their racing talents in the sports car arena with the 24-hour event.


Three of those eight drivers will stack a single team. Two-time event winner Juan Pablo Montoya will team with his newly-reunited Ganassi NASCAR teammate, Jamie McMurray, and Max Papis on the TELMEX/Target Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates entry.


They won't all three be driving the same car, though. Papis will be part of the driver lineup for the team's No. 02 entry, along with Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, and Justin Wilson. Montoya and McMurray will share driving duties with Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti in Ganassi's No. 02 entry.


Other NASCAR drivers, however, will serve as the lone NASCAR driver on their respective teams. Four-time reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson will see if sports cars are more of a challenge by joining the GAINSCO/Bab Stallings Racing team with fellow racers Jon Fogarty, Alex Gurney, and Jimmy Vasser .


AJ Allmendinger will share driving duties with Brian Frisselle, Mark Patterson, and Michael Valiante for Michael Shank Racing. This time around will mark the fifth-consecutive year that Allmendinger has raced in the Rolex 24 with Michael Shank Racing. His best finish was a second overall in 2006.


"Getting in the Grand-Am car, especially 24 hours of Daytona there at the Rolex, it's just a great way to kick off the year," Allmending said.


Meanwhile, Paul Menard will join the Spirit of Daytona team, along with Antonio Garcia and Buddy Rice. Colin Braun will run with Krohn Racing with fellow drivers Nic Jonsson, Tracy Krohn, and Ricardo Zonta.


Montoya, McMurray, Papis, Johnson, Allmendinger, Menard, and Braun will all be competing in Daytona Prototypes.


"Those cars are so much of fun to drive," McMurray said earlier this month after his first time behind the wheel of a Daytona Prototype in about five years. "It took me the whole first day just to get used to the cockpit of the car. It's so much different. The steering wheel has what looked like 500 buttons on it, but it's only four or five. And the way the tach works and everything, it took me a while to get used to all of that, and where all the switches are in the car, and just get used to the mirrors and everything that's different about that." 


As his NASCAR peers pilot Daytona Prototypes, Bobby Labonte, on the other hand, will be wheeling a Grand Touring (GT) car. He will be behind the wheel of a TRG Porsche, sharing driving duties with Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas, Tim George Jr., and Spencer Pumpelly.


The green flag will wave on the 48th-annual Rolex 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET on Jan. 30.

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