Drivers, start your engines

Drivers and teams in North America are again under one sanctioning organization, the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), opened the racing season with an endurance test at Daytona International Speedway, the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The merger of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron and the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, achieved after more than a decade of separate operations, created the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. The race got off to a cool start as teams and drivers faced cooler than normal temperatures at Daytona. Teams were dealing with high winds coming off the high-banks. Action Express Racing led a Corvette podium sweep in the 24-hour race, where Joao Barbosa held off Max Angelelli to preserve a second overall win in four years Sunday.

The next racing series to take to the super speedway will be the NASCAR series. Speedweeks begins on Feb. 15th and concludes on the 23rd with “The Great American Race” the Daytona 500. Teams have been fine tuning their best cars to adhere to the new racing package officials issued just a few weeks ago. These new rules will increase the competition on the track for fans and television viewers.

Drivers have realigned themselves with new teams and crew chiefs this year. One of the most notable is Kurt Busch moving into the No. 41 car at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). Co-owner Tony Stewart has been cleared to be back behind the wheel for the first practice in the Sprint Unlimited. That practice is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 14. Kevin Harvick is another driver joining the ranks at SHR. Harvick will drive the No. 4 Chevrolet. He started in the Cup series in 2001 at Richard Childress Racing (RCR) and has 24 career wins to his credit.

With his departure at RCR, a vacancy was open to Austin Dillon. Dillon will be behind the wheel of the No. 3 for his grandfather Richard Childress. Dillon won the 2013 Nationwide Series title and the 2011 Craftsman Truck Series championship. He will be competing for the Rookie of the Year title with several other drivers this year.

New looks are coming, but the same story will be written unless officials devise new thrills for viewers. Fans will pay for tickets to view little thrills and television will be boring to watch.

* DODGE: The automaker was back in the news with a possible return to NASCAR. Dodge continues to discuss stock-car racing, according to Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of SRT Brand and Motorsports, Chrysler Group LLC, “the timing isn’t right.” But Gilles is well aware that stock-car enthusiasts miss the Dodge brand in the garage so never say never.

The Dodge brand has a new chief (Timothy Kuniskis, president and CEO of Dodge Brand). But timing is everything. To get back in the sport is not a small investment. It’s something that we’ve said no to. This year is out of the question, but the future, anything could happen. The fans want us back, so we’ll see, Gilles said.

Contact Eddie Thomas at