DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The names are magical.
The accomplishment is legendary.
A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti are the only drivers to win both the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Daytona 500.
This weekend, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray are looking to join that elite twosome.
Foyt won the Rolex 24 for the first time in 1983, 11 years after winning the Daytona 500 driving for the Wood Brothers in 1972. Foyt also won the Rolex 24 in 1985 in addition to finishing second in 1984 and 1986.
“I don’t want anyone else in the club besides Mario — let it just be the open-wheel guys, no NASCAR guys,” Foyt said with a smile. “No…really…I always felt that records are meant to be broken. I think it’s great that they’re racing more than stock cars. I always tried to do that in my Indy car career.
“I’d like to see Jimmie drive Indy cars. If he tries it, he might not want to go back to stock cars. But I have to say, I did have a lot of fun driving them, too.”
Andretti won at Daytona in 1972, when the race was shortened to six hours for a one-year trial due to changes in international sports car regulations. He drove a Holman-Moody Ford to victory in the 1967 Daytona 500, his sole NASCAR win.
“It’s great to see drivers interested in different disciplines of racing, and I admire them,” Andretti said. “That’s part of my career that’s given me tremendous satisfaction. I’m with those guys 100 percent. It’s wonderful that they’re doing it, and I respect them tremendously because of that.”
Both Johnson and McMurray have come close to winning the Rolex 24.
Johnson won the Daytona 500 in 2006 to open the first of five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championship seasons. He finished second in the Rolex 24 in both 2005 and 2008. This will be his fourth consecutive year driving for Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing, sharing the No. 99 Chevrolet/Riley with two-time Daytona Prototype champs Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty.
“That would be something special,” Johnson said when told about the opportunity to be linked with Andretti and Foyt. “I love the Rolex Series. I’ve developed some great friendships here and I truly respect what Bob Stallings has built as a race team and everybody that’s involved. I certainly hope to make it three drivers who have won the 500 and have gone on to win the Rolex 24 — we have come awfully close.”
McMurray, the defending champion of the Daytona 500, finished fourth in the 2005 Rolex 24. Last year, his Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates entry broke while leading shortly after midnight. He returns in the No. 02 Target/Telmex BMW/Riley, co-driving with NASCAR Sprint Cup teammate Juan Pablo Montoya and IndyCar stars Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon.
“I’m with a really good team and I’m excited about the race,” McMurray said. “But I don’t think about that stuff (winning the Daytona 500 and Rolex 24) until my career is over.”
Qualifying for the 49th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona gets underway today. Speed will televise 14 hours of live coverage, beginning Saturday at 2 p.m. and again Sunday at 9 a.m. For a full entry list, visit Grand-Am.com.