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Austin Cindric, Devlin DeFrancesco, Pietro Fittipaldi teaming up in LMP2 at Rolex 24

Calvin Fish and Nate Ryan preview the 61st IMSA Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.

The 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona field has its first announced NASCAR Cup Series driver with reigning Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric returning to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener.

Cindric was announced Saturday in the lineup for the No. 51 Oreca of Rick Ware Racing in the LMP2 division. The Team Penske driver will join Formula One reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi, Andretti Autosport IndyCar driver Devlin DeFrancesco and Eric Lux.

Cindric, who made the playoffs as the NACAR Cup Series rookie of the year in 2022, will be making his second consecutive Rolex 24 start and fifth overall in the sports car classic on the Daytona International Speedway road course. He likely will be the only full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver in the field of the 24-hour race for the second consecutive year.

“The Rolex 24 is an event that I’ve always been passionate about,” Cindric said in a release. “With it being my fifth attempt, I’m hungry to continue my pursuit for a win and a Rolex watch. I have a great, experienced lineup of co-drivers with a winning pedigree.”

The team is familiar with Cindric from NASCAR’s premier series, where Rick Ware Racing also fields Fords.

“The 24-hour race at Daytona is one of the crown jewels of motorsports,” Rick Ware said in the release. “It’s right up there with the Daytona 500, Indy 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans. I couldn’t be happier about the driver lineup we’re bringing to the Rolex 24 this year. It’s great to have drivers with F1, NASCAR, Indy Car and various other levels of racing experience driving our car this year.”

DeFrancesco and Lux combined to win last year’s LMP2 division in a DragonSpeed USA car with IndyCar stars Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward. One of at least 10 IndyCar drivers in the Rolex 24, DeFrancesco also will drive for RWR in the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup season.

A road-racing veteran, Cindric has eight starts in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. After seven starts in GT cars, this will mark his second start in LMP2. He finished sixth in class for JDC-Miller Motorsports at the 2018 Rolex 24.

IMSA released a preliminary entry list with teams and cars last month for the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona. A finalized entry list with drivers is expected soon.