Peter Baron's Starworks Motorsport team has stolen the headlines this week in advance of the 50th anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona for two reasons. Its lead car, its new third generation Riley-Ford, scored a surprise pole in only its second ever on-track session on Thursday with Ryan Dalziel.
Meanwhile, its sister car, the grandfathered No. 2 Ford Riley, has been the subject of discussion over its surprising and frequent changes to its driver lineup. The latest wrinkle came late Friday night, as the team may take "eleventh hour entrant" literally – Marco Andretti tweeted that he will join the roster and won't get to the track until after the race starts.
Andretti's tweet read, “In the Indy car again at Palm Beach tomorrow then heading to Daytona to drive the #2 Starworks DP with @RyanHunterReay and Michael Valiante.” Andretti, who now joins his cousin John and John's son Jarrett as members of the Andretti family in this year's Rolex 24, will arrive at the track after his test and after the race goes green at 3:30 p.m. ET.
The No. 2 was originally slated to have IndyCar stars Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan and E.J. Viso alongside two paying drivers in Miguel Potolicchio and Maurizio Scala. On Tuesday, a sponsor pulled out, which left Kanaan and Viso sidelined, but Hunter-Reay unaffected.
Thursday's first day of running had Hunter-Reay, Potolicchio and Scala listed in the No. 2 with Lucas Luhr, also scheduled to be in the polesitting No. 8 entry, and Scott Mayer – a former IndyCar driver who twice failed rookie orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
A befuddled Hunter-Reay was just as bemused with the situation as most observers, and said he would qualify the car and start the race – but beyond that was anyone's guess. He qualified ninth, second-fastest among the grandfathered DPs.
The situation evolved on Friday morning when Michael Valiante appeared in the Starworks pit. The Canadian, a longtime driver at Michael Shank Racing in Rolex Series competition, said he was a “last, last minute” addition to the team – and hinted that Luhr would still co-drive with him. With six into five not going and Valiante unsure which driver would be bumped for his addition, that left the status of his co-drivers unknown.
Andretti, Hunter-Reay and Valiante on their own would make the No. 2 car a much more viable entry than only having one professional driver, and it remains to be seen which of the paying drivers would line up alongside them. It appears likely Luhr will only drive the No. 8, as was the original intent.