There are two borderline middle tier entries. One is Oryx Racing (No. 74 Audi R8), which sprung some surprises in ALMS in 2011. Steven Kane will be quick, but he and his co-drivers Humaid Al Masaood and Saaed Al Mehairi are unknown quantities in endurance racing, with the Audi's reliability remaining to be seen. Oryx, for this race, lacks the Dyson technical support that served it so well in 2011.
The other is the AF Corse-run AF Waltrip entry (No. 56 Ferrari 458). Michael Waltrip is a Daytona legend, with two Daytona 500 victories. Unfortunately, oval success does not a GT class champion make, especially in this year's field. It should be one of the most publicized entries, but just finishing will be a victory for Waltrip, Rob Kauffman, Rui Aguas and Travis Pastrana. A top 10 in class would be a bonus.
Elsewhere TRG's two remaining Porsches are there to make up the numbers and continue the streak of team principal Kevin Buckler running at least five cars in the Rolex, an impressive feat dating to 2005. Ex-Formula 1 and IndyCar driver Eliseo Salazar (No. 64) and Long Beach Grand Prix CEO Jim Michaelian (No. 65) are the drivers of interest there.
Two Muehlner Motorsports America, LLC entries (Nos. 18, 19) and single entries from Alliance Autosport (No. 12), Mitchum Motorsports (No. 20), Bullet Racing (No. 22), Acumen Motorsport (No. 55) and Dick Greer Racing (No. 82) round out the Porsche GT3 Cup contingent.
Keep an eye out for Davy Jones (Muehlner No. 18) SCCA Formula Enterprise champion Scott Rettich (Alliance), former Porsche factory driver David Murry (Mitchum) and 1990s Indy Lights competitor Mark Hotchkis (Greer) in that batch.
Longtime NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team owner Rick Ware has both a Ford Mustang (No. 15, RIGHT) and a Porsche GT3 Cup (No. 16) entered, with the late Dale Earnhardt's grandson Jeffrey in the team's Mustang. But there's something about the words “Earnhardt driving a Ford” that doesn't sound right.
Dodge is back at Daytona too, and while neither lead driver Jan Heylen nor the Racers Edge Motorsports team are slouches, they'll have an uphill battle to sort out the team's new No. 87 Viper Comp Coupe for the entire race. It's a safe bet this car – adorned in a banana yellow livery instead of the traditional Viper red with white stripes (LEFT) – will not match the 2000 ORECA Viper's overall victory, let alone a class win in 2012.
Team Sahlen's No. 49 Mazda and Michael Baughman Racing's No. 46 Corvette are the least likely contenders. Sahlen's often withdraws one of its entries – likely this one – while the Baughman Corvette might be the epitome of the underdog. In its four prior Rolex 24 starts, the team has either finished the race as the last car running or been one of the first six out. For a sentimental pick where making laps – slowly – is a victory, root for this team's Corvette in the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24.
HOW TO WATCH
The Rolex 24 will unfold live on SPEED on a multi-faceted platform, with 15.5 hours live on SPEED TV and the remainder of the race streamed online on SPEED.com. More than 25 hours of coverage begins on Sat. Jan. 28, at 2:30 p.m. ET with green-flag action beginning an hour later at 3:30 p.m. ET. Online coverage begins at 11 p.m. ET Saturday night, with TV coverage resuming at 9 a.m. ET Sunday morning. On-air talent includes Bob Varsha, Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs, Dorsey Schroeder, Calvin Fish and Tommy Kendall in the broadcast booth, with Brian Till, Chris Neville, Jamie Howe and Greg Creamer on pit road, and Justin Bell serving as the in-race reporter for Magnus Racing.