Imagine a football team starting 11 players on offense one week, then using a completely different lineup for its next game. Sounds a little crazy, right?
That is what DragonSpeed USA is doing between the first and second races of the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
With a potent lineup of budding IndyCar stars Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward and Devlin DeFrancesco teaming with sports car veteran Eric Lux, the No. 81 DragonSpeed ORECA LMP2 07 rallied from three laps down to win the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class at the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January. But it was a one-time-only performance for the victorious foursome, a result that netted DragonSpeed its third Rolex 24 LMP2 triumph in four years.
The driver lineup for the remaining six races – starting with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts on March 19 – is pretty stout in its own right.
Juan Pablo Montoya, the former IndyCar, Formula One and NASCAR star who also captured the 2019 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) title in the WeatherTech Championship, returns to the series on a fulltime basis in the No. 81 DragonSpeed entry. Henrik Hedman, a winner all three times he drove a DragonSpeed LMP2 in 2020, including at Daytona and Sebring, will share the car with Montoya for the full schedule. Montoya’s 16-year-old son, Sebastian, will make his WeatherTech Championship debut as the third driver at Sebring.
DragonSpeed team principal Elton Julian likes having different talent in his cars. He said the Rolex 24 roster was established to get the three IndyCar drivers seat time before their season started. It didn’t hinder the season-long goal since the LMP2 class does not award championship points at Daytona.
“I’ve been hyper-privileged to have ridiculous talent in the car throughout this journey,” Julian admitted. “This has turned into a lot of interesting people that have been in my cars now.”
Like many in the racing world, Julian is keen to see how his reconfigured driving trio performs at Sebring.
“I think this story is particularly interesting because, not only will we have Juan Pablo in the car, but it will be the first time he is racing the same car as his son Sebastian, who is our Silver (rated) driver for Sebring,” Julian said.
“Sebastian is a rising star in the single-seat world. He did a rookie test for us in Bahrain after last year’s World Endurance Championship season. He was spectacular and he continues to improve. It will be really cool to see father and son in the same car, and the competition that will ensue will be fun to watch.”
Hedman, the 54-year-old Swede, is all for the Montoya family joining him in the No. 81 at Sebring.
“The LMP2 class is very competitive and I have the utmost respect for the other teams,” he said. “That being said, I’m very excited to have Sebastian in the car. I think he will surprise the paddock. We all know what JPM can do. Of course, it’s very special to have father and son in the same car; I actually think they are more excited than I am. Elton and I are very pragmatic when it comes to drivers. We would never have a lineup that wouldn’t be able to win.”
Julian shares the same confidence.
“I like the kid, Henrik likes the kid,” Julian said of the Montoya teen. “We have picked our favorite when it comes to this group of (up-and-coming drivers). I think this experience will be good for him and his single-seater career. This continues his trajectory, which is (to race in) Formula One. This is not a distraction; this fortifies his effort.”
Race week at Sebring runs March 16-19. Tickets are available at sebringraceway.com. The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring streams live starting at 10 a.m. ET Saturday, March 19 on Peacock. TV coverage picks up at 3 p.m. on USA. IMSA Radio also carries flag-to-flag coverage.