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NASCAR Stars Join Forces for Michelin Pilot Challenge

The NASCAR season is less than a month away, but some members of Ford Performance are already back at the track. Four NASCAR drivers have joined forces for the Michelin Pilot Challenge.

Ford Performance announced on January 18 that Hailie Deegan, Harrison Burton, Zane Smith, and Ben Rhodes are all taking part in the IMSA events at Daytona International Speedway. Deegan and Rhodes are sharing the No. 41 Ford Mustang while Smith and Burton are sharing the No. 42 Ford Mustang for PF Racing.

.@NASCAR/@IMSA crossover roll call! @ZaneSmith, @HailieDeegan, @HBurtonRacing, & @benrhodes will pilot @pf_racing #FordMustang GT4s the next two weekends at @DAYTONA! #IMPC pic.twitter.com/ytJsqsp796

— Ford Performance (@FordPerformance) January 18, 2023

The 2023 Michelin Pilot Challenge marks the third time that Deegan has taken on a sports car series at Daytona International Speedway. She has done so in previous years so that she could focus on making improvements on road courses before each Craftsman Truck Series season.

The Ford Performance Drivers Took Part in Multiple Practice Sessions

GettyHailie Deegan waits on the grid during qualifying at Phoenix Raceway.

The Michelin Pilot Challenge is significantly different than the NASCAR season in that there are extended practice sessions. For example, January 20 featured two different sessions for the teams as the drivers adapted to the road course.

Smith turned in a strong performance during the second testing session. The reigning Craftsman Truck Series champion posted the fastest lap at 1:53.159. Rhodes had the fifth-fastest lap time at 1:53.732.

The Michelin Pilot Challenge Ford entries piloted by #NASCAR drivers ⁦@HBurtonRacing⁩ ⁦@ZaneSmith⁩ ⁦@benrhodes⁩ and ⁦@HailieDeegan⁩ ..2nd practice session coming up ⁦@DAYTONApic.twitter.com/ffl0FDbZdX

— Holly Cain (@_HollyCain) January 20, 2023

The weekend will continue with some more sessions at the Daytona Road Course. The Michelin Pilot Challenge drivers will practice on Saturday, January 21, from 9:30 a.m. ET until 11 a.m. ET. They will then have one more hour-long practice session on Sunday, January 22.

The Ford Performance drivers will return to Daytona International Speedway on January 25-27. They will take part in three more practice sessions, as well as qualifying.

The BMW M Endurance Challenge at Daytona will then cap off their schedule on Friday, January 27. This four-hour event will stream on NBC’s Peacock service (premium only) as the drivers try to complete every lap and secure the win in their respective classes.

The Michelin Pilot Challenge Will Benefit Rhodes & Deegan

GettyBen Rhodes prepares for practice at Texas Motor Speedway.

The members of Ford Performance that are competing in the Michelin Pilot Challenge all have their own reasons for doing so. They each have something to gain, whether it’s some experience in road course racing or seat time behind a different type of vehicle.

For Deegan and Rhodes, however, there will be another benefit. The two Craftsman Truck Series drivers have been competitors in the past while driving for different teams and manufacturers. Now they are teammates.

ThorSport Racing announced on December 15 that it had switched manufacturers. It is no longer part of Toyota Racing Development. Instead, the championship-winning organization is back at Ford Performance.

As part of the announcement, the team confirmed that Deegan will join the lineup. She will drive the No. 13 full-time while becoming teammates with Rhodes, Matt Crafton, and Ty Majeski.

The Ford Mustang is significantly different than what Rhodes and Deegan will control during the 2023 Craftsman Truck Series season. However, the Michelin Pilot Challenge gives them an opportunity to compete together while sharing a significant amount of knowledge.

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