The Rolex 24 More Than Just A Race
Story & Photos By: ISMA WEATHER-TECH SERIES MEDIA
Daytona Beach Fla.- January 28, 2017- The Rolex 24 At Daytona has always been a special race, but the reason why varies greatly depending on who you ask. So that’s what we did – we caught up with a variety of people involved in some way with the Rolex 24 to find out what makes it special to them, from one of the race’s most successful drivers, to a special guest driver from the past, to up and comers dreaming of participating, to the dedicated fan. Join us for just a sample of why the Rolex 24 rules the day and night.
Scott Pruett – Driver, No. 14 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3
“Daytona, from day one, has meant a lot to me. For one thing, it’s the biggest race of the season and after winning it so many times – in class and overall – it is really one of my favorite spots. It’s particularly special because of the high level of challenge. It’s such a team effort, and we’ve got a great team.
“You can never know what to expect, you can’t anticipate what might happen – fog, rain, yellow flags – all the unexpected possibilities that go into it. But, if you make it to victory lane, it’s something that is just so wonderfully shared by the group of talented, dedicated people that you call your team.
“The good Lord blessed me with this incredible career. I’ve had so many great achievements on so many levels that the Rolex 24 is that event and that place that stands, most certainly, at the top.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Driver, No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet, NASCAR
“Racing the Rolex meant a lot to Dad, so it obviously meant a lot to me as well. I was so young that I didn’t exactly realize how neat that deal was and how lucky I was to be there. I certainly enjoyed driving the car a lot, but I didn’t understand the importance of everything like Dad did. I look back now at pictures, and think ‘Man, that was a unique opportunity.’ And for such a difficult race, to finish as well as we did … I really understand the importance more now.”
“It’s certainly much different [than NASCAR]. You have to take care of the car and make it last for 24 hours, so you can’t make any mistakes that are going to tear the car up or cost the team any time on pit road or in the garage to fix it. That’s probably the most important thing. You’ve got to dial it back a little bit. In NASCAR races, you run full speed ahead all the time, and road course racing is a little foreign and the sports cars themselves may be a little foreign, so you have to drive within your comfort zone and take care of the car and let the hotshot road course guy that’s on your team pick up the slack, if that’s the case.”
Tony DiZinno – Editor, MotorsportsTalk, NBCSports.com
“There’s a special aura about the Rolex 24 at Daytona that differentiates it from other endurance races and historic races. I love the fact that it’s in January; to me, it represents the start of a new year, the excitement of shaking off the cobwebs and a welcome interruption to the cold weather that envelops most of the country. I love the passion of the fans, who always make the run up to the race a special time to be at the track.
“Most of all, I love the diversity of the cars and drivers. The fact is, the race is so important to the overall championship but balances it with the batch of drivers who range from full-time IMSA drivers to IndyCar veterans, NASCAR stars, F1 legends, up-and-comers looking to make their impression and older stars in the twilight of their careers. And then there’s the cars, and the symphony of different engine sizes and notes, body styles, and designs makes it all the while.
Tyler Cooke – Driver, No. 84 BimmerWorld BMW 328i, Continental Tire Challenge
“Racing in the Rolex 24 is a dream every young driver has when starting their career racing go karts. When you’re young and racing, you always have three races in mind: Monaco, Le Mans and Daytona. The first time I walked out to pit road in 2012, it all hit me. The battles I had watched here were now battles I would be in, and the drivers I looked up to were now running side by side with me.
“Being chosen to be a spotter for the JDC prototype last year gave me the opportunity to see how important every aspect of a race team is for the success of a car. From the technicians to the driver, everyone gives the full effort to get to the finish line. This is a race that one day I want to participate in.
Hanna Zellers – Driver, No. 33 Formula Enterprise, SCCA Club Racing
“On top of attending the 2016 Rolex 24, I had the honor of competing at Daytona when the SCCA Runoffs ran there. Just a few laps in, I was in love. From the high banks, the infield and through the Bus Stop, Daytona offers an experience like no other. I couldn’t help but imagine all of the famous drivers that passed over that same start/finish line, the same bumps, cracks and imperfections in the tracks surface over the many years before my time. Not many days pass that I don’t catch myself dreaming about what a rush it would be to be a part of the Rolex 24.
“Endurance racing, especially the Rolex 24, is such a unique experience. The excitement, fanfare, glitz and glamour are just an outer shell of this amazing race. What really excites me is what is below that outer surface. The teamwork, driver changes, grueling hours, day / night / day, changes in weather and track conditions along with the teams’ ability to troubleshoot and repair cars with what would normally be race ending problems… it’s all amazing.”
Andy Blackmore – Livery Designer & Official IMSA Spotter Guide Creator
“As a livery designer and creator of the IMSA Spotter Guide, the Rolex 24 is very much a time to take a deep breath, stop and enjoy the race after a busy winter season. I start producing art for the Spotter Guides in mid-December, when the teams begin to lock down their liveries and send me assets. At the same time, I’m chasing down chassis manufactures like Ligier and ORECA for reference and the next 4-5 weeks is full on producing around 90 illustrations in preparation for the Rolex24.
“It’s the busiest time of year for me as I also balance this with livery design for various race teams, I have six cars with my liveries on for 2017, so that’s always special to see. I personally won’t need the spotter guide though, I’ve lived and breathed it for the past month!
“As a fan, the Rolex 24 IS the start of the North American racing season. It’s when we see who really is quick straight out the box. The Rolex is relatively unusual in motorsport, in that it’s the toughest test of the season at the very beginning of the season. It’s an amazing spectacle to witness first hand and highly recommend you stay well into the night, as the sights and sounds are electric. This year, I’ll be back at home in Canada, watching online with the tones of IMSA Radio around our house and car!
Matt Wood – Longtime IMSA Fan
“Aside from the incredible cars and fantastic racing? To me, the Rolex is more than just the race itself. It’s getting to see friends I see only once a year maybe, from all over the country. Hanging out, having a few – perhaps too many – alcoholic beverages, then moseying the infield at midnight.
“Riding the Ferris wheel, then getting a few hours of sleep before hiking up to the main stands to catch sunrise. No matter the outcome of the race, I know I’ve had an incredible weekend with the absolute best people… and I’m hyped that there’s still a full season to go!”
Experience the Rolex 24 At Daytona for yourself! The race takes the green flag at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 28, with coverage beginning on FOX at 2 p.m. FOX Sports GO provides flag to flag coverage with FS1 authentication, and if you’re fortunate enough to make the trip, tickets can be purchased at www.DaytonaInternationalSpeedway.com