The NASCAR Busch Series garages are full of sports cars as a two-day test kicked off at Daytona International Speedway.
Besides a number of historic sports cars in attendance, a couple of Rolex Sports Car Series teams are using the two-day test to prep for the 45th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 27-28, the prestigious kick-off event to Speedweeks 2007.
The No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Porsche Crawford fielded by Alex Job Racing returned to the "World Center of Racing" with driver Patrick Long. The Alex Job Racing entry captured the pole for the 2006 Rolex 24 and finished third overall with driver Long, Lucas Luhr and Mike Rockenfeller.
The team returned with the same car looking for reliability that proves vital in winning the demanding twice-around-the-clock challenge.
¿The season ends a little bit early in the Grand Am so it's given us some time to regroup and continue developing,¿ Long said. ¿This team was new in '06 and a lot of people forgot about that because we had a real strong beginning. So we¿re out here to capitalize on the time off and really prepare for this year¿s Rolex 24 and the `07 season. We certainly had the speed last year but we learned reliability is absolute key so that¿s what we¿re doing.¿
With Alex Job Racing¿s first entry in the competitive Daytona Prototype division, the No. 23 Porsche Crawford quickly became the car the beat in the 2006 Rolex 24.
¿From the opening test of preseason `06, the car came out of the box extremely quick,¿ Long said. ¿That¿s a testament to Max Crawford and Porsche. Alex just really massaged the car and got Mike and I and Lucas for the 24 hour. We work really together because of our relationship of being Porsche factory drivers and driving in other series together.
¿It was a sort of a dream opening and almost too good to be true. We had two axel failures and I think we were almost nine laps down at about 1 or 2 in the morning but we were able to battle back. We definitely want to come back and get a win here. It¿s one of the biggest races in the world so certainly as driver, it¿s one of my goals in my career so the sooner the better.¿
Also testing for next year¿s Rolex 24 was Synergy Racing and Team Seattle, which competes under the Synergy Racing banner.
Team Seattle is preparing for its 11th year of competition in the Rolex 24. Team Seattle uses the Rolex 24 to raise funds for the Seattle Children¿s Hospital. Since beginning the venture, the team has raised $2.2 million and has captured two Rolex 24 class victories.
The team will return for the 2007 Rolex 24 with two GT cars along with six returning drivers and two newcomers.
¿We¿ve got a lot on the line this year,¿ said Team Seattle founder and driver Don Kitch Jr. said. ¿We¿ve got already $200,000 in the bank toward this year¿s effort. Our goal is to leave here Monday morning, Jan. 29, with somewhere between $500,000 and $600,000 in the bank. It¿s going to be a huge year for Team Seattle.¿
Through www.teamseattle.com, the team receives pledges for laps completed in the race.
Sports car testing continues on Tuesday at Daytona International Speedway and is free and open to the public with access to the Oldfield Grandstand through the lobby of DAYTONA USA.
Tickets for the 45th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona are available online at www.racetickets.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.