Champions of the Century Ready For Rolex 24
On Friday morning in Gatorade Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway, there was an unprecedented gathering of the all-star drivers from around the world that have assembled for this weekend's Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The photo opportunity included champions from NASCAR, IndyCar, Champ Car and Grand-Am sports cars in addition to this century's winners of the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500 and Rolex 24 Daytona Prototype competition.
The 45th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona will go green at Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The All-Star participants in the photo opportunity included:
Max Angelelli - 2005 Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Co-Champion, 2005 Rolex 24 At Daytona Co-Winner Jörg Bergmeister - 2006 Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Champion Helio Castroneves - 2001, 2002 Indianapolis 500 Winner Emmanuel Collard - 2005 Rolex 24 At Daytona Winner Scott Dixon - 2006 Rolex 24 At Daytona Co-Winner, 2003 IndyCar Champion Christian Fittipaldi - 2004 Rolex 24 At Daytona Co-Winner Jeff Gordon - 2005 Daytona 500 Winner, 2001 NASCAR Cup Champion Sam Hornish Jr. - 2001, 2002, 2006 IndyCar Champion, 2006 Indianapolis 500 Winner Jimmie Johnson - 2006 NASCAR Cup Champion, 2006 Daytona 500 Winner Bobby Labonte - 2000 NASCAR Cup Champion Juan Pablo Montoya - 2000 Indianapolis 500 Winner Max Papis - 2004 Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Co-Champion, 2002 Rolex 24 At Daytona Co-Winner Andy Pilgrim - 2004 Rolex 24 At Daytona Co-Winner Scott Pruett - 2004 Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Co-Champion Buddy Rice - 2004 Indianapolis 500 Winner Wayne Taylor - 2005 Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Co-Champion, 2005 Rolex 24 At Daytona Co-Winner Paul Tracy - 2003 Champ Car Champion Dan Wheldon - 2006 Rolex 24 At Daytona Co-Winner, 2005 IndyCar Champion, 2005 Indianapolis 500 Winner
Helio Castroneves, co-driver on the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Lexus Riley "I'm pretty excited. No question, it's a totally different way of racing and approaching. You depend on all the different drivers and teammates as well. I'm super excited. Even when we finish the race, I'm going to be back (at Daytona next week) in an IndyCar which is unique. I'm excited for everything that's happening."
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE GATHERING OF ALL THESE GREAT DRIVERS IN ONE SPOT?
"It's incredible. It's an opportunity of a lifetime. Being with such incredible race car drivers and talents from a number of series¿it's great it's an honor to be here in this fantastic place."
"Hopefully we finish the race and win a watch"
Jimmie Johnson, co-driver on the No. 91 Lowe's Riley-Matthews Pontiac Riley "There has been a lot of concentration and work on this effort. I finished second here a few years ago with the Crawfords and I wanted to make sure I was going to come back with a team that was going to be able to fight for the podium again. Through that search, I got put together with the Rileys and I really feel like we have a chance to win this race. I've been looking at this like the Daytona 500 and all the effort and focus has been on it. I think there's a big honor there if I can be the first to win the Brickyard, the Daytona 500, the (NEXTEL Cup) championship and the Rolex. Nobody has done that yet and it would be a nice thing to chase down."
Bobby Labonte, co-driver on the No. 19 Finlay Motorsports Ford Crawford "We've got a great race car, a great race team. We're looking forward to having a great race. Hopefully, we won't have any problems. We're just getting prepared for it and
the guys have done a great job."
ON BEING A PART OF THE PHOTO OPPORTUNITY "It's exciting to me to be a part of it. It's overwhelming and I'm honored. That picture that was taken a while ago, that's something that I want to keep. It's cool to race against such a great caliber of guys."
Jeff Gordon, No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU CAN WIN THIS THING IN YOUR FIRST EVENT?
"I felt good but I wasn't the fastest. Well, I think we have a great team and a really good driver line-up. Things are going well and I'm having a lot of fun. I've never experienced a 24-hour race before and there's going to be a lot to learn - I'm learning from the best."
"It's going to be about running decent lap times and staying out of trouble."
"I just want to take care of the equipment and take care of the car. I think anything's possible."
YOU'RE AT DAYTONA EARLIER THAN YOU USUALLY ARE. DOES THIS GIVE YOU AN EARLY START FOR THE NEXTEL CUP?
"I feel like I've been living in Daytona this off-season with testing this car and testing the Cup car. Racing here, racing the Cup car, I should have bought a condo here in Daytona."
WHY THE ROLEX?
"I've always wanted to do it. I remember back in '85 or '86 racing sprint cars at Volusia County. Coming here watching the cars testing and watching the Rolex 24, I've always been amazed at what goes on here at Daytona."
THIS ISNT A FOUR HOUR CUP RACE - ITS 24 HOURS - HOW DO YOU PLAN ON PREPARING AND MAKING IT TO THE END? HOW IS IT GOING TO BE FOR YOU?
"The real challenge is how you get rest in between because you are up for a long period of time. Trying to find ways to get sleep and rest - we have a lot of support as far as nutrition, hydration, and relaxation."