DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – When A.J. Foyt returns to Daytona International Speedway to serve as Grand Marshal for the historic 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 28-29, he will be reunited with the top Porsches he drove to victory in the event.
Daytona International Speedway officials announced that the first two cars that will be part of a display of past overall winning Rolex 24 At Daytona cars at the 2012 twice-around-the-clock challenge will be a pair of Preston Henn Porsches that Foyt shared with Bob Wollek, Claude Ballot-Lana and Henn in 1983, and with Wollek, Al Unser and Thierry Boutsen in 1985.
“Being able to look at this historic gathering of past Rolex 24 winners and remember the stories behind their victories is going to be a special opportunity for race fans attending next year’s historic 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24,” Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said. “We look forward to more announcements in upcoming months about additional winning cars that will be part of this one-of-kind display.”
The stories surrounding both Rolex 24 victories for the Preston Henn Porsches are remarkable.
Foyt made his third appearance in the Rolex 24 in 1983, co-driving an Aston-Martin Nimrod prototype as part of a driver lineup that included reigning NASCAR champion Darrell Waltrip. Prior to the race, Foyt and Henn discussed the idea of driving a Porsche together someday.
When Foyt’s Aston Martin broke down near the halfway mark, Henn found Foyt and offered him the opportunity to drive his car -- the No. 6 Swap Shop Porsche 935.
“Just prior to getting in, Foyt asked me about the car,” crew chief Kevin Jeannette said. “I told him it drove just like a Porsche, only faster. A.J. asked me about the shift pattern and I told him it was an H pattern, just like a Volkswagen. He looked at me and said, ‘You think I’ve driven a Volkswagen before?’ We had a laugh and I told him the pattern.”
Wollek came in about 5 a.m. to turn the car over after a very long stint. After the car left the pits, he noticed both of his co-drivers were standing in the pits and asked crew chief Jeannette who was in the car.
Said Jeannette: “I told him A.J. Foyt was in the car and he said ‘Who the hell is A.J. Foyt?’ with obvious concern about the inexperienced Porsche driver and the lead Bob had put the car in.”
The Texan increased the team’s lead from one to two laps, and later drove the fastest lap of the race – 126 mph, in the rain – during a four hour, 10 minute shift. Wollek, by now impressed with Foyt’s ability in the unfamiliar car, finished up to win by seven laps.
Following the race, Foyt returned to his ailing father’s side and presented him with the winning trophy.
In the 1984 Rolex 24, Foyt, Wollek and Derek Bell drove Henn’s 935 to finish second but the following year, Henn upgraded to a Porsche 962 with Valvoline sponsorship and drivers Foyt, Wollek and Al Unser. With both drivers fighting the flu, Foyt and Wollek came from behind in the final two hours to win over the Lowenbrau Porsche 962 of Al Holbert, Bell and Al Unser Jr. Foyt returned to run the Rolex 24 the following three years in Porsche 962s. He finished in the top six all three times, including placing second in Henn’s entry in 1986.
The Rolex 24 At Daytona, the kick-off event to Speedweeks 2012 as well as the international motorsports calendar, showcases the world’s best drivers competing against each other lap after lap for 24 hours on Daytona International Speedway’s challenging and demanding 3.56-mile road course.
Tickets for the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona are on sale online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.