DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip knows every inch of the 2.5-mile tri-oval of Daytona International Speedway.
On Wednesday, Waltrip familiarized himself with the twist and turns of the 3.56-mile road course on the final day of a two-day December Rolex 24 At Daytona test.
Waltrip, an owner and driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with Michael Waltrip Racing, tested a Porsche GT3 with TRG as he prepares to compete in his first start in the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 28-29.
He will co-drive a Ferrari 458 GT in the 50th anniversary of the twice-around-the-clock challenge with Rob Kauffman, co-owner at Michael Waltrip Racing, four-time North American rally champion Travis Pastrana and road racing veteran Rui Aguas.
The AF Waltrip Ferrari entry is a joint project between multiple sports car championship winning team AF Corse and Michael Waltrip Racing. With the Ferrari being shipped to United States, Waltrip wanted to get a jump on learning the Daytona road course prior to January’s Roar Before The Rolex 24 testing session by hopping in a TRG Porsche.
“It’s so weird for me,” Waltrip said during the lunch break. “When I hit the banks, I’m like, ‘Cool, I know this part.’ When you get to the end of pit road, instead of entering the track like I’ve done for 25 years, I exit the track. The infield is fun and challenging. I’ve only made one run. I know where the turns are now so we’ll just try to improve our lap times.”
Since cutting back on his NASCAR schedule, Waltrip has been competing in sports car events in Europe such as the 24 Hour of LeMans and Spa in Belgium. But the Rolex 24 has always been on his to-do list, especially after watching his brother Darrell compete in an Aston Martin Prototype with A.J. Foyt in the 1983 Rolex 24.
“I’ve always wanted to do the things my brother did and I’ve always wanted to do this race,” Waltrip said.
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.
Nasr update: British Formula 3 champion Felipe Nasr, the Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge winner, proved he is a quick learner of Daytona International Speedway. The 19-year-old Nasr, a native of Brazil, is turning his first laps at Daytona during this week’s test with Action Express Racing, overall champions from the 2010 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Nasr posted the top unofficial time on the first day of testing among Daytona Prototype drivers and was fastest again during the morning session on the second day.
“I didn’t expect to be that quick, but I have to thank Ozz Negri because his tips are what helped be that quick,” Nasr said. “I think I did quite well adapting to the different car, but I expect to get better.”
Nasr captured the 2012 Sunoco Daytona Challenge after scoring the top average point score out of 100 racers who signed up to the Challenge from the three eligible series in Europe; the Avon Tyres British GT Championship, Britcar MSA British Endurance Championship and the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series.
Nasr’s prize is a fully funded seat with a to-be-determined team in the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 28-29.
Next up: This week’s two-day December Rolex 24 At Daytona test featured more than 25 cars including the debut of three new Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Protoypes, three new Ferrari F458 Italia Grand Ams and the American testing debut of the Audi R8 GRAND-AM.
Teams not testing this week will have the opportunity to shake down their new cars at Daytona on Monday, Dec. 19 prior to the Roar Before The Rolex 24 on Jan. 6-8.
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.