Oct 27 | Rolex 24 Flashback: A Personal Test of Endurance

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When it comes to winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the drivers get the glory, but they’ll be the first to admit that none of them would be trying on that beautiful, but elusive Rolex watch in Daytona International Speedway’s Victory Circle without the tireless efforts of every single member of their crew.

Rolex 24

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- When it comes to winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the drivers get the glory, but they’ll be the first to admit that none of them would be trying on that beautiful, but elusive Rolex watch in Daytona International Speedway’s Victory Circle without the tireless efforts of every single member of their crew.

Simon Hodgson, the general manager for SunTrust Racing, and Iain Watt, an engineer for Action Express Racing, know all about the very personal test of endurance that staying awake, alert, focused and functioning for the twice-’round-the-clock classic is for every crew member.

Preparation is paramount in several ways for Daytona. Namely, accruing enough sleep and nutrition in the days and weeks leading up to the event so that a 24-plus hour run of staying awake isn’t as difficult as it might appear.

“I think the main thing is getting the right nutrition really, and lots of sleep; simple as that,” Hodgson says. “The actual week of the 24 is quite long, from load-in on the Tuesday through going green on Saturday. We also have to keep the stress levels moderated to have a routine 24 hours.”

Keeping those stress levels down means working on the tiniest details in advance and, should things go wrong, having a Plan B. And a Plan C, D and E, too.

“You have to approach this race differently from the outset,” Watt explains. “The way we go about racing it, we make sure there are extra preparations for the cars. You’ll go at all costs to keep it running. You do everything to keep the wheels turning. There are lots of strategies you have to do to prepare for what you don’t expect. It’s a different kind of preparation.”

The preparation involves having not just spare parts, but also spare people at the ready. If one crewmember goes down, it’s a greater necessity to fill the spot and operate at full strength rather than a man down.

“You have to have that redundancy in every level, from calling the race to people doing jobs like running tires and getting fuel,” Watt says. “It all has to happen. You have to build that into your procedures, systems and personnel. For instance, if your lead guy twists an ankle on the first stop, you have to have a backup guy. Otherwise you do slow pit stops the rest of the race and that doesn’t work.”

With the preparation in place and every eventuality hopefully covered, race morning dawns between 7 or 8 a.m. local time, when the crew wakes up and head to the track. Hodgson estimates a good night’s sleep the night before begins at 8:30 or 9 p.m., after a good dinner.

From Saturday, they’ll stay at the track for a much longer period than just 24 hours. The race itself begins at 3 p.m. and between pre-race setup and post-race takedown, it’s easily one full day and a half, straight.

“It’s not like you can teach yourself to sleep in and avoid going to the track,” Watt laughs. “It’s more like 36 hours, going on 48 that you have to be awake and alert. You can’t be a zombie!”

The race begins and, within just a few hours, darkness falls. Temperatures drop. A standard race length is quickly exceeded, yet there are several more to go. And then, inevitably, the urge to sleep hits the guys on pit road.

“The guys can get some rest in-between fuel stints,” Hodgson says. “The difficult thing is that, by the evening, you feel like you’ve already done a normal race. The hardest time is about 10 p.m. through to about 4 in the morning, as those are really long hours. You hope the crew starts getting its second wind when the sun rises.”

Watt says the toughest part comes at the end of that late night/early morning window – roughly between 3 and 4 a.m.

“Right then, your body tells you that you should be going to sleep,” Watt admits. “If you’ve just serviced the car about then, there might be a natural lull in activity after it, so it’s hard to keep focused. Your body wants to go to sleep but you do your best to stay awake until that second wind.”

That’s often the coldest part of the event, as well. Despite what you might think about Florida’s balmy climate, Daytona can be notoriously chilly in the middle of January, and available heat is limited. Watt’s energy and heat kick is aided by several cups of coffee, while Hodgson says he tries to find as much heat as possible from the pit box.

Watt says the lights at Daytona help aid competitors and crewmembers, where it’s almost never completely dark at any point on the circuit. By way of contrast, Le Mans, where Watt crewed several races in the 1990s, is a much tougher challenge to stay awake at because it’s pitch black on almost all parts of the circuit. Armed with that experience, the first time Watt worked with Eddie Cheever at Daytona in 2006, he says he “knew what he was getting into.”

To stay awake, Hodgson says he just tries to keep even more engaged with the race than usual. As he says, time goes quicker. He admits sleep could claim the crewmembers, but the intensity and focus for each stop fuels them to keep going. Most crewmembers stay up the whole of the race and only briefly shut their eyes – maybe for an hour or two in total over the two days.

“To be honest, from as soon as the race starts, there’s nobody on our team who wants to leave the pits,” he says. “They all take the responsibility of seeing the cars finishing well.”

Both Watt and Hodgson have extensive experience as mechanics in IndyCar racing. Hodgson, a SunTrust crewmember since 2007, had a rough first time at the Rolex in 2004. He witnessed the usually well prepared Chip Ganassi Racing team almost underestimate the challenge of how tiring the work can be in its first Rolex 24 start.

“Honestly, it was very difficult, and not just from a fatigue standpoint,” he says. “Ganassi is all about preparation, and we thought we all were prepared, but we were definitely underprepared. We had a lot of rain and things we didn’t think we’d have to contend with. I saw how hard it could be if things weren’t going right, and what we needed to do better going forward.”

In contrast to coming in half-ready, Watt believes being over-prepared for the task of staying awake, ready and focused is the real key to success for crewmembers over the course of the Rolex 24.

“If you’re prepared for adversity, then adversity stays away from you,” he admits. “But if you’re scrambling, you’ll get challenged. It always seems to go that way, at least from my experience.”

Oct 25 | Click, Call or Walk In – Tickets for the 2012 Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola Weekend On Sale Saturday, Oct. 29

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On Saturday, Oct. 29, at 9 a.m. (ET), race fans will have their first chance to purchase tickets for the 54th annual Coke Zero 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Saturday, July 7.

David Ragan

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Tickets for the 54th annual Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Saturday, July 7 at historic Daytona International Speedway are now on sale. Fans could begin purchasing tickets for one of NASCAR's most exciting nighttime races on Saturday, Oct. 29.

Fans who act fast can take advantage of the best pricing available during the public on-sale period:

• Frontstretch grandstand seats for the Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola start at $45, Tower seats begin at $85.
• Reserved grandstand seats for children ages 12 and under are $10 and kids 12 and under are free in the Sprint FANZONE.
• Infield camping packages start at $345, and new for 2012, reserved site infield guests will be able to drive in and out of the infield.

Fans can purchase tickets to the mid-summer classic on one of three convenient ways:

• Online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com
• By calling 1-800-PITSHOP
• Visiting the Daytona International Speedway ticket office

 “For more than 50 years, Daytona International Speedway has celebrated Independence Day in its own unique way with the stars of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and one of the largest fireworks shows in the Southeast,” Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said. “We look forward to another great Coke Zero 400 Weekend Powered by Coca-Cola featuring thrilling on-track competition and first-class entertainment for our fans.”

Daytona International Speedway will celebrate the Independence Day holiday weekend by transforming into the largest lighted sports facility in America as the stars of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series battle for 160 laps, 400 miles on the historic 31-degree high banks.

Tickets to the Subway Jalapeno 250 Powered By Coca-Cola NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Friday night, July 6, are also available for purchase on Saturday, Oct. 29.

Prior to Oct. 29, only ticket renewals for the 54th annual Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola were taken by the ticket office at Daytona International Speedway.

Oct 25 | 1982 Rolex 24 Overall Champion No. 18 JLP Porsche 935 Joins the 50th Anniversary Display

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The No. 18 JLP Porsche 935 that captured the 1982 Rolex 24 will join the display of overall Rolex 24 championship cars to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the twice-around-the-clock challenge on Jan. 28-29.

1982 Rolex 24 overall champion

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The No. 18 JLP Porsche 935 that propelled the father-son duo of John Paul Sr. and John Paul Jr. and German Rolf Stommelen to victory in the 1982 Rolex 24 At Daytona will join the display of overall Rolex 24 At Daytona championship cars to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the twice-around-the-clock challenge on Jan. 28-29.

The triumph in the 1982 Rolex 24 is the only time in event history a father and son on the same team captured the overall victory.  Only four father-son combinations have won the overall title in the history of the Rolex 24 – Bobby Rahal (1981) and son Graham (2011), Mark Donohue (1969) and son David (2009), Al Unser (1985) and son Al Jr. (1986, 1987)  and the Paul family.

The 21-year-old Paul was scheduled to drive with his father in the 1981 Rolex 24 but had to wait a year after his father’s Porsche 935 expired early in the race.

Along with Stommelen, Paul Sr. and Jr. ran a flawless race in the 1982 Rolex 24. The trio won by 11 laps, completed 719 laps, 2,760.96 miles and averaged 114.794 mph – all new race records.

“We had absolutely no problems at all”, Paul Jr said. “We never added oil to it, never even opened the hood.”

The No. 18 JLP Porsche 935 joins the growing field of historic championship cars in the display:
• The No. 96 Arciero Racing Lotus-Climax 19B  from the inaugural Rolex 24 (then known as the Daytona Continental) in 1962
• The Porsche 907 from the 1968 Rolex 24
• The No. 98 Eagle GTP from the 1993 Rolex 24
• The Preston Henn Porsches from the 1983 and 1985 Rolex 24s
• The No. 6 Lola T70 Chevrolet from the 1969 Rolex 24
• The No. 9 Bob Garretson’s Style Auto Porsche 935 from the 1981 Rolex 24 At Daytona
• The No. 43 Porsche 911 RSR from the 1977 Rolex 24

Additional cars will be announced as they are secured to be part of this one-of-a-kind display.


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.

Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter (www.twitter.com/disupdates) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/DaytonaInternationalSpeedway).

Oct 24 | Dean Kurtz Selected for Fenwal Blood Donation Hall of Fame

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Dean Kurtz, Chief Guest Services Officer for Daytona International Speedway, has been selected to the prestigious Fenwal Blood Donation Hall of Fame for 2011.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Dean Kurtz, Chief Guest Services Officer for Daytona International Speedway, has been selected to the prestigious Fenwal Blood Donation Hall of Fame for 2011. There were over 80 nominations internationally and Kurtz was one of only 12 honorees chosen base on their commitment to blood donation, whether by giving blood or by organizing drives and special events that recruit blood donors.

Kutz, who serves on the board of directors for Florida’s Blood Centers, has spearheaded annual blood drives commemorating September 11, 2001, at the Daytona International Speedway.  Those blood drives have increased significantly with over 1,000 donors responding this year.

Fenwal, Inc, is a global medical technology company focused on improving blood collection, separation, safety and availability. Fenwal partners with blood centers to recognize people who serve as an inspiration to others in assuming medicine’s most vital natural resource-blood- is available for trauma victims, people undergoing critical surgeries and patients receiving therapies for cancer, leukemia and other medical conditions. Blood is a life-saving resource that is always needed, and it costs nothing to give.

Oct 20 | Rolex 24 Flashback: The Weird and the Wonderful

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Sports cars come in all shapes and sizes, so it's no surprise that the Rolex 24 at Daytona has had its fair share of the weird and wonderful down through the years.

1995 Rolex 24

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Sports cars come in all shapes and sizes, so it's no surprise that the Rolex 24 at Daytona has had its fair share of the weird and wonderful down through the years. Some have been successful, while others have failed to trouble timing and scoring – although, as far as the teams running them were concerned, it was mission accomplished. Fact is, they got to compete on the high banks of the Daytona International Speedway in one of the world's most prestigious endurance races. Job done.

Take the Cannibal-Chevrolet of the late-1990s. This front-engined, open-top prototype was bizarrely fashioned from an ex-Trans-Am Oldsmobile Cutlass to take advantage of the new World Sports Car rules. Car owner Bruce Trenery came up with the idea when he spotted a window of opportunity for a low-budget WSC project in the early years of the new category.

"I've been around racing long enough to know that at the start of a new formula a lot of people aren't ready," explains Trenery. "But we weren't in a position to afford one, given that we were just doing it for fun." So he built one out of what he had.

Trenery, the owner of the Fantasy Junction exotic car emporium in California, had bought the Tommy Riggins-built Trans-Am Olds the previous year, and had already raced it at Daytona in the GTS class. He commissioned Jack Kampney, who'd had a hand in the bodywork of the Greenwood Chevrolet Corvettes of the 1970s, to produce a design, and Scott Flatt, who looked after the car, to turn the tubeframe coupe into an open-top prototype.

"Jack came up with this fairly beautiful design," remembers Trenery, "but we'd never seen the car before it turned up at Daytona in 1995. Inevitably, the car had been late and we didn't make the pre-race test."

Trenery and teammate Jeffrey Pattinson were in for a surprise when they opened the back of the truck at the racetrack.

"The rear end of this thing was staring at us, and it was ugliest thing I'd ever seen," recalls Trenery. "Jeffrey and I were laughing so much we were crying. Maybe you could just about see the resemblance from the drawings, but the reality didn't look like the conception."

The Cannibal had an ugly time of it out on the track, too.

"The hood kept blowing off, for a start," says Trenery. "The other problem was that no one had envisaged a front-engined WSC car, so the rules said the exhausts had to exit out the back of the car. At our first pit stop, some fuel got spilt and caught alight on the hot exhausts. We got the thing to the finish line, but it was kind of an ordeal."

The Cannibal's second start in the 24 Hours a year later yielded a much better result. The car, driven by Trenery and Brits Pattinson, Nigel Smith and Grahame Bryant, ended up 24th overall. That was an impressive sixth in class, albeit 159 laps behind the winning Riley & Scott.

The Cannibal notched up another Daytona start – and finish – two years later, and also raced at Sebring and completed a partial U.S. sports car season in 1997. On that basis, Trenery chalks up the project as a success.

"In terms of points per dollar spent, I reckon we were ahead of everyone," he says. "When we bought the car prepped for Daytona with a trailer and all the spares, it was $50,000. A lot of people made fun out of it, but we had a lot of fun in it. That car finished Daytona every time, and I can tell you that never once in practice, qualifying or the race did that car ever have one new tire on it. We always bought other team's cast-offs."

The Cannibal shared the grid with another odd-looking machine in 1998. Financier Warren Mosler had been building sports cars, firstly under the Consulier name since the early 1990s, and buoyed by success in the World Challenge series, he decided to take on the Rolex 24 with the Chevrolet-powered car known as the Mosler Intruder. Or that was the original plan. By the time it turned up for the big race, it had undergone some major revisions that drastically altered its look.

The Intruder had become the Raptor, courtesy of a bizarre twin-windshield design and giant roof-mounted air scoop. The inspiration for the strange design came from the boatyard next to Mosler's composite shop in Florida, or at least that's what Shane Lewis, the team's lead driver at the time, believes.

"Warren had told me that we were going to take the car in which I'd won races in the World Challenge to Daytona, but when I turned up at the workshop, the guys were looking at me kind of funny," recalls Lewis. "Then they showed me the car, which suddenly had this pointy windscreen.

"Someone had seen Warren staring at this boat and the next day he comes up with the idea for the windscreen. Look at the front of the boat and turn it upside down, and you've got the front of the Raptor. His thinking was if it can get through the water that well, it can get through the air, too."

And Mosler's logic wasn't too far off. The Raptor, named after a small, predatory dinosaur from Jurassic Park, flew around the banking at Daytona.

"Warren wanted a big number, a high top speed, so we trimmed and trimmed the thing," recalls Lewis. "I remember flying across the start-finish line at more than 200mph, so maybe it proved that windshield configuration was pretty good after all."

The Mosler far from disgraced itself, qualifying just three tenths slower than another strange, but certainly better funded, Daytona contender in the GT1 class, the Lister Storm GTL. The Chevy-engined Raptor didn't make the finish, however, with overheating problems putting it out shortly before midnight.

Unconventional-looking machinery can be successful, very successful. Witness the early GTP contenders from British racecar constructor March.

The March 82G of 1982 had its roots in a car commissioned by BMW for a North American campaign in 1981, the GTP class M1 lookalike known as the M1C. The aerodynamics that gave both cars their radical look came from the mind of Frenchman Max Sardou and featured what Graham Humphrys, who was responsible for the rest of the 82G, calls "the world's biggest splitter."

"The start of the nose was the splitter or the leading edge of the undertray," explains Humphrys, who would subsequently design the 1999 Le Mans-winning BMW V12 LMR. "The aerodynamics were based on the combination of a position and length-adjustable splitter, a variable slot gap between the rear of the splitter and the undertray, and the air intake for the radiators."

The March 82G was far from a flop. Bobby Rahal claimed a first-time-out pole at Daytona for a Chevrolet-engined version of the car run by Bob Garretson, and that entry, plus another with BMW power run by Dave Cowart's Red Lobster Racing Team, both notched up second-place finishes over the remainder of the season.

It was only when one of the bright young minds at March, a certain Adrian Newey, revised the aerodynamics for 1983 that the car became a winner, however. The Briton, who had briefly tasted the world of grand prix racing with the Fittipaldi team, but was still some years away from starting his Formula 1 career in earnest, reworked Sardou's avant garde thinking and did away with the vacuous open front end.

"There was probably too much going on at the front with the original car," reckons Humphrys. "Adrian watered down Max's ideas and came up with a much more conventional design."

Newey's work on the March suggested that he was a star of the future. The 83G claimed the IMSA GTP title with Al Holbert, who ran with both Chevrolet V8 and Porsche turbo power over the course of the season, and went on to win the following year's Daytona 24 Hours in the hands of an all-South African driver lineup under the banner of Kreepy Krauly (a kind of robot for cleaning swimming pools, no less).

The Red Lobster team continued with an updated car – now with Porsche power – into 1983 and came up with a livery that made it look every bit as dramatic as its predecessor. The shape of those March prototypes, with their giant front pontoons, might have been tailor-made for the team's sponsor.

"Everyone had been calling the car the lobster claw anyway," says Humphrys, "so it really was the perfect sponsor."

Oct 19 | DIS Partners with Renowned Colombian Artist Alberto Gómez for 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona Commemorative Artwork

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Daytona International Speedway has partnered with Colombian-American artist and Deltona, Fla. resident Alberto Gómez to create commemorative artwork for the prestigious twice-around-the-clock challenge on January 28-29.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Daytona International Speedway has partnered with Colombian-American artist and Deltona, Fla. resident Alberto Gómez to create commemorative artwork for the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona twice-around-the-clock challenge on January 28-29.

Gómez will complete two unique projects.  The first is a 4’ x 4’ commemorative 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 painting, highlighting one car and team from each of the five decades.  Sports car fans will be asked to select a car and team combo to represent each decade through an online pole. Voting will continue until October 31, 2011.

In addition, Gómez will create a special 12’ x 8’ mural depicting children’s vision of sports car racing at Daytona.  Parents of interested young “artists” can submit their drawings for consideration in this one-of-a-kind piece by mail to Daytona International Speedway, Attention: Rolex 24 Painting, 1801 W. International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach, FL 32114. Drawings can be submitted until December 31, 2011.  The opportunity is open to children ages 12 under.

Daytona International Speedway officials and Gómez will select 15 drawings to be used in the mural.  The children whose drawings are selected will be invited to the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 to assist Gómez in painting the final mural in a fun and interactive area in the Sprint FANZONE.  This area will be open during the race weekend, and all children attending the race are invited to assist in painting the mural.

Born in Bogotá, Colombia, in 1956, Gómez began his artistic endeavors in 1979.  He studied visual arts in Bogotá, Colombia and in Caracas, Venezuela.  Gómez is recognized worldwide for his powerful murals, which are 500 square feet and larger, and his depictions run the gamut between ancient civilizations to the present.

Gómez’s art is found in diverse museums, non-profit organizations and private collections around the world.  He has received various honors, distinctions and grants throughout his long and outstanding career.

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.

Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter (www.twitter.com/disupdates) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/DaytonaInternationalSpeedway).

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