Jan 19 | Overall winning 1986, 1987 Rolex 24 Porsche 962 Joins the 50th Anniversary Exhibit

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The No. 14 Lowenbrau Porsche 962 that claimed back-to-back wins in 1986 and 1987 will join the exhibit of overall Rolex 24 At Daytona championship cars on Jan. 28-29.

1986 and 1987 Rolex 24 champion

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The No. 14 Lowenbrau Porsche 962 that claimed back-to-back wins in 1986 and 1987 will join the exhibit 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 No. 14 Lowenbrau Porsche 962 is one of only two multiple race winners in Rolex 24 history with the other being the 2007, 2008 and 2011 Rolex 24-winning No. 01 BMW Riley from Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

In 1986, despite mechanical problems, Al Holbert, Derek Bell, and Al Unser Jr. claimed victory in the No. 14 car by a margin of one minute, 49 seconds over the Preston Henn Porsche, the first time in event history that the top two cars finished on the lead lap.

“We had trouble all night long,” Bell said. “I didn’t think we would ever regain the lead, to be honest.” 

In 1987, they pulled off the repeat with Bell, Chip Robinson, Unser Jr. and Holbert, who had his name on the driver’s list but planned on only serving as the team’s manager. But after the No. 14 car lost the driver’s side window, drivers were exhausted by the hot air that was blowing into the car. Holbert quickly grabbed his helmet and took a turn at the wheel.

The. No. 14 Lowenbrau Porsche 962 joins the growing field of prestigious championship cars previously announced in the exhibit:

• The No. 96 Arciero Racing Lotus-Climax 19B  from the inaugural Rolex 24 (then known as the Daytona Continental) in 1962
• 1966 Rolex 24-winning No. 98 Ford GT Mark II
• 1968 Rolex 24-winning Porsche 907
• 1969 Rolex 24-winning No. 6 Lola T70 Chevrolet
• 1970 Rolex 24-winning No. 2 Gulf Porsche 917
• 1976 Rolex 24-winning No. 59 BMW 3.5 CSL
• 1977 Rolex 24-winning No. 43 Porsche 911 RSR
• 1978 Rolex 24-winning No. 99 Porsche 935
• 1981 Rolex 24-winning No. 9 Bob Garretson’s Style Auto Porsche 935
• 1982 Rolex 24-winning No. 18 JLP Porsche 935
• The Preston Henn Porsches from the 1983 and 1985 Rolex 24s
• 1984 Rolex 24-winning No. 00 Kreepy Krauly Porsche-March
• 1993 Rolex 24-winning No. 98 Eagle GTP
• 1994 Rolex 24-winning No. 76 Nissan 300ZX-Turbo
• 1995 Rolex 24-winning No. 10 Kremer Porsche K8 Spyder
• 1996 Rolex 24-winning No. 4 Oldsmobile Riley & Scott Mk III
• 1997 Rolex 24-winning No. 20 Ford Riley & Scott Mk III
• 1999 Rolex 24-winning No. 20 Ford Riley & Scott Mk III
• 2000 Rolex 24-winning No. 91 Dodge Viper GTS-R
• 2001 Rolex 24-winning No. 2 Chevrolet Corvette
• 2002 Rolex 24-winning No. 27 Dallara Judd
• 2003 Rolex 24-winning No. 67 Porsche GT3RS
• 2004 Rolex 24-winning No. 54 Pontiac Doran
• 2005 Rolex 24-winning No. 10 Pontiac Riley
• 2009 Rolex 24-winning No. 58 Porsche Riley
• 2010 Rolex 24-winning No. 9 Porsche Riley
• 2007, 2008 and 2011 Rolex 24-winning No. 01 BMW Riley

To view the complete list online, visit http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com/Vanity-Pages/50th-Rolex-24/50-Years-of-Champions-Display.aspx. Additional cars will be announced as they are secured to be part of this one-of-a-kind exhibit.

In addition to the 50th anniversary display during the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the championship cars will also be on display at the Rolex 50 Years of Champions, a charity gala on Thursday night, January 26th at the Ocean Center. Daytona International Speedway has partnered with the Halifax Health Foundation to host the event with the admissions proceeds benefiting the Halifax Health Foundation, which includes the area’s only Level II Trauma Center. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Halifax Health Foundation office at (386) 254-4111.

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).

Jan 17 | Championship Cars to participate in a Special Procession Prior to the 50th Anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona

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The cars that comprise the 50 Years of Champions Exhibit presented by Continental Tire will take to the streets of Daytona Beach in a special procession from the Ocean Center to Daytona International Speedway on Jan. 27, 2012.

1993 Rolex 24 winner

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The cars that comprise the 50 Years of Champions Exhibit presented by Continental Tire will take to the streets of Daytona Beach in a special procession from the Ocean Center to Daytona International Speedway on Jan. 27, 2012.
 
The procession will leave the Ocean Center on A1A at approximately 9:00 a.m. and will proceed north to Seabreeze Boulevard, at which point they will head west along Mason Avenue to Nova Road then south to International Speedway Boulevard.  At ISB, the procession will head west once again and arrive at the Speedway.

The cars will be part of the Rolex 50 Years of Champions charity gala on Jan. 26 at the Ocean Center, an event to help raise money for the Halifax Health Foundation.  At the speedway, these championship cars from around the world will be a part of a special exhibit for fans throughout the weekend of the 50th Rolex 24 At Daytona.  The 50 Years of Champions Exhibit presented by Continental Tire is open to fans free of charge and will be located outside the speedway behind the Sprint Tower. 

The championship cars will also participate in parade laps around the historic 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway prior to the start of the twice-around-the-clock endurance challenge.

“This procession is a wonderful event for our community and showcases the rich racing history and tradition of Daytona Beach,” said Daytona Beach Mayor Glenn Ritchey.  “We’re thrilled for the 50th Rolex 24 At Daytona and are happy to partner with Daytona International Speedway to be part of this special event.  We encourage the local community to come out and see these beautiful vehicles in this once-in-a-lifetime procession.”

“Our sincerest thanks to Mayor Ritchey, the Daytona Beach Police Department and other local officials for their assistance in helping make the 50th Anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona a truly unforgettable event,” said Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III.  “We greatly value our strong local partnerships. Together we continue to showcase the very best of our community to our guests and visitors from around the globe.”

Admissions to the Rolex 50 Years of Champions event are available by contacting the Halifax Health Foundation at (386) 254-4111.  This once-in-a-lifetime event will feature the past championship cars on display with a number of the Champion drivers in attendance participating in Q&A’s and interacting with guests.

Tickets to the 50th Anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona and all Daytona International Speedway events are available by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.

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

Jan 14 | Day Three of Daytona Preseason Thunder: Testing For The 54th Annual Daytona 500 Wraps Up

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The three-day Preseason Thunder testing sessions in preparation for the 54th annual Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Feb. 26 concluded on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.

Big pack
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The three-day Preseason Thunder testing sessions in preparation for the 54th annual Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Feb. 26 concluded on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.

For the past three days, drivers have been turning laps on the historic 2.5-mile tri-oval as well as participating in the Fan Fest activities such as autograph sessions, fan forums and chat sessions through the Speedway’s social media channels.

On track, fans witnessed drivers taking single-car runs, two-car runs and big-pack drafting sessions as NASCAR experimented with different types of rules packages in advance of Speedweeks 2012.

“I think so far we’ve had a good test and gaining a lot of information,” said Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton on Saturday afternoon in the Infield Media Center. “As everybody knows, we’ve been shrinking plates, growing plates and working on different parts of the cooling system and the goal was to see what our limits were. As you’ve seen over the three days, got big on a plate, now we think we’re honed in on where we need to come back and start Speedweeks.

“All in all, I think comments from the drivers have been pretty positive, the way the cars run in the draft, the way they can draft and do draft and what they do to get their cars running to their maximum potential.”

“If I had to guess right now and they lined us up to race, I’d say that you’d see a pack for most of the day,” said Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin when asked if there would be pack racing in February. “You’re going to see breakaways here and there but I think that for the most part the pack can run fast enough to keep up with the two-car tandem.

“The two-car tandem will get out there a little bit but I think that if you get a big enough pack with 20 or 30 cars they will eat up a tandem pretty quick.”

Fastest of the day: Hendrick Motorsports drivers Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon turned the fastest speeds in the Saturday morning session, both posting turning identical laps of 201.545 mph. Rounding out the top five were Phoenix Racing’s Kurt Busch (199.464), Mark Martin (199.459) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (199.406).

In the afternoon session, Gordon was fastest again with a lap of 200.562 mph. Rounding out the top five in the afternoon were AJ Allmendinger (200.548), Brad Keselowski (200.548), Kahne (200.481) and Denny Hamlin (199.973).

Fastest overall for the three-day test was Busch with a lap of 206.058 mph turned in the second day.

Next up
: The 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona is scheduled for Jan. 26-29 as America’s most prestigious race celebrates its golden anniversary. Tickets are available online at http://wwwdaytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.

Jan 13 | Day Two of Daytona Preseason Thunder: Trevor Bayne Ready To Defend Daytona 500 Win

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This year’s Preseason Thunder testing sessions in preparation for the 54th annual Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Feb. 26 has a different feel for Trevor Bayne.

Preseason Thunder

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – This year’s Preseason Thunder testing sessions in preparation for the 54th annual Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Feb. 26 has a different feel for Trevor Bayne.

The driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion for Wood Brothers Racing returns to Daytona International Speedway as the defending Daytona 500 champion.

In last year’s Daytona 500, Bayne stunned the racing world at the age of 20 by becoming the youngest champion of the “Great American Race” driving for the legendary Wood Brothers.

“I never would have expected, coming into this last year, that we would be the winner, and it’s really humbling, “Bayne said at the conclusion of the second of three days of testing at Daytona. “I’m kind of in the same mindset that I was in last year. Last year I came in thinking there’s no way we can win this and now I’m coming back thinking there’s no way we can win two in a row, but then the Wood Brothers keep showing up with a great race car and they keep showing up with the guys that can do it and can win.

“And so coming back here now, it’s a crazy feeling because I would never expect to have one of these trophies (Harley J. Earl Daytona 500 trophy) sitting in my room, much less to be going for two of them and I have that opportunity again with the Wood Brothers.”

After a solid two days of testing on the 31-degree high banks, Bayne is looking forward to more track time at the speedway that will always hold the memory of winning NASCAR’s signature event.

“This place is just a really cool place to come to and it’s always exciting to drive, whether it’s testing or being here for the race.”

Edwards dreams of winning the 500: Based on a tiebreaker, Carl Edwards was runner-up to Tony Stewart for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship and finished second to Bayne in last year’s Daytona 500. Preparing for his eighth Daytona 500 start, the driver of the No. 99 Ford is still searching for his first Daytona 500 win.

“Well, it would be huge. That would be an understatement,” Edwards said about the prospect of winning the Daytona 500. “Last year we were so close following Trevor across the start-finish line. I learned a lot. I mean, it’s the Daytona 500, and I’m very, very excited about it.”

Quotable: “It’s such a special race, and I feel very fortunate to have won that race. At that point I didn’t have a championship, and it’s one of two races that you get a title when you win this race, this one and the Brickyard. It can make a career, and it was a huge, huge thing for myself when I won it in 2006.” – 2006 Daytona 500 champion Jimmie Johnson

Stenhouse ready for first Daytona 500 start: Ricky Stenhouse, who captured the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series championship, is testing in advance of his first career Daytona 500 start. Scheduled to drive the famed No. 6 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, Stenhouse is ready for his first attempt at winning the Daytona 500.

“That is going to be exciting,” Stenhouse said. “I think obviously being in the race is going to be fun but I think the pre race stuff before it and just being a part of it, looking around and seeing all the people here, and just knowing what you are a part of is going to be really special.”

Fastest of the day: On Thursday, Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, was the fastest of the day with a speed of 202.402 mph turned in the afternoon session. Jeff Gordon posted the fastest time in the morning session with a lap of 46:687 (192.773 mph) in the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 51 TAG Heuer Eyewear Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing was the fastest on Friday with a speed of 206.058 mph turned in the afternoon session. In the morning session, Martin Truex Jr. made the best time with a lap of 43:962 (204.722 mph) in his No. 56 Napa Auto Parts Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing.
           
Next up: Preseason Thunder wraps up on Saturday. The test session begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m., weather permitting. 
Tickets are available at the gate, online at http://wwwdaytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
Fans can also watch testing at no cost from a section of the Oldfield Grandstands.

Jan 13 | Rolex 24 Flashback: Emanuele Pirro - Back at Last!

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Emanuele Pirro has few ambitions still to fulfill as a driver. After all, he's won the 24 Hours of Le Mans no fewer than five times and twice triumphed in the Sebring 12 Hours.

Rolex 24

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Emanuele Pirro has few ambitions still to fulfill as a driver. After all, he's won the 24 Hours of Le Mans no fewer than five times and twice triumphed in the Sebring 12 Hours. Yet he'll be ticking a box when he races at Daytona this month. His participation in the 50th anniversary Rolex 24 will mark his comeback to the high banks of the Daytona International Speedway after no fewer than 31 years.

The Italian's first, and so far only, participation in the 24 Hours of Daytona, way back in 1981, has a special place in his memory. It was the 19-year-old Italian's first major international event after a year spent racing in his homeland in the Fiat Abarth junior open-wheel category, and his first with a factory team.

"I really wanted to do the race again now because it meant so much to me back then, not just as a race but as a life experience," says Pirro. "It had a big impact on me, but for some reason I never went back. I guess my career took me elsewhere."

Pirro, who had won the Abarth title in 1980, received a late call from Lancia competitions boss Cesare Fiorio. After a brief tryout in one of the Italian manufacturer's Group 5 Beta Montecarlos around the factory parking lot, he was packed off to the U.S. by his parents.

"I have so many memories of that race," he says. "When I drove into the circuit with two of my team mates, Michele Alboreto and Beppe Gabbiani, and we saw the banking for the first time, we wanted to do a U-turn and go home. None of us had seen anything like that before."

Everything was new for Pirro, but American ways also confused his older, yet not necessarily wiser, team mates driving the two Martini Lancia Racing entries.

"The day before practice, we had nothing to do, so Michele, his wife, Beppe and I decided to go to Miami for lunch. We thought 250 miles didn't sound very far," he recalls. "It took us a long time to get there…even though I was stopped for speeding at 105mph in a 55mph zone.

"We didn't leave until late and, on the way back, I saw the sea on my left. I knew Miami was on the East Coast and Daytona was on the East Coast, so if you see the sea on your left, there's something wrong. We ended up somewhere on the Gulf of Mexico and had to drive through the night. We only made it to the circuit just in time for first free practice."

Pirro was entered in a third factory-run Lancia, which was entered under the Jolly Club banner, alongside fellow Italians Martino Finotto and Carlo Facetti. The two veterans were also down to drive Finotto's fire-breathing Ferrari 308 GTB.

"That was a monster of a car with a huge amount of power," says Pirro. "They knew it wouldn't last. They told me I'd start the Lancia and they would join me when the Ferrari broke down."

The 308 lasted just four laps, but the Lancia ran through the 24 Hours without major problems. That turned out to be significant in the Italian manufacturer's bid for the World Endurance Championship, of which Daytona was the opening round. The two front-line Montecarlos were hit by problems, but fifth place overall for Pirro, Facetti and Finotto gave Lancia maximum points in the up to two-liter Group 5 class.

"After the race, Fiorio came up to me and said, 'Do you know what you have achieved?' To be honest I didn't," says Pirro. "I just felt like I'd been doing a 24-hour test."

Long-distance sports car racing was a different animal in those days. It was not the flat-out sprint it is today.

"At that time, I believed that racing was solely about driving as fast as possible," explains Pirro. "I had no idea about long-distance racing. I couldn't understand that we were not allowed to drive flat-out; we even had to back off once a lap to allow the turbo to cool down."

Nor could he understand the fuss in the media when he arrived back in Italy.

"There was quite a lot of press because I was just a young driver and it was such an important race," he recalls. "It really was quite big news, but to be honest it didn't feel very deserved."

Thirty-one years on, the hardened veteran is taking his Daytona comeback in his stride, but he can't hide his enthusiasm for his return to the Speedway.

These days, he is a semi-retired racer who works in an ambassadorial role for long-time employer Audi, but when the German manufacturer decided to develop a Grand-Am specification version of its successful R8 LMS GT3 racer, Pirro put in a request to drive the solo car entered by the APR Motorsport squad.

"Audi organized this for me," he says. "I told them I wanted to do it, and they said to the team that I was available. To be driving again here is quite a big thing for me because of that race all those years ago.

"It was the first big race of my career. I can't say this is the last big race for me, but I am definitely in the twilight of my career."

Jan 12 | Day One of Daytona Preseason Thunder: Drivers Talk Daytona 500 and Set-Up Changes

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Daytona Preseason Thunder, the annual three-day NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test session at Daytona International Speedway that preludes the 54th running of the Daytona 500, began Thursday at Daytona International Speedway.

Preseason Thunder

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Daytona Preseason Thunder, the annual three-day NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test session at Daytona International Speedway that preludes the 54th running of the Daytona 500, began Thursday at Daytona International Speedway.  Throughout the day, drivers took a break from turning laps at the “World Center of Racing” to chat with media about the start of the upcoming NASCAR season.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew National Guard Chevrolet and 2004 Daytona 500 champion, discussed what winning again at Daytona would mean as he sat next to the Harley J. Earl trophy for the 2012 Daytona 500.

“Winning the 500 is the biggest race of the year,” said Earnhardt Jr. “It's the greatest feeling.  When it comes to winning single events, you can't beat it.  A lot of effort goes into this race.”

Danica Patrick, who will make her debut in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driving the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing in the 54th annual Daytona 500, focused on seeing how fast the car could go on Thursday and plans on working on bump drafting Friday.

“I’m really kind of glad that the first time that I’m in a Cup car is here at Daytona where I can get the fit right and get all the little things right,” Patrick said.  “So that when we go to a track that’s a little bit more challenging from a driver’s perspective, that stuff is all good to go and there’s no concern or no distraction.”

In discussing her expectations for the Daytona 500, Patrick said “Obviously it’s the biggest race of the year. I’d really like to run well. I don’t just want to be here, I want to run well. I think at a place like Daytona there’s that opportunity. I think I’ll probably have slightly more realistic expectations for some of the other ones, but for this one, at Daytona, I think there’s a real opportunity.”

Greg Zipadelli, NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart’s former crew chief and recently announced competition director of Stewart-Haas, will serve as Patrick’s crew chief in the Sprint Cup Series.

“For us, from a company standpoint, it made sense to have him,” Stewart said. “To be able to apply him over there in a crew chief role and, at the same time, the practicality of it, of him having that experience of working with new drivers, makes it a smart decision for us to have somebody like him that can work with Danica and know how to go through those learning processes.  So we get the best of both worlds with it.”

“We get along great,” said Patrick about her crew chief. “I feel really comfortable with him so far. I feel respected, and I feel like he’s been very patient.”

Next up: NASCAR Preseason Thunder continues on Friday and Saturday. All test sessions begin at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m., weather permitting.  Along with watching Daytona Preseason Thunder track activity from the Sprint FANZONE, fans can enjoy Fan Fest driver sessions from 5-7 p.m. on Friday.

Tickets for the Daytona Preseason Thunder Fan Fest are available at the gate, online at http://wwwdaytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
Fans can also watch each day’s testing at no cost from a section of the Oldfield Grandstands.

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