DC's 2008 Rolex 24 picks

DC's 2008 ROLEX 24 PICKS An investigation was undertaken after a considerable number of e-mails made inquiry as to the whereabouts of my annual pre-race Role 24 picks. Frankly, this writer rarely checks his Motorsport.com posts because ...


DC's 2008 ROLEX 24 PICKS

An investigation was undertaken after a considerable number of e-mails made inquiry as to the whereabouts of my annual pre-race Role 24 picks.

Frankly, this writer rarely checks his Motorsport.com posts because the site's dear editor (you know who you are, Nancy) usually is all over getting new content up - except one particular mealtime. Thus, there's no need to check the site every few seconds.

Such is not to say that yours truly doesn't use Motorsport.com's rich content and archives. It's just that by the time this journalist's fingers have stopped writing, editing and re-editing a story, he usually moves on to other subjects unless someone, usually Sunday Group Management's Matt Cleary (who must've been a copy editor in a previous life) or Alex Gurney, who comes in a close second, gives this journalist a heads-up on a factual error. (Yes, sadly, I'm human. I've tried to hide that fact at times, but personal perspectives vastly improved after joining the wonderful Hewmin Be-Engz© support group).

Sure enough, the pre-race predictions were found stuck in "neutral" in a back-up computer's e-mail outbox. That's a bummer, especially when I've never before seen an upcoming race with such clarity.

Thus without further ado and even though post-race, here are your humble scribe's top-10 finishing picks for the 2008 Rolex 24 At Daytona, in reverse order:

10th place, Second GT: No. 66 Mitchell Rubber/Marquis Jet/elf Oil/IPC Porsche GT3 Cup Car; drivers Bryce Miller, Ted Ballou, Andy Lally and Richard Westbrook.

The No. 66, like its two following sister cars (67, 64 which finished 11th and 12th overall; third and fourth in class) will experience engine overheating due to what TRG's Kevin Buckler will describe as "defective radiators." After the race, No. 67's Pumpelly will say, "When we came in (after the checkered flag) the water temperature was at 238-degrees. I don't know how the engine kept running."

Hint: increase antifreeze in coolant solution or get different radiators before the race, Kevin.

Nevertheless, the future being what it is, Lally will head off to do battle in NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series after having finished second in GT in three Rolex 24 races.

9th place overall, FIRST GT: No. 70 Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8; drivers Nick Ham, David Haskell, Raphael Matos and Sylvain Tremblay.

Eventually capturing SpeedSource's first Rolex 24 first-in-class, they'll lead the race, lose the lead (mostly to the TRG or Farnbacher-Loles gangs, pick one), regain the lead, and by race-end compile a five-lap lead over the next-closest GT car.

The 70's biggest wreck will probably result in a - one, not two - broken tail light. Can't quite see which side, though; looks like the rear.

"Endurance racing in particular is a team sport and I am so proud of our collective effort," Tremblay, the team's owner, engineer, driver and, yes, head floor-sweeper will say afterward.

8th place overall, 8th DP: No. 91 Bob Stallings, Bill Riley, Jim Matthews-owned Pontiac-Riley MkXX; drivers Marc Goossens, Johnny O'Connell, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Matthews.

Of the 13 laps it'll lead, Hunter-Reay will rack up 11 laps; Goossens 2.

Right around the 18th of the race's 22 official cautions, the 91 crew will do a veritable front-end rebuild, including a radiator. The clearly choreographed feat (which took practice, practice, practice before the race) might be accomplished in less than one caution lap if someone will remember to put a particular-sized nut in the "spares" box. I think it's something like a 5/16 and has something to do with the radiator. It's all kind of fuzzy right now - this looking into the future is tricky business. Especially thread counts.

Still, the No. 91 pit crew ranks.

(Notice how one could change the above only slightly and it becomes an insult. Strange language: English.)

7th-place overall, 7th DP: No. 75 Krohn Racing Riley-Pontiac; drivers Oliver Gavin, Tracy Krohn and Eric van de Poele.

I'll guarantee that before the race, during the race and, likely after the race some of the competition will shake their fists at this car/team and blame it for everything short of the Black Plague.

Despite such and having to overcome a change of cars for the Rolex 24, the team will get it dialed in well enough to place in the top-10, along with its sister car - a better two-car result than any other team on the course.

6th-place overall, sixth DP: No. 60 Westfield Insurance Ford-Riley; drivers Oswaldo Negri, Mark Patterson, Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson.

It'll be hard for some to believe, but Negri will grab the Rolex 24 race pole with the Mike Shank Racing-prepared car. I guarantee it. Head for Vegas. Bet the house and kids. Oh! And if the Vegas types offer front row odds, lay out some cash for the MSR No. 6 sister car to get the outside pole! Really! It'll be there and Allmendinger will score it! Honest-to-gosh, he's really THAT good despite his 2006 Sprint Cup season. Negri will be just nine-one-thousandths-of-a-second faster than Allmendinger.

The MSR 60-car will lead 15 of the race's laps, too, with three-of-four drivers (Negri, Wilson, Rahal) contributing to the count. Meanwhile, Patterson will produce seven PDA-typed race reports at the same time, additionally producing considerable anxiety in his day-job administrative assistant, Lisa, who'll wonder just which of her jobs he'll next appropriate.

But guys, there's a problem with the bell housing and tie rod junctures on both cars. The No; 6's will just give up (after Allmendinger, Burt Frisselle and Ian James will respectively rack up 66, 33 and 20 lead laps); while a Sunday morning curb-hop will hurt the 60 after an even earlier grass mowing. Hint to Patterson: remember to always turn the car when necessary, especially when in the vicinity of the chicane.

Despite all those lead laps, the No. 6 car will finish in 14th overall and hand team-bragging highest-finish rights to the sixth-place No. 60. (Uh-oh, that's an awful lot of "sixes," perhaps auguring an "Omen?")

5th-place overall; 5th DP; No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley; drivers Max Angelelli, Ricky Taylor, Waynie Taylor (what's good for the gosling is good for the gander) and Michael Valiante.

Remember to check the electrics, puh-leeze - and very closely. It'll resemble that which occurred a couple or three 24's ago when an electrical-system gremlin just up-and-killed the engine. The scary part: this time it'll happen at night and nearly at the end of pit road. The pit crew will be put in harm's way standing at the rear of the car while it sits stalled in pit road's fast lane and cars will swerve at the last moment to miss them.

The crew, finally safe from harm behind the wall, will push the car nearly all the way to its garage when the engine will fire. Strange, but true. No kidding.

Oh, and overheating and brakes will play a negative role, too, in the last race for the SunTrust Riley DP car; to be replaced by the SunTrust Dallara car in Miami.

Rick Taylor will do a credible job and bring the car in P-1 (and NOT on a caution) after his first stint Saturday. However, the No. 10 won't have its 2005 Rolex 24-winning magic, leading only 10 laps of the race's 695.

4th-place overall, fourth DP: No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac-Riley; drivers Nic Johnson, Darren Turner and Ricardo Zonta.

As baffling as it is, this is something that keeps coming through again and again in my magic ball: the 76-car will lead 26 total laps with Zonta's 23 and Turner's three.

It's cool that Zonta and Turner will do as well but there is rain on the way (the magic ball says about 17 race-hours worth) though weather forecasters are predicting mid-70 highs and sunny daytime conditions for the entire weekend.

And that's what bugs me: Jonsson won't lead a single lap in the race.

Remember the 2005 Sahlen's Six Hours Of The Glen? Jonsson won that race going away - in the rain! Maybe the shifts just don't work out for Jonsson or, perhaps, the crystal ball just misfired a little.

Oh, and surely, at some point, an argument will erupt as to which two-car team did best overall. This journalist sees it as one owner; one team. Two or more owners can make for two or more teams, but not if one owner is "here," joined by another owner "there."

Krohn Racing wins the DP best "team" thing: two cars; one owner.

3rd-place overall, third DP: No. 9 Toshiba Pontiac-Riley; drivers Ryan Briscoe, Kurt Busch and Helio Castroneves.

Put on your thinking cap: Roger Penske months ago decided to team with Wayne Taylor Racing and use one of Taylor's two Riley DPs. In September, one DP burned down at Miller Motor Sports Park near Salt Lake City, leaving Taylor to lease another Riley from Brian Tuttle so that the SunTrust and Toshiba teams each have a Gen-1 DP Riley.

Each car will drive into the top-10 and Tuttle will probably never return to the driver's seat (though I'd want to try what I got back).

It sounds almost obscene, doesn't it?

Want more?

Busch will impress everyone by performing an almost perfect driving job (at night and in the rain, too!) and still be the near-perfect gentleman he was years ago when this reporter last spoke at length with him.

Heaping ALL the driving credit upon his teammates, Busch will describe "Cha-cha" Castroneves (hey, Shirley Muldowney disavowed that name a long, long time ago) as "a machine" and not a "Dancing Fool."

Furthermore, Briscoe will surprise those who think he'll for-sure try another Sonoma-like banzai move at some point. He'll further tell everyone that Busch's self-effacing public attitude lacks accuracy and correctly point out that Busch is a most-excellent shoe.

The above will be done - and I swear I've not touched a single hallucinogen since Young was hanging with Crosby, Stills and Nash in, like, 1975.

2nd-place; second DP; No. 99 Lowe's/GAINSCO Pontiac-Riley: drivers Jon Fogarty, Alex Gurney, Jimmie Johnson and Jimmy Vasser.

The 99 will do just about everything else except win in the 46th Rolex 24.

Vasser will be the only star in this all-star cast who won't lead a single lap; Fogarty will lead 36 laps, Gurney 35 and Johnson 14.

Even the pit crew will perform a 'Riley' and undertake a stupendous Sunday morning, 10-minute gearbox change (while we're in the neighborhood: "incredible" means "surpassing belief." Thus, if something occurs before one's very eyes and we're not talking "Houdini," then it's "credible" and not "incredible," got it?)

But the awesome feat will not be accomplished before Ganassi/Sabates driver Alex Lloyd obliviously strolls to his pending shift with helmet on and seat insert in hand.

With a vacuous, second-day Rolex 24 stare in his eyes, nearly everyone in a 50-foot radius will scream "move, dammit!" as Vasser, like a bullet, heads straight toward his garage stall. We're not talking "sneak attack," here, when two lines of almost shoulder-to-shoulder people frame a car-wide path from the pit wall to the garage.

Lloyd ultimately will owe his lower extremities' present health, if not his life, to a tire-locking Vasser and a nearby security guard, who will literally yank the comparatively slight-sized driver into the air and aside of the 99's oncoming dead-center, lower leading edge. It really was just "that close" to being really ugly.

One can't really say much more about what the 99 team will accomplish at this year's Rolex 24 other than they'll be far better off this year than after the 2007 race.

In short, in 2008 they'll not need to again produce seven race wins to win the drivers' championship by two points - but they'll still have to work their rear-ends off because the Stallingsnators will be ill-advised to presume superiority.

Any serious study of the drivers' points-race records over the last four seasons will put the student on notice as to one particular driver and his team, which will win the 2008 Rolex 24:

FIRST PLACE OVERALL in the 46th Rolex 24 At Daytona will go to the No. 01 Telmex Lexus-Riley from the Chip Ganassi With Felix Sabates' two-car Rolex 24 stable.

Drivers Dario Franchitti, Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas will drive a near-flawless race.

Talk about "machines," Juan Pablo will pace the field with 128 lead laps and Pruett will post the second-highest personal number with 118. The team's combined total of lead laps will be more than double of that scored by the next team down the board.

Though Franchitti will lead only five whole laps, he'll jump into his car at a critical point and critically perform: at night, in the rain and on wet tires on which he's never before ridden.

"Give me a few laps to get into this rain thing. In five laps he was right there. That's what you get when you have professionals," Ganassi will say about Franchitti after the Scot pulls off that little performance.

Rojas will lead but one lap but will gain invaluable seat time and confidence - a Big Win does a lot for one beyond just picking up a neat watch.

Lastly, Pruett will come out in exactly the same place in the points as he did last year -- on top. Only, this time, he'll be joined by a far more experienced teammate - one who now knows the courses - along for the 2008 point-for-point ride.

All in all, the Rolex 24 will place high on the "worthiness" scale because it will finish after having compiled just three fewer laps than that of the 1993 race won by a team owned and managed by the 2008 race's Grand Marshal, Dan Gurney - despite the more recent race having set a record 22 full-course cautions.

There'll be more interesting stuff to come from the race, but the above predictions must first come true before we get to any post-race analysis.

By the way, this writer also has a demonstrable ability to predict winning lottery numbers (like 2-13-29-31-33-45-49) only, he doesn't know for what state or the date.

Just remember me when you pick up your winnings, please.

Later.
    DC Williams

-Written exclusively for Motorsport.com

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About this article
Series General , Grand-Am
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Williams , Krohn Racing , SpeedSource , Wayne Taylor Racing