Reflecting On The 45th Rolex 24 The 45th Rolex 24 At Daytona was so crowded that more than a few media types were grateful they had the credentials to get in. Those who didn't were otherwise shut out from Daytona International Speedway's ...
Reflecting On The 45th Rolex 24
The 45th Rolex 24 At Daytona was so crowded that more than a few media types were grateful they had the credentials to get in. Those who didn't were otherwise shut out from Daytona International Speedway's infield as early as 10 a.m. Saturday when ingress was shut down.
The Saturday grid was packed with thousands of roaming people and forced a few folks "from pit road and way out into the grass" so as to get where they were going.
Having a stratospheric "star" quotient, those wanting to be in the proximity of a favored racer, Hollywood celebrity or others of similar loftiness could do so if disposed of determined character.
If they stayed for the race - and from what I could tell most did -they got to see a lot of racing. About the closest thing to an exhibition was the Ferris wheel, which suffered only a few riders.
Those who didn't see the race in person evidently turned to televisions because SPEED's Nielsen rating numbers were up, becoming the most-watched Rolex Series event in the cable channel's history with the series.
Today seeing Scott Sharp at the IRL test here at Daytona International Speedway reminded me of the look this reporter saw in his eyes Saturday evening during the Rolex 24: deep disappointment.
Just a few hours before that, his Brumos Racing Red Bull No. 58 Porsche-Riley had been dicing for the Rolex 24 lead with Scott Pruett when the Michael Shank Racing's No. 6 Lexus Riley went to the outside of a backmarker (No. 41Porsche GT Cup with driver Tom Malloy) while Sharp at the same time went to the inside. There being only enough room for two cars, something had to give.
After trying to give Sharp some room to the inside, the 41-car went left, ricocheted from an unexpected No. 6 occupying the same space, the 41-car then caromed into Sharp, running his day and that of a few others.
"This is one of the most disappointing moments I've ever encountered in racing," the 1994 Rolex 24 champ said as he stood at the front of the garaged No. 58 Porsche-Riley.
Though the car would later return -- after 2.5-hours worth of damage repair - the race was all but over for the Red Bull team.
"I wasn't' even close to 'counting my chickens, but this was a strong car and were on our pace. We had everything going for us. It's such a shame that these guys (sweeping his hand in the direction of those scurrying around the No. 58) worked so hard to get it ready and then have this happen. Most of all, I really feel bad for Bob (Snodgrass)."
As is the case when someone's reeling from losing, someone else is on top of the world.
Such being the case of Chip Ganassi Racing With Felix Sabates' No. 01 Telmex Lexus-Riley - with drivers Scott Pruett, Salvador Duran and Juan Pablo Montoya - which the next day claimed the Rolex 24 At Daytona, becoming only the third time in the 24's history that an owner would claim back-to-back Rolex 24's.
(Yep, widely reported as the "second" after Al Holbert's 1986-1987 wins, the whole deal turns on one's interpretation of "back-to-back." If defined as synonymous with "consecutive," then Brumos Porsche is there, too, with 1973 and 1975 victories. What happened to 1974? There was no Daytona 24 race in 1974 - it was altogether cancelled due to a gas crisis. Catch the drift?)
Surely, the CGRWFS team deserves the accolades.
How about that Pruett? My mind has wondered time and again what that guy's resume would've read had he not crashed in his Truesports CART car, previously driven by Bobby Rahal, into a West Palm Beach test course's concrete barrier, all but destroying his legs.
(The test session didn't even have an emergency medical team, paramedic, EMT or ambulance on site. Imagine getting your legs crushed and waiting for something like 90-minutes to get extracted from the car and taken to the hospital.)
Then there's Duran. As noted previously in this space, his Rolex 24 was a one-off CGRWFS deal for the Mexican driver.
Duran walks off with a valued trophy and at the series' Mar. 3 race in Mexico City's Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Pruett gets to "bond" with driver Memo Rojas, who was in the driver's seat, and no doubt disappointed, when the CGRWFS No. 02 Target car wrecked-out of the race Sunday morning.
The 45th Rolex 24 at Daytona would also set a new Daytona Prototype standard: it was the first time 10 DPs occupied the race's entire top-10 finishing order.
I can hardly wait to see what the future brings.
There's one thing it likely won't bring: boredom.
--Written exclusively for Motorsport.com by DC Williams