YOU GOTTA HAVE HEART When reflecting on that period of time now regarded by many as sportscar racing's "golden age" this writer often thinks of Phil Hill and Jo Bonnier driving Jim Hall's Chaparral 2D to victory in the 1966 Nurburgring...
YOU GOTTA HAVE HEART
When reflecting on that period of time now regarded by many as sportscar racing's "golden age" this writer often thinks of Phil Hill and Jo Bonnier driving Jim Hall's Chaparral 2D to victory in the 1966 Nurburgring 1000k; Dan Gurney taking a celebratory ride atop a Ford Mk IV after he and AJ Foyt drove it to their 1967 Le Mans 24 win; or, Jackie Oliver and Pedro Rodriguez and their first-place-finishing John Weyer "Gulf" Porsche 917K in the 1970 Daytona 24-hour.
More to the point: When thinking of racing's great wins, more often than not this sportscar-orientated writer first thinks of the people who drove those cars rather than the cars themselves, mostly because it's the people - whether a single driver or an entire team - who really make it possible.
Oh, sure, a mention of that era's race cars evokes many memories but such discussions almost invariably segue into the people associated with those cars. For without a David Pearson, Parnelli Jones or Jacky Ickx - or even a Norbert Singer - the cars which once prominently figured might well have been otherwise worthless.
Thus, it has been the human side which has had the greatest impact while reflecting on this past weekend's nearly unreal Rolex Series' finish at Montreal, where the top-three cars could've been covered - as golfers would say - "by a blanket," having been separated by fewer than 7/10ths-of-one-second from one another.
During that blink-of-an-eye finish, the emotions of on-looking team members must've likewise surged back and forth as drivers urged their mounts onward inside of the race's last 100-meters.
Less than two weeks earlier a nearly inconsolable Brian Frisselle, with co-driver Mark Wilkins alongside, sat at the rear of the No. 61 "Market Gold" Ford-Riley transporter after their car broke while convincingly leading Barber Motorsports Park's Porsche 250.
The opposite happened with their split-second win at Montreal (the AIM team's first in Daytona Prototype), and broad smiles abounded while juxtaposed with the faces of a shell-shocked third-place Darren Law, David Donohue and their Brumos Racing teammates, who would snatch yet another defeat from the jaws of victory - even though much pride should be derived from the team's sixth top-5 finish in as many races.
Should a vote be taken at most any time in the Rolex Series' paddock, surely Law would easily get "Happiest Driver" honors. Yet, forever to be held in my mind's eye is an image of Law standing amidst the post-Montreal race podium celebration, his face absent of expression as his eyes vacuously stared at some distant point in space and time.
One can only wonder how Hurley Haywood - today at the helm of Brumos Racing - must've felt after the race, for great drivers, having more often met defeat than victory, know disappointment's sharp sting all too well.
Then there was Eddie Cheever's voice, cracking with emotion after Antonio Garcia and Christian Fittipaldi drove the No. 16 Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Pontiac-Coyote to a second-place finish.
"He got emotional over a second-place?" one seasoned NASCAR observer incredulously asked afterward.
In three words: "Yes, he did."
Not superficially seen was the energy and time Cheever has put into building a too-long maligned Coyote program.
Thus, for sure, years into the future historical afterthought will include Cheever's Coyote and that the No. 61 won the race with Riley Technologies' oldest Daytona Prototype chassis.
But history won't as easily remember, much less truly convey, an also distant-looking Michael Valiante, alone on the far side of Montreal's pit road while across from him at the front of the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac-Dallara stood a semi-circle of Wayne Taylor Racing and Dallara representatives, discussing yet again what they must undertake to win - something Rolex Series competitors at season's start had uniformly feared would regularly occur with SunTrust.
When all is said and done, it is the human element which drives this sportscar fan's deepest, most emotional memories of racing's greatest moments; not bolted and welded pieces of metal and composites.
Christian Fittipaldi returned to the Rolex Series' Friday and, evidently, not a moment too soon insofar as Antonio Garcia was concerned.
"Christian set it up perfectly," Garcia said during the Crown Royal Cask No. 16 crew's post-race celebration of its second-place Montreal finish.
"I got in it and it only got better as the race went on," Garcia said.
As to Fittipaldi and Brian Herta being summarily dismissed from the Andretti Green ALMS team: "Brian and I still don't know what happened," Fittipaldi said.
Man, when people start talking about "letting it all hang out," they may as well use "Ruby Tuesday" as a synonym.
That's what Alex Job Racing was doing at Montreal with its No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Porsche-Riley, as Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand battled all who wished to do so.
The late-race, nose-to-tail battle between the Ruby Tuesday and Brumos Racing's No. 58 Porsche-Riley put on by Hand and Darren law, respectively, was an excellent battle between two non-PCNA supported Porsche-powered teams - but not before Auberlen put an early race, left side wall-slapper on the Ruby Tuesday that many observers felt would signal the car's competitive end.
"We thought we might make him (Law) use up his fuel," Hand said after the race. "So we kept the pressure on as long as possible."
Eventually, it would be the Ruby Tuesday's fuel load that caused the greater worry, making Hand cut short the chase as he backed off The Ruby's fuel-usage settings, only to nonetheless still run out of gas as the race end was in sight.
With three remaining DP races this season, the Ruby Tuesday gang doesn't intend to slow down one iota, according to team members.
A couple of new Daytona Prototypes are on the entry list for Friday's Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 race, part of NASCAR's annual Sprint Cup weekend at Watkins Glen International.
The DP-only race will commence racing at 6:30 p.m. Friday (SPEEDtv, 8 p.m., tape delay).
Probably the most noteworthy is the long-awaited entry of the 20-car field is that of the AT&T-sponsored No. 4 Childress-Howard Motorsports (CHM) Pontiac-Crawford.
Andy Lally and Andy Wallace will team as co-drivers in the Gen-2 Crawford DP.
Though longtime Crawford test-pilot Wallace was expected to be in the car, Lally was a veritable last-minute selection after Childress Racing's Jeff Burton - from over on the NASCAR side - for whatever reason declined to jump in.
Also new to the DP entry list is Allegra Motorsports' No. 28 Gatorade/Today MD Porsche-Riley.
Allegra's long association with Porsche-power continues into the DP class, with drivers Jean-Francois Dumoulin, Scooter Gabel and Carlos de Quesada slated for Watkins Glen.
Allegra should be pretty well up to speed at The Glen, having already tested there following the early June Sahlen's Six-Hour race.
See you there.
DC Williams, exclusively for Motorsport.com