FORMER DRIVER & SPEED SPORTS CAR RACING EXPERT DORSEY SCHROEDER PREVIEWS ROLEX 24 at DAYTONA SCHROEDER: "IF YOU START to LOOK at WINNING, YOU WON'T. YOU HAVE TO LOOK at FINISHING." LIVE COVERAGE FROM DAYTONA STARTS at 3 P.M. on SAT., JAN.
FORMER DRIVER & SPEED SPORTS CAR RACING EXPERT DORSEY SCHROEDER PREVIEWS ROLEX 24 at DAYTONA
SCHROEDER: "IF YOU START to LOOK at WINNING, YOU WON'T. YOU HAVE TO LOOK at FINISHING."
LIVE COVERAGE FROM DAYTONA STARTS at 3 P.M. on SAT., JAN. 30
SPEED, the definitive network for NASCAR, high-performance competition and the automotive lifestyle, is readying for 16 hours of live coverage from the 39th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona. The broadcast starts at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 30.
Among the familiar faces and voices covering this year's endurance classic will be SPEED road racing expert and commentator Dorsey Schroeder. The Missouri resident and 1989 SCCA Trans-Am Series champion has extensive endurance racing experience, which includes winning the 1989 12 Hours of Sebring (Fla.) with Roush Racing. He's driven multiple Rolex 24s with Dodge and Oldsmobile, while also participating in numerous endurance races within Firestone Firehawk Series and SCCA Showroom Stock competition.
SPEED recently sat down with Schroeder to talk about his thoughts on the upcoming race, and what the drivers will be facing as the entire 24 hours of competition unfolds. The following is what Schroeder had to say:
SPEED: What's it like to open a new racing season with one of the most grueling tests of endurance like Daytona?
Dorsey Schroeder: As a driver, you're really excited about doing a 24-hour race, and you're excited for a couple of reasons. Number one is the challenge, as you know you're going into a 24-hour race. Then, you know you're going into a race with a lot of talent from many different disciplines of racing. That's definitely become more prevalent in recent years. You have Formula One drivers both current and former, you have NASCAR drivers and you have road racing drivers. You want to be the best, and you're going up against the best, so that gets you really excited. It's also the first race of the year. The winters are shorter every year, and we really never have any time off anymore. That being said, we get bored pretty quickly being drivers, so the first time, when you can go out and prove yourself and your team, that's really exciting. But then when you get there, get involved with it, then you say, 'this sucks.' Then you realize you're running a race and you're tired, you're running with three other drivers, and you don't really rest because it's so noisy at a race track. You go back to the motor home, lay there and try to get some sleep, but you really don't. You might be really tired behind the wheel, especially at the end of a stint of three hours. You're tired and you want to get out. At that time though, you realize you have to do a really fast driver change, you have to hit your marks. You come in really quickly, make sure you're hitting your speed limiter, get out, make sure the other driver's belted up, and once you do all of that, you're adrenaline is pumping like rampant. You're not going to rest and you can just say that you're going to go and lie down at that moment. The thing I have learned throughout the years of doing 24-hour races -- and I've done a hell of a lot of them -- the rookie guys are so ramped up on adrenaline that they run around, they talk, they watch up on the pit box, but the most important thing you can do, even if you can't sleep, is to go back somewhere with some solitude and lie down, get off your feet and stay off your feet until the next time you have to get in the car. If you've got three or four drivers, you might be out of the car for up to four hours. When we used to do it, we did it with two to three drivers, by the time you calmed down, you only had about an hour and a half where you could rest. It's so much work to do a race like this.
SPEED: Is it agonizing to see the sun come up, but still know that you have a long ways to go towards the finish?
Schroeder: When you start to see daylight, that's a time you would like to be driving. When the sun comes up, you're pretty tired usually, unless you just changed over when you got in. As the sun comes up, you're eyes really feel the burden. On the other hand, there's a mental high there. When that sun comes up at Daytona, and you start to see more and more, then you start seeing the infield with all the campers and campfires, it gets you up. In your mind, you've cleared a big hurdle. At that point, mentally, you think its all downhill from here -- even though that's not the case most of the time.
SPEED: Any early favorites for this year's race?
Schroeder: It's hard to really pick a favorite. If you have to pick a favorite or are a betting man, you would have to go with the odds and look at the teams that have been there the longest. On the top of that you would have to look at Wayne Taylor's SunTrust Team. Then you would have to look at the GAINSCO Team. Obviously, Ganassi is right there, even with a new engine (BMW) as an unknown quantity - something the other two don't have. They have the most experience and know what to expect out of the event. Then you look at a team like Level Five, who in my estimation has brought the strongest driver lineup, period. Their driver talent is unprecedented. Even though they are a new team, they are someone to watch here. There's no question as to how serious they are about winning it, but so many things can go wrong in a 24-hour race. That's why you have to look at teams who have been there before and have done this the longest because they hold most of the cards.
SPEED: With everything that can go wrong, how do drivers like Hurley Haywood and Tom Kristensen win so many endurance races?
Schroeder: I can say this without any reservation -- right place, right time. You have to put yourself onto the right team, and one that has been there before. For Kristensen to do it at Le Mans like he has done it, it's quite remarkable. He won most of those races with Audi, the team that won most of the Le Mans races that decade. So there he was, right place, right time and the right team. Now, they would run three cars, so how would he always end up in the right car? I mean, I ran with Jack Roush and we won 11 out of 11 years, but I was only in the right car one time. I was in the second-place car a hell of a lot of times. With the multi-car teams, you never know which car is going to make it. It has been done in the past, where teams hold out a driver and put him in a winning car. That hasn't happened with a Tom Kristensen or a Hurley Haywood, that's not how they played the game. There are a lot of drivers who've gotten multiple wins at Daytona whom don't really deserve them, they were just with the right team and politically favored, to receive that 'gimme,' if you will. Not for Hurley and Tom though. They went out and battled. It's quite amazing what they've been able to do within multiple car efforts. It's amazing that they've always ended up in the right car. Is that luck? I don't know. Certainly it's not luck when you go into a 24-hour race, and you look at how to get to the finish line is the number one goal. If you start to look at winning, you won't. You have to look at finishing. Then in that last hour of the race, if you're in a position to win, then maybe you can win -- and that's the only time you can think about the win. It's such a calculated risk. You just can not break from your game plan. You have to sit there and run this number lap-after-lap-after-lap. We're not going to contest side-by-side corners against other cars. Until you get to the end of the race, and you're going into a corner like turn one, and its three-wide and you go diving into a corner -- you're stupid. You're just plain stupid unless it's the last lap, or the last half hour. How many 24-hour races where we've seen crashes in turn one, lap one? That is the height of stupidity and as dumb as you can possibly get. Some of the best drivers and some of the best teams have certainly fallen victim to it. Nissan did it. Jaguar did it. It's just insane. Winning a 24-hour race is a different way of looking at things. You have to be disciplined; you have to have a plan. You have to stick to the plan no matter what, or no matter how bad it looks. You just can't get rattled.
SPEED: What's unique about Daytona over, say, Sebring or Le Mans, from a race perspective?
Schroeder: It's kind of backwards from what people might think. Le Mans is probably the easiest race. It's easy from a standpoint that you're running in a straight line on a straightaway for the larger part of that lap. You're going down that straight and you're relaxing, not getting beat up too bad. Then you look at Daytona, that's the second easiest. Daytona you have the banking, and once you get into top gear, you're sitting up there and riding. You're looking at gauges, you're calming yourself down. The infield at Daytona, on the other hand, is very flat and notorious for having zero grip. The infield of Daytona is an ice-skating rink. You can't believe how much lack of grip we're talking about. When you leave the pit on sticker tires and its 2 a.m. with it being 45 or 50 degrees, you can idle into a spin in one of the corners. These prototype cars don't have a lot of downforce to begin with, but that doesn't play a role when you're looking at a corner where the apex speed is 30 mph. Then you go to Sebring, which is without question, the hardest one of all. It's a very flat surface and it doesn't have a lot of visual references you can really draw on. It's an old bomber base and you're running most of the race at night. You just can't see anything out there. Its bumpy, it's rough and it's not a pristine set race track. That's the hardest one, even though its 12 hours.
SPEED: When you prepare for a race like this as a commentator, what are you trying to provide to the SPEED audience?
Schroeder: The hardest thing for a 24-hour race is that there are so many more drivers. There are two classes, with GT also out there, and there are a lot of superstars who are always going to get the notoriety. I also think it's important for us to identify and focus on many of the other drivers out there as well. Everybody that's on a team does their part. You can't put the blame on one particular driver, and you can't give them all the credit either. The magnitude of doing a 24-hour race with all these new faces, new cars and new teams is telling the story of the things that are not only going on up front, but also what's going on mid-pack and back of the pack because you can't ever count anyone out. It's hard to know about all the players and talk knowledgably about everyone and what different scenarios belong out there. There's a tremendous amount of knowledge I think people want to know. The more we do that. The more that people will be interested in the sport of road racing.
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SPEED's Rolex 24 at Daytona Television Coverage 2010
Daytona International Speedway
(All Times Eastern)
Saturday, January 30
3:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. (Live)
Sunday, January 31
7 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. (Live)
-source: SPEED media relations