Postscripts From Rolex24 At Daytona

Daytona Beach, Fla. – The Rolex24 at Daytona brings together a broad spectrum of the racing world, and it is an all-star event of sorts, giving drivers, owners, sponsors and others the opportunity to mingle in somewhat of a relaxed environment. While the race receives world-wide attention, the behind-the-scenes activities can be just as important.

Several IndyCar Series drivers were on hand, and while many have driving assignments, others are looking for rides before the season commences in Brazil.

Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti have had busy off-seasons and saw the Rolex24 as a way to get a jump-start on the new season. Franchitti is looking forward to defending his IndyCar championship. “Three years ago when I won the championship, I moved over to NASCAR and didn’t get to run against the same guys again, so this year will be more enjoyable,” he said.

He added, “Scott (Dixon) and I work well together, and we enjoy pushing each other. Also, our team hasn’t slowed down, and we know the other teams haven’t either.”

The Dixon family, including young daughter Poppy, returned to New Zealand over the holidays for a friend’s wedding. “Poppy’s a trooper, and she has traveled a lot already,” he said.”

Dixon is a fitness buff and he placed third in a 5K pre-race run at the Speedway.

Dixon and Franchitti both completed a recent test at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Watkins Glen winner Justin Wilson doesn’t have a ride for 2010 but is confident he will have one soon. Whether he returns to the Dale Coyne team couldn’t be confirmed, but it seemed to be a possibility. Wilson does expect to participate in the upcoming test at Barber Motorsports Park.

Ryan Hunter-Reay has completed two one-day tests with Andretti Autosport and was pleased with the results. “I have anywhere from seven to 10 races nailed down with Andretti, and we are working on the rest,” he said. “This is the best opportunity I have ever had, and I can’t wait for Indy to go fast and turn left.” He said the opportunity to work with Tony Kanaan has been very fulfilling. “He drove my car, and I drove his during one test. We were firing ideas off each other,” he noted.

The likable driver complimented the marketing efforts of his new team. “They can do anything, and you can tell from the sponsors they have,” he added.

Former Champ Car champion Sebastian Bourdais raced in the Rolex24 and his chief deal thereafter is with Peugeot for the long-distance sports car races. “I would like to be back in IndyCar, but with money missing from the economy, it will be hard to do. It is a little frustrating, but when I left, I knew it would be hard to come back.”

2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice will be a regular campaigner in the Rolex Series, and he has his eyes open for potential IndyCar assignments. “It is too early to have a deal in place, although I have had some calls,” he said.

Everyone on the IndyCar side expressed concern with the shutdown of Vision Racing, and they all seen the downside of the economy is catching up with everyone.

Max Papis, who earned his “Mad Max” nickname for a late-race charge during the Rolex24 in 1996, was thrilled to co-drive with Scott Pruett and others on the Ganassi team. “It’s an honor to be here,” he said. “When you get a call from Chip Ganassi, that’s an honor in itself and I really wanted to win the 24 with Scott (Pruett).”

For Papis, he will continue to focus on his NASCAR career. “I knew NASCAR would be tough, and it turned out to be one of my toughest challenges ever. It was really an eye-opener,” he said. “I am proud we were able to get a couple of top-10 finishes, and we ran well on the ovals at Talladega and Kansas. We got thrown into the lion’s cage, but we have completed our first major hurdle.”

His plans for 2010 are for 20 Sprint Cup and eight Camping World Truck Series races.

Boris Said has hooked up with new owner Bill Jenkins, the Vermont businessman who acquired the No. 26 car from Roush Fenway Racing. “I can’t tell you how good this feels to me,” he said. “We will do the first five Sprint Cup races and after that, we will have a start-and-park program unless we find a sponsor.”

After 16 years with Dyson Racing, veteran sports-car racer Butch Leitzinger finds himself without a permanent ride for 2010, as Dyson has cut back to one car in the American LeMans Series. Leitzinger co-drove the Brumos Porsche for the Rolex24. “I will be somewhere when the season starts,” he noted.

Davy Jones made an infrequent return to racing to drive a Chevrolet Corvette over the weekend. His Jaguar team won the Rolex24 in 1990 and his career was on fast forward at that time until a near-fatal open-wheel accident in 1997 sent him to the sidelines for a prolonged period.
Even though his Corvette entry didn’t fare well, he was ecstatic to be racing again. “It has been seven or eight years since I’ve done a race at this level, although I have driven some lesser races,” he said. “Driving a race car is like driving a bike, you are only as good as your surroundings, and a team must have a good crew, engine, chassis, tires and co-drivers just like any good sports team.” He vows to race again somewhere.

Bobby Labonte co-drove a TRG Porsche, and the team was dominating the GT class when the former NASCAR champion ran out of gas during a caution period. He was unaware that he had been running on the reserve tank when the car slowed. “Sprint Cup cars don’t have a reserve button, so I wasn’t used to it,” he stated. They finished far off the pace after having belated problems.

The Daytona International Speedway has a new state-of-the-art flagstand, which made its debut during the Rolex24. At the top of the stand, there’s approximately 60 sq. Ft. Of space and visitors must climb 18 steps to reach the platform.

The high-resolution LED display on the flagstand is capable of showing race information, live video displays and replays in as well as graphics and animations in 4.4 trillion colors. The LED display is rated at 49,930 pixels.

The stand was christened in a champagne ceremony on Friday with DIS president Robin Braig, who was joined by NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson and Rolex Series champion Alex Gurney.

Continental Tire will become the official tire of the Rolex Sports Car Series starting with the 2011 season. The agreement is said to be long-term and the company beat out several other tire companies to earn the contract.

Tests have been scheduled during the 2010 season, so competitive tires will be available for all cars starting with the 2011 Rolex24 at Daytona.
For Continental, the arrangement complements its title sponsorship of the Continental Sports Car Challenge Series, which started in 2010. The company was also named as named as title sponsor for the challenge race at Watkins Glen in June.

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