Rolex 24 At Daytona Better Than Ever

Once again 49th Annual Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona or now as it’s better known as The Rolex24, fans enjoyed an incredible finish. After 23 and a half hours it hard to believe to have four cars having a shot at victory. However, it should come as no surprise having the strong Target-Chip Ganassi team winning another Rolex24. With the win, it completed the “Chip Slam,” winning the Rolex24 and team consecutive victories in the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500, and Brickyard 400 within the same calendar year. Plus the Ganassi team of Pruett, Rojas, team newcomers, IndyCar ace Graham Rahal and road racing ace Joey Hand won America’s premier endurance race, cheered by the biggest Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 crowd at the prestigious Daytona International Speedway. It appears Ganassi team veterans Pruett and Rojas are starting the season where they ended last year, in victory lane. It wasn’t easy as at the start the No. 01 TELMEX/Target BMW/Riley had their problems. However, the team made a gear ratio change and overcame a lost lap.

For Rahal, it was great start for the second generation driver, winning in his first start with Ganassi. He said this is a dream come true and what a way to start. “Last year was really tough because I did not have a full time ride and now to be in winners circle.” Graham said to me after the race. He has worked so hard to put this deal together, talking to him last year at Long Beach, he was starting to work on this. It has taken a long time to put together and this shows hard work does pay off. A quick start like this should give him some confidence with his new team.

The other big name making news was Hurley Haywood, once again coming out of retirement – sort of. Haywood returned to his roots, driving the Brumos Porsche in the GT class where he started his career way back when. I called him “Brett Favre” and he laughed. With Brumos returning to GT, he couldn’t resist, why not? He also said he wanted to get one last chance to win another one and he almost pulled it off. In typical Brumos fashion, the team fought back through several serious setbacks to deliver a top five finish. Starting the race in 9th position, the famous white and red-blue stripped No. 59 Porsche 911 GT3 led 79 laps in class, as all four Brumos drivers took their turn in the lead. Haywood was satidfied with the results, saying, “We are looking at the championship now for Andrew (Davis) and Leh (Keen) and we’re in good shape. A lot of the drivers who finished ahead of us aren’t going to run the full season, so we have valuable points going forward and on to Homestead.”

The Rolex 24 to also had a great turn out they had to close off the parking in the infield and I think the great weather was also a factor the weather was the best I have seen in 15 years. There were a lot of Corvette fans out in the infield and with Johnny O’ Connell racing a Camaro, several fans told me they were not happy that Johnny got bumped out of the Corvette for the ALMS. I also have to say it was a shocker, he is “Mr. Corvette” and for him to not run at Sebring in the yellow ‘Vette it will not be the same. I find it hard to believe that they are not going to have a farewell tour for him. He will be replaced by Tommy Milner after ten seasons, also Richard Westbrook will driving the long races.

It was also a great result for the Action Express Racing team, JC France going to a two car team and putting David Donohue and Darren Law in one car and in the other car to joining Terry Borcheller and Joao Barbosa was veterans Christian Fittipaldi and Max Papis. It was so good to see the fan favorite “Mad Max” back and seem really happy to be there. For this team to get a third place finish and have shot to win was really great. Max said that he so happy to get this opportunity because this where he made a name for himself back in 1995 dwith his incrediable drive at the end of the race driving the Ferrari 333SP.

The other talk in Daytona was the testing at Sebring of the in Audi R18. Audi is returing to Sebring after skipping the race last year. It was a secret test to see how fast the new car is, they had two R18 and one R15 plus with all 9 drivers there to get some seat time, they where then headed to Homestead, I would not be surprise to see them run one of the new cars at Sebring. They need to race the car to see where they against Peugeot for LeMans. I talked to Nicholas Minassian who will be driving for Peugeot this year is looking forward to get the new are car and feels they win at LeMans this year. The Sebring open test is Feb. 9-10.

With the debut of the new Ferrari 458gt should really give the Flying Lizards Porsche run for the championship. Jamie Melo has been doing a lot of the testing and says the new 458 is a big jump forward and better. He is looking forward to the test at Sebring to see where they stand with the competition. The other news over the weekend was the announcement of Lucas Luhr driving for Greg Pickett’s Muscle Milk Aston Martin team. Lucas was racing at Rolex24 and was was really happy about getting this deal, he said he really likes to race in the States and that this was great opportinty for him after leaving the powerful Audi team. Also this week Paul Gentilozzi announced that Bruno Junqueira and Cristiano Da Matta will team up in the Jaguar and in the second car veteran PJ Jones and another driver to be announced will be for the second car.

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