Any event where you watch the sun set and then see the sun rise is alright in my book. Daytona, Florida welcomed us with open arms as we arrived in town to cover the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This was a perfect scouting trip for us, since we’re hosting a GRAND-AM event later this year.
Daytona – not the prettiest spot in Florida, but filled to the brim with sunshine, fresh seafood and fast, fast cars.
I’ve never quite understood endurance racing. There are big cars, small cars, different series and classes and the whole 24 hour thing with multiple drivers. Nonetheless, I found myself incredibly excited for this event. In the past year, I’ve had the honor of covering the Centennial Running of the Indianapolis 500 and now the 50th Anniversary of the 24 Hours At Daytona. How lucky.
The cars are incredibly beautiful. I’ve become accustomed to open wheel cars, but these sports cars offer familiar and innovative lines. Some look like a car you would drive (if you’ve got bank) and others are directly from the drawing board. There is diversity abound.
The crowd is not incredibly diverse, but they’re certainly devoted. Many camped out for the full 24 hours. A few stayed the whole time. Most of the fans left for some shut eye, but returned at day light. That’s incredible commitment. This is a different level of race fan – passionate, in it for the long haul, and incredibly knowledgeable of their sport. It’s more like a cult (a good cult of course).
It’s also an environment where young up and coming drivers mix with sports cars superstars, IndyCar drivers, NASCAR drivers and legends from the past. And when I say legends, I mean Sir Jackie Stewart. Wow. I simply love this photo and it all came down to luck and timing – like most things in life.
Staying up for the 24 Hours is tough. Like most race events, I turned my thoughts to the experience of the mechanics. I’m just not sure I could stay so switched on for that long. I remember one of the Ganassi cars coming in after about 18 hours for a gearbox change! That’s insane. The mechanic responsible for that change not only has to respond quickly, but also without error. The real superstars of this event? The Crews.
In terms of an event – impressive. GRAND-AM runs a professional race and a superb media center. The members of SPEED were as always, a joy to work with. And I was absolutely blown away by the power of a brand, specifically Rolex. Before this race, I associated endurance racing with Tag Heuer and Steve McQueen. Not now. I get the romance and allure of a Rolex. When I watched the winning drivers receive their watches, it all made sense to me. Like IndyCar drivers chasing a taste of milk at the Indy 500, these drivers all chase one thing – a Rolex they’ll wear for the rest of life. It’s a brand, it’s a memory. Well done Rolex.
When I landed back in Indianapolis late Monday night, utterly exhausted, I tweeted that this had been on of the best weekends of my life. Sure I got grumpy during periods of the night. I was cold walking around at 3am. And I might have cursed when I realized I had to start our camera to get time lapse footage of the sunrise. But you know what? A 24 hour race is a challenge, a test, an endurance race and I made it.
We’re all chasing something in life. I’m still going.
Now I just need to get that Rolex.