FYI WIRZ: Grand-Am Rolex Brings Big 50th Story as Stars Race Around the Clock

Dwight Drum@@racetakeCorrespondent IIIJanuary 28, 2012

Crowds surround a Daytona Prototype on pit road just before the start of the Rolex 24
Crowds surround a Daytona Prototype on pit road just before the start of the Rolex 24

The Grand-Am Rolex 24 at Daytona got underway in gorgeous January weather—even for Florida. The biggest news planned might have been that it was the 50th anniversary of grueling around-the-clock sports car competition, but one large reality accompanied that celebration—abundant crowds.

Grand-Am is getting so popular that it took an hour-and-half automobile wait to get to some parking areas. Enthusiast crowds may even be a sign that the economy is getting better. Motorsports attendance from this point going forward would confirm improvement in commerce, but it was reported that Rolex 24 ticket sales were about 40 percent over last year’s attendance.

Unlike NASCAR, Grand-Am opens the garage area to fans, and they responded by swarming work areas all weekend. It’s obvious among these folks that sports cars are cool.

Fans were treated to great weather and amenities in Daytona’s FanZone.

Ten tall Rolex clocks were positioned around Daytona International Speedway to keep Grand-Am fans timely. One 25-foot-tall, four-sided clock displays the proper time as well as time remaining in the 24-hour race.

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To illustrate the character of the historic race by keeping the endurance factor of the race in perspective, DIS provided some interesting historic numbers.

The number of combined laps completed in the 50-year history of the Rolex 24 at Daytona is 31,404, and the number of miles completed is 115,093.2. The earth’s equator is 24,902.5 miles in length, meaning the number of miles completed in all Rolex 24 races is 4.62 times around the planet’s equator.

Crowds swarm Juan Pablo Montoya on pit road in Daytona before the start of the Rolex 24
Crowds swarm Juan Pablo Montoya on pit road in Daytona before the start of the Rolex 24

Another big story about the Rolex 24 was the star power taking a seat behind the wheel of a GT car or Daytona Prototype. Most teams utilize four drivers for one racecar; some have five.

NASCAR drivers at the Rolex 24 included Michael Waltrip, Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya, A. J. Allmendinger, John Andretti, Travis Pastrana, Michael McDowell, Jeffrey Earnhardt and Boris Said.

A.J Allmendinger shared his thoughts about the marathon race.

“I love the Rolex, the prestige of it,” Allmendinger said. “The way it kicks off the season in Daytona for us Cup guys. It gets things going.”

IndyCar drivers at the Rolex 24 included Graham Rahal, Ryan Hunter Reay, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Ryan Briscoe and John Andretti.

IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti was enthusiastic during Rolex 24 testing earlier this month.

“We have fun doing it,” Franchitti said. “It’s a bloody difficult challenge if you want to win it, but we have fun. You have to take it seriously, but we have fun.”

Celebrities who love competing in this race included TV star Patrick Dempsey and rock star AC/DC guitarist, Brian Johnson.

When Patrick Dempsey isn’t acting, he is often racing in Grand-Am.

“The Rolex 24 at Daytona is great, the quality of the drivers here,” Dempsey said. “The manufacturers being brought in are great for the sport of Grand-Am. We’re looking to running the 24 hours at Rolex, stay out of trouble and be there at the end.”

One certainty about the Rolex 24 is that few, if any, watch the entire race. Staying up for 24 hours and performing remains in the domain of engines and transmissions.

FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of motorsports topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained from interviews or official release materials provided by sanctions, teams or track representatives.  Photo credit: Dwight Drum at Racetake.com


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